Monday, 18 March 2013

Notes On Your Screenplay "Big Naturals 14"

I want to congratulate you on completing your screenplay, Big Naturals 14: Bro's Up, Ho's Down, and having the courage to send it off to a professional story editor.

I want to mention how refreshing it was reading your screenplay. I don't typically do much work with genre films, and it was a delightful adventure conducting the necessary research to familiarize myself with the world of your film.

There were a number of flaws in your screenplay, and I shall work through them one by one.

You mentioned in your email that this was to be a feature length film. A feature screenplay typically runs between 110 – 120 pages. Yours came in at a paltry 17. At first that might seem like an intimidating discrepancy, but I take it that there are a number of action scenes that are only briefly alluded to, that you need to flesh out in detail.

For example on page 2 you have the scene between the professor and the two young women who he is threatening to fail. The scene starts off fine with the women realizing the only way to save their academic career is to perform sex acts for the professor. But where we run into the problem is that the scene is followed by this narration:

The girls suck his dick and he fucks them.

Then the scene abruptly ends. I take it there is going to be more to it than that?

Screenwriting is a visual medium. If you want to have any hope of having this project greenlit, you need invest more energy in sucking the readers in with visually compelling narrative.

Remember the old writing maxim, “show, don't tell.” Don't tell the reader that the girls suck his dick and he fucks them, show it happening in graphic detail, filled with active verbs in the present tense.

Another problematic aspect of this film is the episodic plot structure. Very few characters interact with characters from other scenes, and most scenes have little or no dramatic impact on any that precede or follow them.

For example, the scene in which the nurse performs sex acts on a patient is not even alluded to in the scene where a different patient performs sex acts on a doctor, even though they are presumably at the same hospital. Do these two medical practitioners know what each other are up to? Are they trying to get revenge on each other? Out-do each other's exploits?

You are free to tell your story however you please, but I warn you that in the current market it is much easier to sell a screenplay with a clearly identified and strongly motivated protagonist pursuing a compelling goal through a coherent, centrally structured, linear plot.

That said, this is your story. Many great screenwriters have made whole careers bucking what Hollywood studios understand as the rules for good story telling. Who knows? You could be the next Quentin Tarantino.

Think more about your character descriptions in the narrative. You need to make your screenplay come alive – the characters should feel like they jump off the page into the imagination of the reader.

Let's look at an example. In the nurse/patient scene this is all you give the reader to let them know who these people are:

PATIENT is lying in a hospital bed. SLUTTY NURSE enters and starts stroking his cock.

You have shown us absolutely nothing about these people! As a side note, you should say “PATIENT lies in a hospital bed” instead of “is lying.” Gerunds are a weak verb form that should be avoided in screenwriting.
Be specific – and give them names for heaven's sake! For example, and this goes back to what I said earlier about showing/telling, SLUTTY NURSE tells me she's a slutty nurse. What you need to do SHOW she's a slutty nurse. What does she DO that immediately identifies her as slutty?
So what you could write is:

SALLY TREVORS (21), a heavily made up nurse in tight fitting scrubs and high-heeled crocs, slinks into the hospital room, swinging a length of catheter tubing with devil-may-care abandon. She brushes a lock of her platinum dyed hair out of her eyes and to get a better look at the patient's throbbing erection.

Wow! See what difference a little detail can make?

This not only makes your screenplay a much more enjoyable read, but also will help narrow down the field of actresses for your casting director later down the line.

The second character problem is that many of your characters are very cliched, two-dimensional stereotypes. The policeman is dominating. The cheerleader is a snob. The professor is stuffy. Though many stereotypes are created from some kernel of truth, I happen to know a number of college professors who are fun-loving and easy going people. In fact myself and a number of my colleagues in the UCLA film department have been known to get pretty crazy at our favourite pub's weekly trivia night.

My final complaint about the characters is that many of them take actions that seem alarmingly out of character. The policeman would almost certainly face severe repercussions for having an elicit encounter with a woman he pulled over for a speeding ticket. For sleeping with two students simultaneously a professor could lose his tenure OR WORSE! You initially painted the head cheerleader as a strong, independently minded woman. Doesn't that seem to contradict her seemingly gleeful enjoyment at being ejaculated upon by an entire football team?

While you do have a very Spartan, very direct dialogue style that at times was quite compelling, it occasionally felt very “on the nose.” You need to seek ways of adding layers of subtlety and sub-text into your screenplay. You can't create dramatic tension when any time a man tells a woman to perform fellatio on him she immediately does. Look for more opportunities for give and take. Make it harder for him to get what he wants.

I noticed that your film would be the fourteenth instalment of a very well established franchise. My concern is that if you have written this on spec, you may have trouble getting interest from whatever studio owns the rights to this film franchise. It may be better for you to begin your screenwriting career with an original story idea. Then, once you are established and have a literary agent, you will be able to use your experience and prior successes to leverage your bid to write the next instalment of this hit series.

Again, kudos for making it this far! Please do keep me in mind if this project or any future project of yours gets the much coveted green light. I like to keep tabs on the projects and writers I've helped along the way. And please remember, all of these notes are merely suggestions that you are free to take or leave at your discretion. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours, and hope for a brilliant future for you and for your film Big Naturals 14: Bro's Up, Ho's Down.

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