STRUCTURALLY UNSOUND?: Some random thoughts on screenplay structure


top-50-screenwriting-blogsFirst, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013.  Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 
blog3 I’m somewhat in the downtime of providing coverage for screenplay competitions (to everything there is a season, and this seems to apply to independent contractors of the script consultation kind as well). So I thought I would muse a bit on some issues in writing screenplays.
This time around, I’ll write about structure. There really isn’t a rhyme or reason to what I have to say here. It’ll just be a series of random thoughts that I hope will come in handy. These are based on my reading for contests as well as my own private consultation services.
First, an overall note. There will always be exceptions to any conclusions I make here, so consider well before automatically doing something just because I tell you to.
One of the main issues I run across is when a story is not focused enough. The plot tends to ramble on without a sturdy anchor to it or without a definite flight plan. One of the key clues to this is when you ask the writer for a log line and s/he gives you a tag line or the logline is rather longer than what is suggested, or even, and this has happened, the logline doesn’t match up to the story at all. Continue reading
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OH MY GOD, THEY’RE CO-DEPENDENT: What’s More Important, Structure or Character, in Writing a Screenplay


For questions: hcasner@aol.com
First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013.  Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
blog1Over the last year or so, it has come to my attention that there is a central irony in how I cover and analyze screenplays.
When someone asks me what the most important aspect of a screenplay is, what I look for in recommending them for a second read in a contest or for further consideration for a production company, I always say: character, character, character.
For me, it rarely makes any difference as to how original a concept is, how clever or well plotted a story is, or how unique or intriguing the structure. If these other areas are not supported by rich and vibrant characters (or at the very least, a 7/8 on a scale of 10), it rarely matters what sort of folderol an author gets them caught up in. Continue reading

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL: Variations on structural engineering and storytelling when it comes to screenplays PART FOUR: SCREENPLAYS THAT USE TIME TO STRUCTURE THEIR STORY


UntitledFirst, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

 

clockIt’s been far too long a period of time since I contributed to this series of essays revolving around alternative structures for screenplays. No excuses. Let’s simply say that life got in the way (as it always seems to, gosh darn it; life, can’t live with it, can’t live without it).

 

At any rate, as of this point in time, the following essay should be the penultimate entry for the subject. The final one will be a miscellany compilation.

 

This time round (in case you haven’t noticed, this is the third time, well, now it’s the fourth, that I’ve mentioned time, a stylistic choice which is known in the industry as foreshadowing), the focus of the essay will be on screenplays that use time to structure their story in some way. Continue reading

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL: Variations on structural engineering and storytelling when it comes to screenplays PART TWO: FLASHBACKS AND POINTS OF VIEW


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

For the second part of my essay on alternative structures and storytelling choices for screenwriters, rather than writing in ways that may seem, shall we say, a bit formulaic, perhaps a tad predictable, somewhat on the clichéd side, the same as everyone else, etc. (or, as someone said in an essay I just read, a way of telling the story that reveals the ending in the first ten pages)…
In the first essay, I made a list of films that have various variations on the use of multiple story lines.
This time, I am going to focus on films that use flashbacks and differing points of view for their structure and storytelling.
The reason I am combining the two is that flashbacks are often seen from someone’s point of view and, subsequently, a discussion of one is difficult without a discussion of the other. Continue reading

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL: Variations on structural engineering when it comes to screenplays PART ONE


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

holy-motors_2352787bPART ONE
I have been reading for screenplay competitions for more than ten years now. But over the past few years, I’ve been coming across a somewhat familiar familiarity and formulaic formality to more and more of said screenplays when it comes to how a story is written.
I’m not sure why. When I first started out reading, and for quite a few years after that, I would encounter some of the most amazing screenplays, screenplays that took chances, strived to be original, had a personal vision, and experimented, with glorious success, when it came to storytelling.
Much of this quite possibly was due to the rise of indie film in the 1990’s by people like Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith, the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino. The cinema they created brought a breath of fresh air to the somewhat stale movie going experience that many felt was being produced at the time.
I’m not sure why things have changed since them. Or at least, there’s probably not any one reason for it. But at the same time, in talking to screenwriters and producers and agents and reading what they have to say on social media, I feel that a much bigger deal has been made over the past few years as to how a screenplay has to be structured and a story has to be told. Continue reading

COMMON CLICHES, STALE STORYLINES AND MAJOR MISTAKES, OH, MY!: Another year of reading is now over


Untitled

First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE

Also available for revising, script doctoring and ghost writing.

Well, it’s that time of the year again, kiddos.

And by that, I don’t mean my birthday, Yom Kippur or Chinese New Year’s.
I have now finished reading for the major competitions that I read for every year. And I must say, I read some pretty marvelous stuff this time round by authors who are ambitious and who have an immense amount of talent.
Okay. Enough accentuating the positive. Let’s dive for the dirt.
Now that this reader period has come to an end, I have made a list of the most common clichés, overdone and stale storylines and major mistakes that I’ve run across this year, issues that would have had me pulling my hair out in frustration if I wasn’t already bald. Continue reading