Diary of a First-Time Director

Scriptnotes: Ep. 212
Play

John and Craig sit down with Marielle Heller, the writer and director of the acclaimed feature The Diary of a Teenage Girl, to talk about the journey of getting her movie made, from optioning the novel to the Sundance Labs through production.

We discuss sex scenes and ’70s wallpaper, anamorphic lenses and leaving subplots on the cutting room floor. Plus there’s a lot of MacGruber.

Heller’s film is in US theaters now, and expanding week-by-week. Don’t miss it.

Links:

You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 8-28-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.


The International Episode

Scriptnotes: Ep. 211
Play

Craig and John look at how movies are translated, including an interview with a guy who does subtitles for a living. Plus, how Pixar and other companies are localizing movies for international audiences, and what happens when China becomes the largest film market.

The USB drives are back in the store, and we’re close to announcing our picks for the next Scriptnotes t-shirt. (You can see some of the entries on our Facebook page.)

Links:

You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 8-21-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.


Short cut-aways, and the value of BACK TO:

The script I’m writing has a character who is reconstructing past events. In several scenes, we cut away to these memories, always returning to the current scene.

There are several ways to do this on the page.

The first technique is to simply use full scene headers. (This example is made up just for this blog post.)

Roger squints in the glare of light.

CUT TO:

INT. EXAMINATION ROOM – NIGHT [FLASHBACK]

ORDERLIES strap Roger’s forehead to the table. A DRILL WHIRRS as a BRIGHT LIGHT swings overhead.

BACK TO:

INT. COPY ROOM – DAY

Roger squats down, suddenly reeling.

That BACK TO: is your friend. It’s a reminder to the reader that you were in the middle of another scene, and it’s still happening. Yes, you could just use CUT TO. But it’s ambiguous. Are you still in the same scene, or is this a different place/time?

BACK TO: is also a huge help if the cutaway involves multiple locations — the finale of Big Fish, for example. It’s a signal to the reader that all of the cutting is done.

Doing less

If you’re cutting away to the same thing often, using the full scene header gets annoying. It’s like that guy at a party who keeps introducing himself.

We know who you are, Dave. You can stop.

In the example above, if we’ve been to that examination room scene before, I’m more likely to write it like this:

As Roger squints in the glare of light --

ORDERLIES strap Roger’s forehead to the table. A DRILL WHIRRS as a BRIGHT LIGHT swings overhead.

BACK TO SCENE.

Roger squats down, suddenly reeling.

Removing the location and the transitions feels like cheating, but it better reflects my intention with the scene. This cutaway is meant to be a nibble, not a meal.

Setting it off with italics isn’t required, but it signals the reader to pay attention — we’re doing something special here. Bold or underline would also work. (If you use special formatting for flashbacks like this, don’t use it for any other narrative device.)

That BACK TO SCENE is also optional, but here I like it as a tiny speed bump to make sure the reader understands that we’re out of flashback mode.

Is it weird to have BACK TO SCENE without a CUT TO? Kind of. You could use a CUT TO: and even skip the italics. But it’s extra lines, and I don’t think the reader is likely to get lost.

In production

When it comes time to make the movie, everything needs a scene number. We generally think of scene numbers going with scene headers, but the reality is that anything can have a number attached, including the italicized action lines above.

There are different philosophies for how to number flashback scenes, but my preference would be to keep the copy room scene as a single scene number (e.g. 34) and group together all of the examination room scenes as a sequence (e.g. A900, B900, C900). This way, the copy room scene doesn’t get divided across a few strips, potentially confusing everyone.

Numbering scenes is a conversation to have with the director, A.D. and line producer. It’s a luxury problem, because it means your movie is getting made.


One-Handed Movie Heroes

Scriptnotes: Ep. 210
Play

John and Craig discuss why movie heroes — unlike those in novels or musicals — generally don’t profess internally conflicting views. In reality, our feelings on a topic are likely shades of gray. On the big screen, characters tend to articulate a single point firmly.

We also discuss the last few things we do when getting ready to submit a script.

Then it’s time for three new entries in the Three Page Challenge, with Nazis, nukes and noir.

You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 8-13-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.


How to Not Be a Jerk

Scriptnotes: Ep. 209
Play

Craig and John look at best practices for screenwriters promoting their films, both in traditional media and online. We’re not subtweeting anyone, and neither should you.

Also this week: more on reshoots, Stretch Armstrong and selective editing of quotes in movie reviews.

Links:

You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 8-10-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.


How descriptive audio works

Scriptnotes: Ep. 208
Play

John and Craig take a deep look at how descriptive audio for the blind works, with clips from Daredevil and an interview with a woman who does it for a living. It’s a fascinating form of writing, with many of the same challenges screenwriters face.

Also this week: Capitals, capitalization, the WGA financial numbers, and answers to a bunch of listener questions.

If you have a Scriptnotes t-shirt design, the deadline is August 11th. Click the link below for details.

Links:

You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 7-31-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.