Author Topic: Opening Scene of Screenplay This Child Will  (Read 4415 times)

jwatson300011

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Opening Scene of Screenplay This Child Will
« on: March 25, 2014, 01:16:14 AM »
Still working on screenplay based on my novel This Child Will. This is the first scene showing this group of all male antagonists. I ran into this issue once when I introduced a number of characters in the first scene. Readers said it was confusing. So please give me your take. I know I don't have to beg any of you to be honest.  :)

INT. NONDESCRIPT living room - night
Four men, all in their mid to late twenties, ROGELIO, JOSHUA, JOE and CHARLES sleep on chairs, sofa and the floor. All are Black except for Rogelio, Hispanic.

On Charles sleeping on the sofa. In seconds his eyes pop open. He springs up, beads of sweat covering his face. In a state of confusion he stands and walks around the men on the floor. Joshua, on the chair, opens his eyes and looks at Charles.

JOSHUA
Uh oh. Another Thaddeus dream, huh?

CHARLES
(a confused voice)
I don't know what to make of it, Joshua.  

JOSHUA
Then put it out of your mind, Charles. Go back to sleep.

Charles takes a cigarette out of his pocket and lights it.

CHARLES
I can't. Like I said, it was far fetched, but it made me think.

JOSHUA
About what?

CHARLES
Our purpose. Is taking all we want to do or shouldn't we leave a message along the way?

JOSHUA
Our message is all we're about, Charles.

CHARLES
(thoughtfully)
I thought Thaddeus was crazy. Now, it's my turn.

Rogelio, one of the men on the floor opens up.

ROGELIO
Well then you had better make up your mind what you want to do, playa. There ain't no ghouls up in here.

CHARLES
It's symbolic, man.

ROGELIO
I don't give a damn what you call it. We don't need to hear that bullshit.

Joe is the other man on the floor. He opens up.

JOE
Don't tell me he had that dream again?

JOSHUA
You makin' us wonder about you, Charles. Seriously.

CHARLES
(slightly irritated)
I said it was symbolic. Didn't you hear me say that?

They rebuke Charles, simultaneously and violently. Charles throws up his hands.

CHARLES (contd)
Alright, alright. I won't talk about it.

JOE
Good, now can we all please get back to sleep. We're doing fliers today. A lot of liquor stores to hit in this town.

ROGELIO
And a whole lot of liquored up ass holes we gotta try not to hit.

JOE
Just be glad those democrats are talking about all these police shootings like republicans. Helps us get out our message.

ROGELIO
We're young, my brothers. We have the rest of our life to preach on  the American People's Party.

All except Charles respond in the affirmative. He still just looks out of the window, preoccupied.

ROGELIO (contd)
Right, Charles?

CHARLES
Oh yeah. The A.P.P. will save the day. Yes, indeed.

The men all look at each other, suspiciously.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 01:38:32 AM by jwatson300011 »

hillwalker3000

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Re: Opening Scene of Screenplay This Child Will
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2014, 11:09:08 AM »
The first scene in a movie, like the opening paragraph in a novel, has to hook the audience. I'm not sure if this is how your movie will open but it's a little pedestrian.

4 men waking up then one talking about 'another Thaddeus dream' (which is meaningless at this point in the plot) isn't going to cut it. Already I'm feeling excluded.

You also add unnecessary detail - remember this is supposed to be a screenplay.

INT. NONDESCRIPT living room - night

- nondescript - it's not your job to add descriptions like this (how is the set designer meant to work with such a vague term anyway?)

On Charles sleeping on the sofa. In seconds his eyes pop open. He springs up, beads of sweat covering his face. In a state of confusion he stands and walks around the men on the floor. Joshua, on the chair, opens his eyes and looks at Charles.

- again far too much (and I don't even know what the first sentence is supposed to mean). Is it your intention to show Charles sleeping then waking up? Doesn't his dialogue do away with the need for all this choreography?

CHARLES
(a confused voice)
I don't know what to make of it, Joshua.


- now you're telling the actor how to speak his lines. Don't. It's not your job.

CHARLES
Our purpose. Is taking all we want to do or shouldn't we leave a message along the way?
JOSHUA
Our message is all we're about, Charles.


Charles's second line reads clumsy. Is he saying that they should leave a message behind in the dream instead of taking (taking what?). Again I'm feeling excluded because I haven't a clue what they're talking about.

CHARLES
(thoughtfully)
I thought Thaddeus was crazy. Now, it's my turn.


- thoughfully? I trust you get the message by now.

Rogelio, one of the men on the floor opens up.
There's no need for this - he speaks his line. That's all we need.

Joe is the other man on the floor. He opens up.
And the same again - you're telling us what the characters do then show them do it. What's the point?

They rebuke Charles, simultaneously and violently. Charles throws up his hands.
No they don't, unless you give us the dialogue to show them doing this.

The men all look at each other, suspiciously.
Again - cut out stuff like this. Screenplays are 99% dialogue.

I have to admit I'm still confused because I don't know what the dream entails, or the message (presumably all these points are covered earlier in the movie). The same goes for A P P. So maybe it's unfair to nitpick on these issues because we don't have the full context to work from.

But as far as your screenplay-writing abilities I've highlighted what needs attention. Good luck.

H3K

jwatson300011

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Re: Opening Scene of Screenplay This Child Will
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2014, 02:27:38 PM »
I've spoken to actors who actually appreciate direction such as "confused voice." or "confused." I worked with indie directors even who don't appear to mind it. I'm sure some do. But it is not any set rule in screen writing.

Phrases like "On Charles" is something that everyone uses, well not everyone, obviously not you. But it is just saying we or the audience or the camera is on Charles as he does whatever.

You said you are lost when they mentioned Thaddeus. To me it is just bizarre to hear anyone evaluating a play to say that. To me it's like saying at the beginning of The Wizard of Oz, "Oh this tin man started talking about some wizard and the whole thing just got way to confusing." But the wizard is an important part of the story or they wouldn't have set out to find him. Just like Thaddeus is important or Charles wouldn't be having recurring dreams of him.

As far as the opening being "pedestrian" wouldn't that depend on the actors? Even someone say a filmmaker reading it for the first time I think could envision the right actors making it work and the right setting and what have you, the lighting, the background and such.

But I am glad you  pointed out a few glaring errors in it because it has gone under a few revisions that I didn't take into regard in this scene. So thank you. 

 

Offline bobby801

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Re: Opening Scene of Screenplay This Child Will
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2014, 05:37:52 PM »
Hey Watson ... take the hit on the chin Listen to what H3 has to say. INMHO he's spot on - you don't need to give directions, if you think you do, then I suggest you should read a few more scripts and see how the pros do it. Keep things sparse.

Ok, having said that, I did like your dialogue so all is not lost. Just avoid the need to explain everything in your directions, you are not writing a novel. Scrunch up your eyes and picture the scene, then write it. Don't fall into the trap in telling the actor how he should talk / walk / think / etc. 

just my thoughts and good luck.

Bobby

jwatson300011

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Re: Opening Scene of Screenplay This Child Will
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2014, 08:31:41 PM »
OK. I appreciate all of what you said. I have always read in how to books not to give directions. But, talking to actors, and strictly speaking about actors, some of them appreciate a script that suggests the delivery the writer had in mind. It's of course up to them in the end how it will be played and the director. Maybe if I was simply sending out my scripts with all that direction to major studios they would laugh at me. But I will more than likely continue down this road until one of the indie directors I'm dealing with tells me to cut it out.

I may be out numbered here, but oh well.

Offline Chizzy

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Re: Opening Scene of Screenplay This Child Will
« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2014, 09:17:43 PM »
Sometimes it's necessary. Like if a line is supposed to be sarcastic. Here, having (in a confused voice) after a line like "I don't know what to make of it, Joshua" is a bit redundant because the tone can be inferred by the line. The (thoughtfully) is equally unnecessary, IMO.
This is not an exit.

jwatson300011

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Re: Opening Scene of Screenplay This Child Will
« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2014, 10:24:48 PM »
Thanks. I knew I wasn't totally off the mark. I see what you mean by it being redundant. I will correct it.

Offline 2par

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Re: Opening Scene of Screenplay This Child Will
« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2014, 11:35:18 PM »
Jwatson. Your job is to write dialogue. Not directions. Only when it is absolutely vital and necessary to a script will you give minimal directions, such as: "protagonist's car is chased by the cop." The director and stunt man would work out how the chase should be done, not the writer.

If you think that actors appreciate certain directions, then they aren't actors at all. They're wannabes. If an actor has problems, a director NEVER tells him how to read a line. He will, however, help the actor understand the meaning. And if he's too uncreative, he'd be fired.

And don't ever underestimate an Indie director. Some of those I've worked with were better than pros.

jwatson300011

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Re: Opening Scene of Screenplay This Child Will
« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2014, 01:03:56 AM »
OK all. I will go back to the drawing board and start smoothing things out. Thanks for all the feedback.

Offline RyanThomas

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Re: Opening Scene of Screenplay This Child Will
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2014, 07:50:37 PM »
        I agree with all criticisms that has come before. I have no idea what this story is, where it is, what time is, and why i should care. And i'll be completely frank most script readers will stop reading after the first few pages if they are not caught immediately.  You have to open with something that is going to make the reader (when it comes to the screenplay) continue reading and the viewer (when it comes to the finished film) continue watching.  Trust me, i know script writing isn't easy. It's actually this very reason i have decided to get more serious about writing in general, and that is what has landed me here. I'm actually quite familiar with filmmaking because my friends and I have started up an independent film production company--a very small one mind you--and our work has suffered because i know I'm not quite ready in the screen writing department. I suggest reading a few amazing screenplays and definitely checkout 'Save the Cat: The last book on script writing you'll ever need'. Good luck, i know you'll figure it out and i hope to be reading a revised version of this very soon!