A Brief Introduction to Writing Screenplays in Three Parts • Production • The Screenplay • Terminology and Conventions Production Occupations • Producer – The chief of a movie production in all matters save the creative efforts of the director. A producer is responsible for raising funding, hiring key personnel, and arranging for distributors. • Actor – A person who plays the role of a character. Historically, the term “Actor'' referred exclusively to males, but in modern times the term is used for both genders. Writing in Film • As the text stresses, writers for film are generally not as respected as writers for theatre. Many Hollywood films are written by staff writers, or are edited or re-written by staff writers after the original writer has relinquished rights to the material. – Very few writers are as uniquely positioned as M. Night Shyamalan or Andrew Niccol – Even best-selling novelists often forfeit their rights to their stories • Director – The principal creative artist on a movie set. A director is usually (but not always) the driving artistic source behind the filming process and communicates to actors the way that he/she would like a particular scene played. A director's duties might also include casting, script editing, shot selection, shot composition, and editing. Typically, a director has complete artistic control over all aspects of the movie, but it is not uncommon for the director to be bound by agreements with either a producer or a studio. In some large productions, a director will delegate less important scenes to a second unit. • Editor – A person who performs editing, reconstructing the sequence of events in a movie, usually in consultation with the director on a movie. This term usually refers to someone who does visual editing. • Cinematographer – A person with expertise in the art of capturing images either electronically or on film stock through the application of visual recording devices and the selection and arrangement of lighting. The chief cinematographer for a movie is called the director of photography. • Writer – A general term for someone who creates a written work, be it a novel, script, screenplay, or teleplay. A screenwriter either adapts an existing work for production as a movie or creates a new screenplay. A writer may belong to the Writer's Guild of America. • Writer's Guild of America , or WGA – The Writers Guild of America is the sole collective bargaining representative for writers in the motion picture, broadcast, cable, interactive and new media industries. It has numerous affiliation agreements with other U.S. and international writing organizations and is in the forefront of the debates concerning economic and creative rights for writers. Of its close to 5,000 member, only about 200 are employed full-time as screenwriters. • Key Grip – The chief of a group of grips, often doubling for a construction coordinator and a backup for the camera crew. Key grips work closely with the gaffer. • Gaffer, or Chief Lighting Technician – The head of the electrical department. In Early Modern English, this term meant "old man." • Script Supervisor – A person who tracks which parts have been filmed, how the filmed scenes deviated from the script; they also make continuity notes, creating a lined script. • Foley – The art of recreating incidental sound effects (such as footsteps) in synchronization with the visual component of a movie. Named after an early practitioner. Foley artists sometimes use bizarre objects and methods to achieve sound effects, e.g. snapping celery to mimic bones being broken. The sounds are often exaggerated for extra effect--fight sequences are almost always accompanied by loud foley-added thuds and slaps. • Extra – A person who appears in a movie where a non-specific, non-speaking character is required, usually as part of a crowd or in the background of a scene. Extras are often recruited from wherever they are available. Filming Terminology • Action – "Action" is called during filming to indicate the start of the current take. • Cut – A change in either camera angle or placement, location, or time. "Cut" is called during filming to indicate that the current take is over. A "cut" of a movie is also a complete edited version. • Dailies or Rushes – The first positive prints made from the negatives photographed on the previous day. During filming, the director and some actors may view these dailies as an indication of how the filming and the actors' performances are progressing. • Lock it down – A direction given by the assistant director for everyone on the set to be quiet. It is called just prior to “speed.” • Safe Area – A camera's viewfinder actually shows (and records on film stock) a greater area of the scene than will appear in the final product. Markings are etched in the viewfinder to indicate to the camera operator the extents of the "viewable" film (called the live area). An area beyond that (called the safe area) is also marked; it is in this area that the production sound mixer might direct the boom operator to place the boom microphone. • Scene – A continuous block of storytelling either set in a single location or following a particular character. The end of a scene is typically marked by a change in location, style, or time. • Set – An environment used for filming. When used in contrast to location, it refers to one artificially constructed. A set typically is not a complete or accurate replica of the environment as defined by the script but is carefully constructed to make filming easier but still appear natural when viewed from the camera angle. • Speed – An announcement made by either the director of photography or camera operator indicating to the director that the camera is operating at the correct speed. Called just after “lock it down” and just before “action.” • Take – A single continuous recorded performance of a scene. A director typically orders takes to continue until he or she is satisfied that all of his or her requirements for the scene have been made, be they technical or artistic. A continuity report stores the status of each take. Of the ones that don't contain obvious errors, the director will order some to be printed. • Wrap or Windup, Wind – To finish shooting, either for the day or the entire production. The Screenplay • Script – A general term for a written work detailing story, setting, and dialogue. A script may take the form of a screenplay, shooting script, lined script, continuity script, or a spec script. A script is often sold for a particular price, which is increased to a second price if the script is produced as a movie. For example, a sale may be described as "$100,000 against $250,000". In this case, the writer is paid $100,000 up front, and another $150,000 when the movie is produced. • Screenplay – A script written to be produced as a movie. • Shooting Script – The script from which a movie is made. Usually contains numbered scenes and technical notes. • Lined Script – A copy of the shooting script which is prepared by the script supervisor during production to indicate, via notations and vertical lines drawn directly onto the script pages, exactly what coverage has been shot. • Continuity Script, or Continuity Report – A detailed list of the events that occurred during the filming of a scene. Typically recorded are production and crew identification, camera settings, environmental conditions, the status of each take, and exact details of the action that occurs. By recording all possible sources of variation, the report helps cut down continuity error between shots or even during reshooting. • Spec Script – A script written before any agreement has been entered into ("on spec" or speculation), in hopes of selling the script to the highest bidder once it has been completed. • Treatment – An abridged script, it is longer than a synopsis. It consists of a summary of each major scene of a proposed movie and descriptions of the significant characters and may even include snippets of dialogue. While a complete script is around 100 pages, a treatment is closer to 10. • Synopsis – A summary of the major plot points and characters of a script, generally in a page or two. Formatting a Screenplay • Most Hollywood films are 120 minutes long; most European films are 90 minutes long. • A page of screenplay—no matter if it is all dialogue, all action, or some combination of the two—equals approximately a minute of screen time. • Screenplay Formula, according to Syd Field – Set-up, Exposition pages 1-30 – Plot Point I pages 25-27 – Confrontation pages 30-90 – Plot Point II pages 85-90 – Resolution pages 90-120 Formatting a Screenplay, continued • Screenwriters do not, in general, have to worry about camera angles when writing. The directors will read the script or screenplay and then decide how to film it. • Screenwriters need only introduce the scenes by stating whether the scene takes place inside (INT.) or outside (EXT.), where specifically it take place, and when (usually either DAY or NIGHT). These scenic cues start at the left margin. Formatting a Screenplay, continued • After introducing the scene’s location, double-space and then give a description of characters or places can follow. This should not be more than a few lines long. This begins at the left margin, as well. • Characters’ names are capitalized in the description as they are introduced. • Once characters speak, their names, all capitalized, followed by their dialogue, is centered on the page. Formatting a Screenplay, continued • Stage directions should appear in parentheses under the speaking character’s name, single-spaced. • Sound effects or music effects should be capitalized within any descriptions. Common Terms Term Meaning ANGLE ON (the subject of the shot) A person, place, or thing ANGLE ON BILL leaving his apartment building FAVORING (subject of the shot) Also a person, place, or thing FAVORING BILL as he leaves his apartment ANOTHER ANGLE A variation of a SHOT ANOTHER ANGLE of Bill walking out of his apartment WIDER ANGLE NEW ANGLE POV A change of focus in a scene You go from an ANGLE ON Bill to a WIDER ANGLE which now includes Bill and his surroundings Another variation on a shot, often used to “break up the page” for a more “cinematic look” A NEW ANGLE of Bill and Jane dancing at a party A person’s POINT OF VIEW, how something looks to him/her ANGLE ON Bill, dancing with Jane, and from JANE’S POV Bill is smiling. REVERSE ANGLE A change in perspective, usually the opposite of the POV shot Bill’s POV as he looks at Jane, and a REVERSE ANGLE of Jane looking at Bill OVER THE SHOULDER SHOT Often used for POV and REVERSE ANGLE shots. We see Bill’s shoulder and head in an OVER THE SHOULDER shot of Jane Focuses on the movement of a shot A MOVING SHOT of the jeep racing across the desert. A MOVING SHOT of Bill walking toward Jane. MOVING SHOT CLOSE SHOT A close-up.Use sparingly for emphasis. A CLOSE SHOT of Bill, ecstatic, as he stares at Jane. INSERT A close shot of “something,” like a photograph, newspaper headline, or gun. INSERT of faded photograph, showing Bill and Jane’s wedding FADE IN DISSOLVE IN Ways to begin a screenplay or a scene FADE IN: ANGLE ON Bill putting on dress shoes CUT TO FADE OUT DISSOLVE TO Ways to end a screenplay or a scene CUT TO: JANE opening closet, sorting through clothing, and pulling out a flowered dress Screenplay Facts • Over 15,000 screenplays are registered with the Writers Guild of America each year. • About 80 to 90 feature films are made by studios and independent production companies each year. • A literary agent gets a ten percent commission on anything he/she sells • Prices for a screenplay vary from $400,000 to the Writers Guild minimum. – A high budget movie that costs over $1 million to make earns about $20,000 for the writer(s) – A low-budget film earns a little over $10,000 • If someone options a film, they pay the writer 5-10 percent of the agreed upon price. If the option is picked up, then the writer receives the rest on the first day of shooting. Progress Report • Please e-mail me to tell me here how your Applications Project is going? What have you decided to do? Where are you in the process? To read a draft of the Gattaca screenplay, go to http://bamzone.bizland.com/scripts/gattaca.html Sources • Field, Syd. Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. New York: Dell Publishing, 1994. • Giannetti, Louis. Understanding Movies. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1999. • Internet Movie Database. http:// www.imdb.com • Niccol, Andrew. Gattaca. Dir. Andrew Niccol. Sony Pictures, 1994.