Lately, there have been a bunch of experts, who aren’t, online espousing the supposed unbreakable “rules” of screenwriting. That if you do ANY of these things and break ANY of these rules in any way, readers, producers, agents, and managers will throw your script in a shredder, burn it, or put a hit out on you and your pets.
Of course none of it is true. So I thought I’d espouse on the subject myself. Shall we get going?
IF THE WORDS “WE SEE” APPEAR ANYWHERE IN YOUR FIRST THREE PAGES THE SCRIPT WILL BE DROPPED KICKED TO THE MOON.
Uh... no. I don’t use it because it’s a choice. But no, no one is drop kicking your script if it’s there. They’ll drop kick it if you use it and the script sucks, but then they’d be drop kicking it anyway. It’s also not a good idea to use it a lot because it takes a lot of white space you could be using for story, but if your script is great... NOBODY CARES. They care if the story is good or not. That’s it.
Nobody is rejecting your script just because you use it. Not happening. And I’ve read some spectacular scripts that used it.
IF YOU PUT ANY CAMERA MOVES AT ALL IN YOUR SCRIPT THEY WILL STUFF YOUR SCRIPT IN THE CLOSEST PORTA-POTTY.
I have put camera moves in my scripts occasionally. Even ones I’ve sold and optioned. OH NOOOOOO. I did it because I was writing a FILM and the way the camera was used helped tell the story I wanted to tell in certain places and helps the reader SEE THE FILM, which is exactly what you want. It’s not a good idea to do it a lot because again it uses the space you need to tell your story, but used occasionally for effect, NO ONE CARES.
Unless your script sucks.
IF YOU USE FLASHBACKS OR VOICEOVER THEY WILL FEED YOUR SCRIPT TO WILD BADGERS.
No. They won’t. If you use them poorly, they will. But c’mon. Think of how many wonderful films you’ve seen where both have been used to great effect. I’ve used them in scripts I’ve optioned and sold. Extracurricular Activities is filled with them and not one single person said a word about them. Why? Because they work and are needed to tell that particular story. By the way, it comes out next year.
One of my other scripts has flashbacks almost every other scene and my manager thinks it’s my best script. It’s not the USE of them. It’s how they are used, just like anything else. The screenwriting purists, most of which haven’t ever sold a script, will tell you they are the worst thing you can do.
They’re not. You can use them effectively, if you need to, to tell the story you want to tell... the FILM you want the reader to see. That’s the secret.
The worst thing you can do is write a crappy script, with or without flashbacks and voiceover, and send it out thinking it’s good.
IF YOU PUT IMAGES ON A TITLE PAGE THEY WILL STAB THE SCRIPT WITH HOT POKERS UNTIL IT IS DEAD.
Of course not. I had a studio executive I asked about this say to me, “If a reader did this on script I had requested to read I’d fire them immediately.” NO ONE CARES. They care about what’s IN the script, not what’s on the front page. There have been all kinds of scripts sold and made that had an image or two on the cover. Stop believing this crap. It’s passed along as cold TRUE fact when if you thought about it logically for even a second you'd know it’s ridiculous. I’ve never put an image on a title page because I haven’t written a script it would work for. But would I? Hell yes.
Ask Eric Heisserer how it worked out for him on Arrival. Nice image on the cover page. But why didn’t they throw it out? Because they don’t. It’s also one of the best scripts I have ever read and an Oscar Nominee. NO ONE CARES.
Unless the script sucks.
IF YOUR LOGLINE IS MORE THAN 25 WORDS THEY WON’T READ IT AND WILL PUT YOU IN A LOGLINE RE-EDUCATION CAMP IN KANSAS.
By a show of hands, I want you to name me a producer or agent or manager you know who COUNTS LOGLINE WORDS. None? You’d be correct. THEY DON’T CARE. They only care if it interests them or not. One sentence. Three sentences. 25 words. 50 words. They don’t care. Is it something they want to read?
I have one logline that’s 9 words. The script gets read and has been optioned. I have one that is three sentences over 50 words... It got made. You write your logline so they’ll want to read the script, not to solve some grammatical math problem. Be smart and economical, but NOT at the expense of your story. Again, if you just think about this, you wonder how crap like this got started.
There are more rules that don’t exist, but this is enough for now, as the sound you hear in the background are the “experts” whose heads are exploding.
Just write a great story. It’s the only thing that really matters.
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