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Writing Visually

 

Scripts are written to tell a narrative, but they’re also written to be a logistical blueprint for the making of a film. It’s technical and an important document for the budget and production.

When writing a script, if you can’t see or hear something, DON’T WRITE IT. You wouldn’t write "Snow White is sad". You would instead write "Snow White is crying". Write visually!

We’re not used to reading this kind of format where the writer isn’t telling us what’s going on or what some character is thinking. Characters can also lie when they speak, and that confuses

us even more.

 

During the Reading

 

Scripts are hard to read out loud because, in the end, a script is an unfinished work. It's not a movie, which can use elements like cinematography and music to help tell the story; a script is an outline.

As we read a script, we need to take extra time, literally, so we can visualize the story and try to read between the lines. If you’re reading a role, this is not an audition. Most of the time, it’s a totally cold read, and we really don’t want you to “act.” We just want to hear the words: clearly and loud. The story is what we’re interested in.

Critique and Discussion

 

When critiquing a script, our first job is to understand what the writer’s intention is. We can help the writer by talking about what we experience during the reading. The writer wants to hear if the intention is coming across the way they planned.

Also, when we talk about critiquing, it seems like we want to relay the negative: what’s not working. But it is equally important to talk about the positive: what is working.

It’s better not to give solutions to problems you see (that would be rewriting), but rather to bring up things that you were confused by or didn’t believe. Simply state what you understood or how you felt. Asking questions can be helpful as well.

Ask yourself if you understand the objective of the characters? Were the stakes for the main character clear (the consequences of not achieving the objective)? Did you understand the reason behind what the character wanted? Did you feel the character's responses to circumstances were realistic (keep in mind their objective)? Was the story itself clear? Did each character’s dialogue feel unique?

If you’re the writer, you won’t be speaking during the discussion. You don’t want people to misunderstand or go down the wrong path by reading the words alone. It’s critical that you’re communicating your story and your characters in a way that defines your intention.

To summarize, we want to say, “here’s what I heard,” or “here’s what I understand.” Then the writer can say, “yes, that’s exactly what I wanted,” or “no, that’s a misunderstanding of my intention.”

Nothing here is personal. It’s not about judging the concept or the writer. It’s about helping to make the script clear and powerful.

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