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The hardest part of filmmaking


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#1 Jan Weis

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 05:47 PM

I hardest thing in the world of filmmaking is to write a proper screenplay. I have no problems
writing the story in fact it has become easier over time but the biggest problem I have is writing
proper dialogues for my film. In fact I don't understand how to do it at all, I can't seem to find the
proper balance between primitive lines and complex lines no sane person would ever say in the
real world.

I know the best way to learn is by studying how people talk through personal experiance and
through movies.

I know all screenplays are different and that its more important to show what is between the
lines rather the vice versa,but I have to say I have too high ambitions to settle with mediocre dialogues that wont enhance to cinematic experiance at all.

So this is my dilemma and I just wanted to write it down so that someone can hopefully provide
me with some tips on how to over come these problems.

any answer is appreciated

//Jan
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#2 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 09:37 PM

I would say that the mechanics of filmmaking and the construction (and sometimes de-construction) of a film is the hardest to do. It's easy to think one can do it, but it's in edit you realise just how hard it is. Even the most experienced directors need to go back for pick-ups and re-shoots all the time. Blocking, composition, acting, tone is harder to harmonise than most think.

Everyone thinks filmmaking is easy because they've seen a lot of film. Nothing could be further from the thruth. That's why craftsmen like Spielberg, Ridley Scott and such are much more skillfull than we give them credit for.
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#3 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 10:09 PM

The hardest thing about filmmaking is getting the money to do it. If you've got the cash the rest falls neatly into place.
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#4 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 10:20 PM

But in answer to your problem. Get in on "paper". You are gonna go through a dozen rewrites before filming so don't worry if it doesn't ring true at first, it's wriitten on paper not a stone tablet and that why pencils have an ereser at one end. If it doesn't look right get some actors together and workshop it until it rings true. Again writing the script is just the beginning of your troubles, so don't let it worry you just do it knowing you have a lot more obsticles ahead of you to deal with.

Now that being said, always keep one thing in mind, no matter what else, if the story's no good, no matter how many bells an whistles you put on it, you will never have a good film so take the idea seriously but don't let that imped your progress. As they say in the comercial"JUST DO IT"

Edited by Capt.Video, 14 March 2006 - 10:21 PM.

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#5 David Sweetman

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Posted 14 March 2006 - 11:15 PM

Writing dialogue can be tricky, but it usually just flows for me as long as I know where I'm going with it. It's important to know what you want to accomplish with each line. My biggest problem is that my lines will come across as corny or cheezy -- influence, no doubt, from watching too many westerns. That kind of dialogue works in a movie like "Once Upon a Time in the West," but I usually put it where it just doesn't fit. Then I'm endeared to it because it reminds me of a Charles Bronson line, and it takes one of my buddies to tell me it sucks.

Is it the hardest part? I'm not sure about that...read the screenplay for Alien. The dialogue is devoid of style or spark. It's the actors who ignited it and gave it life. For this reason, I've been purposefully removing overly stylized and inflected dialogue from my scripts.
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#6 Gary Mc Nally

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 05:41 AM

I think the best way to go about learning to write scripts is to download scripts to movies you own on DVD, and read them whilst watching the films. See how the scripts often have more actions than actual dialougue, and how the actions often convey far more than the words said on screen.

Also remember when writing that you're writing a film, NOT a stage show. You are writing a story meant for pictures, in words.

Also writing lots and lots and LOTS of scripts helps. They will probably suck quite bad for a while, but eventually you will get the hang of how to construct scenes, dialougue and actions into something great.
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#7 BeltFedLeadHead

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 10:45 AM

Also remember that you should only write the bare minimum to convey a concept that cannot be told by pictures alone.

Reread your script, and think, "Can this be SHOWN, not told?" Less is more, and also more elegant.
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#8 Tom Bays

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 11:44 AM

I've read scripts and watched the movie and am amazed at the interpretive abilitys that some people have learned or are born with. I constantly think to myself, "How in the Hell did they get such brilliance from this screenplay." I'm amazed anything gets done. It is a collaborative effort to be sure.
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#9 Jan Weis

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 04:15 PM

Thanks to all of you who have answered, I guess we all start out making movies with a piece of paper and a pen (or the modern version; a computer and a keyboard ). I've been working (slowly) with script for the past 5 months mostly doing re-writes but now that I'm close to finshing my first draft of my screenplay Ive started to get more involved into the story, its amazing how much it has changed (for the better) since the begining and I have to say I'm feeling quite proud of my accomplishements so far since its the first serious screenplay I have ever attempted to write.

I will take the advice on telling a story through pictures rather than words and I will give the reading the script & movie watching technique a try.

I really appreciate the tips all of you guys have given me.

Thanks once again

//Jan

Everyone thinks filmmaking is easy because they've seen a lot of film. Nothing could be further from the thruth. That's why craftsmen like Spielberg, Ridley Scott and such are much more skillfull than we give them credit for.



I agree with you, there are so many movies released each year that people forget how much time, and effort is put into movies to get them on the silver screen.

Edited by ozzball, 15 March 2006 - 04:16 PM.

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#10 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 15 March 2006 - 08:49 PM

I'm glad we cold help. I'd like to eather see part of the script of the film when your done. If you feel like it post some of either one when your done. Just remember those two famous quotes I forget who said this"Show me don't tell me" and Spielberg's famous quote" Thank God for the fifth draft" Good luck.
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#11 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 16 March 2006 - 12:18 AM

The hardest thing about filmmaking is getting the money to do it. If you've got the cash the rest falls neatly into place.

Ha! Good one! I assume you're joking.....maybe you're not. :o Rarely does anything involving the production of a film "fall neatly into place", no matter how much money you have to make it.
If getting money was the hardest part we wouldn't have the glut of poorly made movies that we do.
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#12 Eric Steelberg ASC

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Posted 16 March 2006 - 12:25 AM

What about getting out of bed at 4am to work a 14 hour day 6 days a week for a month or more?

Ain't easy.


Also hard not to gain weight from the crap they call craft service.
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#13 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 16 March 2006 - 01:34 AM

Of course I was being flip, but you must know what a major horror show it is to get a project greenlighted and even if your going independent, how phenominally hard it is to raise money. I personally love production. That to me is the easy part. Getting up early, Knowing your doing what you want to with your life. There's nothing more fullfilling, It's pre production, Writing and re-writing and RE-re-writing and storyboading and casting and hiring and coordinating and scouting and screen testing and all the million and one other essential details that have to be addressed before the first frame rolls.

That can get tedious especially if you are still trying to get funding while doing everything else. Then post- God, hours and hours in front of an editing machine, finding the film in all the footage you've shot. Then the compositing, sound, titles all the little details that refine the project into something worth seeing but seem to go on amd on and on. But finally , in the end when everthing is said and done and you can't make one more inprovemant, it all pays off when you see it finally cut together and can only mutter, Damn, Did I do that? It's magical.
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#14 Hal Smith

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Posted 16 March 2006 - 01:59 AM

What about getting out of bed at 4am to work a 14 hour day 6 days a week for a month or more?

Ain't easy.
Also hard not to gain weight from the crap they call craft service.

Funny, I work an occasional stand-by gig for the IATSE Local 112 here in OKC, usually a monster strike of something like "Movin' Out" or "Peter Pan". The Union has trouble now and then putting together a large crew on Sunday night so they hire non-union standby hands to cover. We get fed if we work past midnight which is pretty usual for a big Broadway tour that has a Sunday evening performance. The local caterers, who would be your craft service crew if you filmed here, put on a great spread. I am pretty low fat in my eating habits and I can easily stuff myself on baked fish, salad, veggies, etc. Oh yeah, there's plenty of beef brisket, desserts, potato salad, etc. there on the table for other's tastes but I'm more than happy.

Talk some more Producers into filming here folks, the food's good!

If you're curious as to why an Engineer with a good radio station consulting business, a budding Cinematographer, and a fairly slick stage Lighting Designer and Programmer pulls call for the Local here? Simple, the Call Steward asking me is the guy who more than once has saved my bacon by getting me crew at the last minute when I've gotten into a time jam and needed union help. He also tries to assign me the hands I request for my gigs when I can put in a call 48 hours ahead. I owe him big time. I make a few bucks, hang with the IATSE gang, and get fed. Such a Deal! A couple of times I've worked for a crew chief who's one of my favorite hands and has worked for me a bunch of times. We both have a lot of fun with the role reversal.

Edmond, OK
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#15 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 17 March 2006 - 11:39 AM

I hardest thing in the world of filmmaking is to write a proper screenplay. I have no problems
writing the story in fact it has become easier over time but the biggest problem I have is writing
proper dialogues for my film. In fact I don't understand how to do it at all, I can't seem to find the
proper balance between primitive lines and complex lines no sane person would ever say in the
real world.
//Jan


Writing realistic or memorable dialouge is one of the hardest things to do in screenwriting. Some say you can either do it or you can't, personally i believe its something that has to nutured and worked upon even by a 'gifted' writer.

I have dylexia so never really persued screenwriting as a skill but from my own experiences at having to write projects at Uni (graduate and post-graduate) I would recomend the following.

1) Sit in bars or cafe's and practice writing down peoples conversations (sounds dangerous but its worth it) there you'll get first hand experience at the actuall rythem and the different levels at which people to talk to each other. You'll also appreciate how bizarre, dull, sincere some comversations can be.

2) Once you've written some dialougue rehearse it with friends or actors if possible and see how well it works, if one of them speaks in a certain way let them adjust the lines to suit their character and accent, they may very well add flavour to blandness.

3) Get in the zone, just like an actor its important to emerse yourself in the moment when writing (I personally used to find it easier writing in the dead of night). When writing an important dialougue scene forget the necesseties or length and just go with the flow (you can always edit it latter). For example in a scene where a boy is trying to seduce a girl and their both smocking pot, think how they would be thinking with their speech slowed by the drug, think at what he's thinking- whats flowing through his head, think as she would respond to his advances etc.

4) Research is vital, if you've got a character you have no personal experience with you must research it, in the very least to be honerable to the representation. For example if you've got a young man who's just been released from prison on a crime he did not commit (i've got The Exhonerated in my head) does he speak with his eyes to the ground or does he hold his head high - such details will affect the way he speaks.

5) Less is More, be prepared to cut down lines to even one or two word answers, thats actually how people speak. With student scripts you can practically go through each line and cut out 30-50% and the dialouge will have exactly the same meaning. Its probably wise to leave at least a week or two before you do this, give yourself time to forget the train of thought which induced particular sentance constructions.

Be careful about constant redrafts though, I know the industry expects and preaches it, but for your personal work its not always necessary or helpful. a second draft is often naturally better than the first, but in cases it can be weaker, and a third and fourth may take you further way from your intended direction. After writing something try writing something else, or go snowboarding, go clubing in Ibiza, vistit a Tibeten Monastry and then come back and look objectively and rationaly at your work. Remember you'll have to write several rewrites for the production anyhow, when say, a location is unavailable or the director dislikes a scene or an actor is unconfortable with something.

Anyway just my two cents (perhaps ten even),
Andy
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#16 David Sweetman

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Posted 17 March 2006 - 04:03 PM

Hey, I'm writing a script right now, and I just realized -- I'm freakin sittin around, sipping coffee, playing the guitar, and realaxing. Heck no this isn't the hardest part!
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#17 Jan Weis

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Posted 17 March 2006 - 05:06 PM

I'm starting to think that maybe I should re-write the title of the thread.... Anyways I apreciate all the tips you guys have provided, cause theyre really great! And I'll post a scene from the script as soon as I get the second draft done.

btw even though the actual filmming of a movie is tough, I personally think its tougher to create a story behind the moving pictures because that is where the brilliance truely shines.

//jan
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