Screenplay Workshop Notes: Week #4 – Scene Description Writing and Formatting

This was an exciting week in class for me because I received feedback on my treatment for Hot Cold, the feature that I’m writing for the workshop.  I was elated to get some many great pieces of feedback and suggestion.  The biggest revelation to me was that people had interpreted many setting/world rules without my injection; they’d come up with their own excuses for how the world worked.  And that was great for me because I’d spent little time establishing the rules for the setting, and some of the things the class came up with were better than what I would’ve used!

Jill, the class instructor, had some great notes on my third act also.  She pointed out how the main character isn’t driving the action as much as he should be.  She also told me I should reference the move Witness for a climax that would work better for what I’m wanting from the character.

One disappointing but useful piece of feedback was that most people didn’t seem to like the last scene as much as I’d wanted.  The last scene is really the only piece of the story that I’m married to, so it’s great to know that I’ll need to rework some earlier scenes to make that last scene pay off better.


Jill also lectured a bit on proper script formatting.  Admittedly, I thought I knew everything I should know about formatting, but I sat up in my chair when she started telling us about mini slug lines/William Goldman Slug Lines.  Those have long interested me and it’d been difficult for me to know if they were universally accepted.  For example, a scene might pick up space in a bank robbery and instead of writing:


Sonny leans in to talk with the negotiator.


Sal leans over with is uzi to see what Sonny is doing.  —

Instead of rewriting that new slug line for the office, you could simply write:


leans over with his uzi to see what Sonny is doing.  —

Those slug lines can really slow down the pace in some of my scripts and its nice to see a different way of organizing action.



Screenplay Workshop Notes: Week #3 – Character Development

I’m enrolled in Jill Chamberlain’s Screenplay Workshop class that teaches her ‘Screenplay in a Nutshell Technique’.  Most of the class is spent riffing about each other’s stories and playing Beer Pong, but sometimes we get to my favorite part: LECTURE TIME!

This week Jill was walking us through Character Development.  Her main points were that films can convey character in two ways: Dialogue and Action.  She pointed out that ‘showing’ character through Action is a more interesting way to reveal character.  AND apparently, the way we get these figments of our imaginations to ‘show’ us their character is by putting obstacles in front of them.  You could almost go as far as saying Character = Obstacles, but that’s probably alittle confusing.  McKee sorta argued that Character and Plot are inseparable, and what is Plot but a relentless series of obstacles of greater and greater difficulty?  Just like middle school…  🙂Writer's Block

Jill continued to say that the most human and engaging characters are often the ones with internal conflicts.  We can create internal conflicts in characters by having them tell the audience that they “Don’t stick their neck out for nobody” and then show them doing the exact opposite by sacrificing their desires for the greater good like Rick Blane from Casablanca.  BTWs, anyone else feel extra chipper about life every time they watch Casablanca?

Jill also revealed a bit about her writing process.  She said that she’ll normally think of an event that could be the launching point of a screenplay, and then she’ll try to find the most interesting character to place in that event.  As an example, she told us that Tootsie had been a terrible script for several drafts until they decided to make the main character a sexist pig.  That choice suddenly elevated Tootsie from your 5 cent drugstore candy to the America’s second favorite comedy of all time.