An excerpt from my script review for First Man which will be available 10/15/18:
4.) Dialogue and Description
There’s two things you should never do to your reader.
A.) Bore them.
B.) Insult them.
Now, I’ll chalk up the fact that this 145 page script had me doze off by page 23 to being up at 4:30am for soccer, and focus on the main issue.
First Man was 145 pretentious pages.
Never, ever act like you’re cooler, smarter, better, etc. than your reader!
It’s great to have your own unique tone, but that tone should never be condescending!
Start at the title page.
Based in part upon the book
First Man by James Hansen
“Based in part” is like saying, “It was source material, but I don’t want that author receiving praise for all these fantastic ideas I had for the film.”
Remember, Mr. Singer, the guy did walk on the fucking moon. You’re just writing about it.
And Mr. Hansen? The guy wrote a fucking book!
Default to being gracious and leave it at “based on” and you can privately explain to people where your script diverted from the book, but only if someone asks.
And if you haven’t figured it out by now, WE’RE GONNA BE IN
THE COCKPIT WITH NEIL FOR THIS ENTIRE HEART-POUNDING RIDE.
What fucking purpose does this line serve? Aside from the insult that we’re not smart enough to realize we’re going to be with Neil because, y’know, you’re fucking showing us Neil Armstrong in the cockpit for the next page and a half.
It’s stupid, and this script was full of this shit when it’s already too long.
Yes, Neil was a Navy combat pilot. And if you’re surprised he
didn’t mention that in the hall, you’re not paying attention.
(You know where else a reader may not pay attention? When they bin your bloody screenplay!)
Again, why waste time with this?
A more appropriate, and stylish, way to divulge this information? Just give it to us via dialogue, and if we remember he didn’t answer as such in the hall (something that’s kind of glossed over by the way) you’ve just did a bit of character building!
And yes, it’s an update of
the diagram that inspired Neil to join Apollo back on P.19.
Oh. My. God. We don’t fucking care!
This fact has nothing to do with moving the story forward! Of course it’s going to be different because the initial diagram was just a fucking concept drawing!
Next bit to discuss is don’t oversell your plot.
It will either be an interesting scene, or it won’t. You telling the reader to find it interesting means you’re more than likely not doing your job.
It’s every bit as awesome as the flight we just witnessed.
For the record, Singer’s comparing how a plane looks (essentially a missile with a cockpit) to a near death flight Neil Armstrong just had in it.
That’s some “apples to oranges” type shit, and would best be left out, no matter how interesting you may think the X15 is as the writer.
(Remember! Of course you’ll find things interesting because it’s your script, but the trick is to make the reader feel just as interested. Oh, and telling people how they should feel generally yields the opposite outcome.)
we’re not going anywhere. WE’RE GONNA STAY WITH THE CREW FOR
THE WHOLE DAMN MISSION. So buckle the fuck up…
Okay, first, they’re in a fucking rocket headed to the moon.
Second, of course we’re going to stay with them, because it’s the most interesting point of the story. What should we cut away to? A NASA janitor mopping the floor outside mission control?
Just let the scene speak for itself, because you’re giving us three men strapped to the top of a giant missile.
That’s a scenario that won’t take much to convince an audience.
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