An excerpt from my script review for Nocturnal Animals which will be available 11/21/16:
4.) Dialogue and Description
Overdescription – Excessive detail about a character, scene, or action that bogs down a reader as they mentally picture a story while reading a script.
Before anyone uses the excuse “but the director wrote it” I’m going to stop you right there…
Other people will still need to read it, too.
We’ve been over this a million times, but only include the details NECESSARY to the STORY!
Right from the start on page 2, we know we’re in for walls and walls of text that, sure enough, carry on throughout the film, slowing the pace.
Susan pulls up to a pair of large stainless steel gates. The
glare of her headlights reflects off of the gates and
temporarily blinds her as she shields her eyes. She hits the
remote and the massive gates glide open. She drives in as the
gates close behind her.
As the gates lock in place, another car pulls into the
driveway. The glare of the headlights blinds us so that we
cannot make out anything but the silhouette of the driver. We
see clearly however from the large logo on the hubcap that
the car is a vintage dark brown Mercedes. The car door opens
as the driver lowers his foot onto the gravel drive.
We cut back to the house to see Susan’s silhouette as she
walks towards the front door. The house is dimly lit and
Susan pulls into the driveway.
A vintage brown Mercedes pulls alongside her, the driver obscured from view.
She walks toward the empty house, not looking back.
I mean, what the hell do we need all that other stuff for? Each and every action involved into parking our car and entering our home?
Something we do COUNTLESS times each and every day?
Are you kidding me?
We enter the house. It is beautiful and expensive. The art on
the walls is staggering and the mix of contemporary art with
18th century furniture and the modern architecture of the
house itself is eccentric in the extreme. A butler leads us
into a room filled with a small group of people. All know
each other well. Susan and Hutton are greeted with cheek
The house is a typical overindulgent LA home, even if done tastefully, and hosts a group that’s just as fake as we’d expect, evidenced by the hollow cheek kisses Susan and Hutton receive.
You can put WHATEVER architecture/décor you want or is available when shooting. It doesn’t matter to the story, even if it’s a shooting script.
Susan stands talking with ALESSIA HOLT, 38, dressed in a
kaftan and covered in gold and turquoise jewelry. She is
tall, pale and her eyes are darkened with heavy liner and
even heavier shadow so that she almost has the appearance of
a raccoon. She moves her hands wildly when she speaks. She is
flamboyant but there is a kindness and gentle quality about
her. The two women are clearly close as is evident by their
Really? Every detail you’ve just given us is crucial to a character who DOES NOT APPEAR in the remainder of your script?
Stop wasting our time.
TRIM ALL THE FAT!!!
Description comes at the cost of white space, so each and every word receives a value, as a basis for what is and isn’t necessary.
Say more with less.
That goes for characters, settings, and even actions. We don’t need to see things unless they directly relate to your plot!
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