Script Note: Avoiding long sluglines and unnecessary CAPS

B. O'Malley

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logo for Free Script Notes on your first 10 pagesAlterity by J. Dawson

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Pare down this monster slugline:

INT. SEDAN – PARKING LOT – SUBURBAN SHOPPING MALL – NEW YORK – PRESENT DAY

INT. SEDAN – DAY

Make what’s happening here clearer:

As though a pebble had been dropped in a pond, concentric ripples spread across the scene.

The screen ripples (!), like a pebble thrown into a pond.

Oy, watch your spelling! Rifles, not riffles.

The action for running over the old lady needs to be clearer.  Had to read that one twice.

Speaking of having to read something twice:

Kissing the concrete, he rolls as the sedan bullets past inches from his nose.

Is he literally kissing the concrete?  Of course not, but it takes a second quick read of the line to make sure. Don’t make your readers read a line twice. Some don’t even want to be reading it once.  Err on the side of speed and clarity.  Or Claritin, if you have allergies.

Pick OS or O.S., P.O.V. or POV and stick with it.

p3 no need to capitalize LIGHTS and SIREN

telltale, not tell tale

recklesly spelled wrong.  Choose one and only one:  (a) come off as an amateur screenwriter, (b) spellcheck your screenplay.

Hannah/Zelda is confusing on your last page(s). We need to know who we’re looking at. Is it Hannah? Or is it Zelda?  It’s the same character?  Then do HANNAH/ZELDA.  If she takes on a different physical appearance (not super clear from the text currently) then make sure we know that.

Lots of action in these first few pages, and competent, but the action is a bit dampened by not knowing what’s going on.

Simple Acts by B. Badlandi

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No need for caps on RINGS or SNORING.  Save caps for character intros or super important things you need to make clear or emphasize.

Fight on p7/8 should be half a page.  Try to replace Beth’s blathering/exposition/backstory dialogue with angry action.  We don’t need all that.  e.g. Have her find the lipstick, look at him. CUT TO: she’s throwing his stuff out of the apartment.  Something visual. Exciting. Unexpected.

These pages are a quick, easy read, but they could use two things:  higher stakes for Joe, so that we find it interesting what he’s going through, and more freshness.

re: Boosting the freshness – Movie review show with three talking heads? Boring. Make it a movie review show where two guys go over the top with their hyperbole. Or make it a show that reviews cop chases.  Or a show where these two guys judge how ugly your baby is.  The concept doesn’t have to be as sardonic as this, of course.  Just fresh.  Movie reviews: not fresh.

re: Higher stakes for Joe – he’s got money, he’s on TV, he hires hookers. When his wife kicks him out, it doesn’t feel like a blow to him.  It feels rote. We don’t need to like Joe, but we need to be concerned/interested in whatever he’s going through.  Do that by making the wife thing hurt more, the raise thing hurt more.  If the mighty are about to fall, after page 10, then make that fall higher and harder by setting up the first 10 pages with higher stakes for him.

Rise of the Phoenix by Y. Brewster

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Watch out for that title page. I know this is probably a rough draft, but make sure you don’t send your script out with a blank-templated title page.

Your descriptions are lush, but can be more brief and perhaps even more evocative. For example, this description/action below…

Darkness, and yet there is movement. A train bursts out of a tunnel. Atop, DOMENIC ELIAS PASCAL, mid-thirties, lean yet  powerful build. Eyes narrowed into slits.

Before him THE DARKMAN, everything about him is dark, except the pale translucent skin. He gives a sinister smile and withdraws a sword.

...could be written more powerfully like so:

 

Darkness. 

A train bursts out of a tunnel. Atop it:

DOMENIC ELIAS PASCAL (35) – lean, muscular.

Standing before him, THE DARKMAN – translucent skin, sinister smile.  He draws his sword.

Compelling opening fight.  Break up the action visually for an easier read.

Waking up abruptly in bed after an opening action/thrill sequence is cliché.  Can you find a better way?

First glance at the density of the text on p2 will frighten/discourage any reader.  Pare it down to the absolute essentials.  Lose adverbs and adjectives.

Don’t use caps unless absolutely necessary.

Molted lava should be molten lava.

A KNOCK SOUNDS can be simply:  A knock. Unless the human species can suddenly smell, taste, and see knocks.

Watch your sluglines. They shouldn’t contain shots, descriptions, emotions, actions, or other unnecessary stuff:

INT. EATING PORT

EXT. VILLAGE. DAY SHOTS OF EVERYDAY LIFE

Just do this:

INT. EATING PORT – DAY

EXT. VILLAGE – DAY

This brings a smile to Mary’s lips.

This is apparent from her next line of dialogue, so it’s redundant.  Look for opportunities to ditch text that is already being covered by dialogue, context, and/or implication.

There’s an intriguing concept behind these pages (time travel, I believe?) but the text is doing it no justice yet.  The train/swordfight feels detached. Jumping back in time 34 years previous feels jerky. The casual stroll / chat between Mary and Elias before the volcano is flat, talky, and over-expository.  The volcano eruption sequence goes on way too long.

Try this:  Start the movie with Elias and Mary running from the erupting volcano.  Cut out all of their dialogue, backstory, exposition, everything.  See if you can transmit the same exact information with no words.  If absolutely needed, add back dialogue, but extremely sparingly.  Heighten the danger.  Compress the time. This seems like it’s going to be a bit of a mysterious story, so do away with exposition that isn’t vital, and for the stuff that remains, let’s make sure you’re not doling it all out in one clunky lump sum up front.

 

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