Script notes: Setting written more succinctly

B. O'Malley

Free Script Notes To Go

logo for Free Script Notes on your first 10 pagesThe Dominion by M. Cook

The amount of text on the screenplay’s first page, as well as the camera direction, immediately flags this hiphop script / urban script as a difficult read and less-than-professional. But the good news is that that’s an easy thing to fix.

EXT. AERIAL VIEW OF HARLEM – LATE EVENING

Poor Harlem. The screen is grainy with a greenish hue, like it’s being shot through a vintage camera.  We hear the main music from WU TANG CLAN – TEARS, the music builds intensity.  We see different shots of urban landscapes, shifting from freeways to graffiti writers to rooftops of buildings, subway trains, local drug dealers and gangs.  We see vehicles rushing by splashing water on pedestrians. It’s mid-September and it’s a bit chilly.  AERIAL VIEW of a subway train.

… all of that is much more effective if it’s much more brief, like so…

EXT. HARLEM – DAY

The sun is setting on Poor Harlem.

Rundown rooftops, graffiti, subway trains.

A drug dealer on the corner.

A car splashes a pedestrian.

The first 10 pages of the screenplay are steeped in flavor.  You really capture the film’s environment.

But the right now the script spends too much time and text doing it.  Render the script’s characters more quickly, lose all camera directions in the script, and pare down the action text by 50% at least, and you’ll have a first 4 pages instead of 10.

The-Dominion-first-ten-pages

A Gangster Movie by K. Bulow

First things first. The screenplay format is wrong. The script needs to look like a script.  Google “screenwriting programs,” or get your hands on a free copy of Celtx or any of the other available free screenwriting programs.

The film’s conceit is decent. One of them is a cop, and you get into the script’s dramatic question right away, which is:  “Which one?”

The flavor of the gangster genre is there, but could be stronger and perhaps less cliche right off the bat.  The main thing is that you’ve set up a strong dramatic question in the first 10 pages, and that’s something a lot of scripts don’t do.

A-Gangster-Movie

 

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