THE BAD NEWS: If you’re making these 5 mistakes, you’re not ready for prime time.
THE GOOD NEWS: Correcting these 5 mistakes will rocket your script quality up so fast NASA will dial you for launch tips.
- KILL THE FIRST THIRTY PAGES: Stories are supposed to be a strip tease. Drop one veil at a time. If you explain EVERYTHING up front about every character — in other words, plop a naked fat woman waving her psych file on the couch? That’s not sexy. That’s not mysterious. That’s not interesting. Knock off the first thirty pages of the script and see if the story still plays. Odds are it will. If it doesn’t? What must you put back in to make it play? Odds are, not all thirty pages.
- CUT UNFOCUSED SCENES: Can you insert “but” or “as a result of” between scenes? Structure and story focus are all about one driving story engine. If scenes do not result one from the other or operate as obstacles to preceding scenes in the script? You have not been paying enough attention to the South Park Guys #1 Rule. Cut scenes that aren’t causal or obstacle.
- COMBINE CHARACTER INTRODUCTIONS: Is there a scene that introduces a character, then another scene that introduces another character, then a scene that introduces another character? Why does the script need three scenes to introduce three characters? Why can’t one scene introduce three characters? Combines introduction scenes.[*CAVEAT: There is an exception to this. A classic film character introduction set up is introducing multiple lead characters in short fast sequences opening a film. It’s old school and hot when it works. If you want to see an example, watch A Fish Called Wanda. I’m betting you aren’t doing the Fish Called Wanda thing though. Just a guess.]
- CUT REPETITIVE DIALOGUE: Characters tell other characters information for the audience’s benefit, not for other characters’ benefit. If there are two, three, or more scenes in which characters tell each other the same information? Stop that. The audience got it the first time.
- THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A 60 PAGE ACT: Acts, in film, are at longest fifteen pages [which translates to fifteen minutes]. If you’re trying to sustain one act for an hour and wondering why it isn’t working? Well, because even Shakespeare didn’t try to get away with that sash. Break it up into fifteen page segments. The script might start working yay!