Monday, July 11, 2011

Cold Fried Chicken: Short Screenplays and My Rocket House Days 3


The attempt of Cold Fried Chicken is to one thing and one thing alone: to get you, the writer, the director or the maker of film to write. Ultimately the hope is for you to write the short screenplay, but the very act of writing, writing anything, is to meet with success.
There are a plethora of books available on the market today that explain, some better than others, the art of the screenplay. I read AFI's book when began with screenwriting, and I felt it was a helpful book, especially when I tried my hand at the feature length screenplay. AFI suggests that the pursuit of the great American novel has now been replaced by the pursuit of the great American screenplay. This may be true. And writing a good screenplay takes prowess as a writer. Where the screenplay differs from the novel is this: film is very much a collaborative process whereas, generally speaking, the novel is not.
The discussion of the feature length screenplay comes much later on in the Film for Fiction Writers portion of this text. However, long before we get there, we're going to focus on the short. Short screenplays have a very different set of parameters. When we consider the length of time for the short subject, we know that our tactics must be different. We know that long scenes of exposition or long scenes of cinematographic optics cannot be crucial. We know that large scenes of action, car chases or kung fu battles will not work. Rather, we must think in the confines of a five to twenty minute span as a story with a beginning, a middle and an end. In my time as an instructor of fiction and my time as a magazine fiction editor, I've also preached the beginning, middle and end of story telling business. We must consider the writing absolutely essential too. After all, we see plenty of short film, everyday, where the filmmaker tells a story without dialogue—music videos and some commercials on the television do just that. The filmmaker can impose or suggest or push a story that has nothing to do with a pop song or an automobile.
Additionally, much of the short film has to do with passion, I say this because outside of the Internet, or the film festival circuit, there isn't much of a market. As far the market for short film, it isn't a wide spread enough medium to make a living either. Rather, consider a final project of a short film to do one or more of these three things: resume builder, curriculum vitae enhancer, or great barroom story. Some short films do go on to make waves, and some become the predecessors to feature films. Nine and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow both became feature films.
Using some of Rocket House Studio's experiences we'll look at the screenplays they used. Also, we'll think about smaller elements as exercises. After all, the point is to get the pen to paper, or the fingers to keys.
For your success, and from this moment on, watch as many short films as you can. Pay attention to the dialogue. Keep notes on each one. Do this, make a habit of it and your frame of reference and experience as a viewer will enhance what you can produce as a writer. As for exercises in this manual, think of them as a springboard. Think of them as an investment in future products.
Last, if you are a filmmaker, a manual as such will help you improve the writing. If you are a writer, hopefully, you'll be able to think like a filmmaker a little bit too. I hope the work you produce will enhance your knowledge, build your community, and enhance your life.

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