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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Don't Cop Out

Very often, Rouge Wavers, my blog posts are inspired by real-life experiences I have with the latest script I read for my business or a production company or perhaps something that is going on with a peer, friend or colleague. And so this weekend I read a script that said, simply:

There is a furious battle.

I flipped to the next page. Nada. We move on to the next scene. I flip back. What?? Where'd the furious battle go? I look at the page numbers - has the writer left out a page? No, the writer didn't. The writer simply didn't write the scene.

Rouge Wavers, this is as bad as over-writing the scene. It makes the writer look lazy, inept or both and it cheats the script out of a really great setpiece. A furious battle? Well – what does that look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like? Scripts are like amusement park rides – so thrill us. Simply stating that there IS a battle, chase, sex or gunfight scene does not work whatsoever.

Never, ever miss an opportunity to show off your chops as a writer. We want to hear the clanging swords and be flecked with mud – we want to see the ladies watching and fanning themselves, we want to hear the THUD of the horses….

Anything less is a cop-out of huge proportions.

If you’re really intimidated by writing a great action scene, I recommend getting ahold of and reading some great….wait for it….action scripts. Check out DIE HARD (any) or LETHAL WEAPON – heck, THE ISLAND has a fantastic action sequence. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, THE FRENCH CONNECTION, THE LAST SAMURAI…

The list is long. Don’t be intimidated, do your homework and figure it out. But don’t simply cop out, it will take all the zing out of your script, deflate the read and make you look like an amateur.

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Anonymous said...

Can I add the final act of Children Of Men ( available online ) to the list.
Great phrases like "guardian angels working overtime". Lot of humanized
emotional trauma and fear in that script.

Laura Reyna said...

Oh, i hate when writers do this. Yes, it does come off like a cop out.

Recently i read Ehren Krueger's REINDEER GAMES. He has a love love scene where he says something like:

"And they fuck like two lovers in an R-rated movie."

And the scene ends.

Now some would call that clever. I thought it was a clever cop out.

Battle scenes, fights and sex scenes are hard to write, but a writer should give us SOMETHING... anything... a few lines of action, a couple nice descriptive words. We're writers after all.

Even if it's never filmed exactly as you described it, at least you gave the reader something to visualize.

Copping out is so annoying.

Ben said...

In The Island Michael Bay ended up shooting his own action sequences instead of the scripted ones (as per the script I found on Simply Scripts). But even if the director ends up going with his vision, we still need to write ours.