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Friday, January 25, 2008

It's Art Day!

Well, Rouge Wavers, it's Friday, it's rainy, the regular teacher isn't here, so you know what that means! Throw on your smocks, everybody - it's art day!

What does it mean when a reader, manager or exec comments that your script is "overwritten"? On a message board recently, a member valiantly tried to connect that comment with the number of words that should appear per page in a script. No. This is not the direction in which to take that kind of note. In fact, it's absurd.

The comment overwritten translates to this - you could have used more brevity but you didn't.

Picture a Rembrandt. Rich, oil colors, tiny details which emerge and recede. Light and shadow dappled expertly. This is the work of a master. This is a NOVEL. Complex, detailed, layered.

Picture, if you will, a Jackson Pollack painting. Wild dashes and slashes of color. A crazy sense of chaos and imagination run riot. This is a BAD SCRIPT; nothing is holding it together.

Let's take Andy Warhol as our next example. Pop art. Familiar, even mundane images, in acid colors and repetitive patterns. The familiar becomes a work of art. This, Wavers, would be the predictable script. Color by numbers. It's written well, but I've read it a thousand times because it's very familiar to me.

And what about Jeff Koons? What ABOUT Jeff Koons? What is Jeff Koons about? Well, that is the question, isn't it? Is it art? Is it junk? Is it in jest? Who knows? Who can tell? What does it mean? This is the script that is so obtuse and intellectual that we don't know what to make of it and in all probability, either did the writer.

Now imagine one of those anatomy pictures from high school. Where the human body is shown in layers. Skin, muscles, veins, arteries, ligaments, bones, etc. Crazily detailed, right? This is an overwritten script.

Now picture if you will, a jaunty skeleton, in black and white, on paper. With the leg bone connected to the knee bone, and the knee bone connected to the thigh bone, and the thigh bone connected to the hip bone and the...okay musical interlude over. You've got this skeleton pictured, right? Now, you, as a screenwriter, are going to dip your paintbrush into some watercolor paint and gently, deftly, add color over the bones. All over the skeleton. Wash it with color, but it's watercolor, see? So the skeleton itself is still visible. Make the colors vivid and unique. Make the colors this skeleton is wearing very unique compared to the other skeletons.

And what do we have when we're done? A colorful, familiar and yet unique Keith Haring!

It's not about the number of words per page and it's not about writing something so spare that there is no detail - it's about getting it just right.
So if you get told your script is overwritten, don't despair. If the bones of your story are good, this just means going in with a little paint thinner. And yes, everybody has different tastes in art. One person's Pollock miracle is another person's barf bag. But remember what I said early on in today's Rouge Wave - screenwriting is singularly unique. Write a script that is familiar and yet utterly different. Recognizable, with good bones but WOW, dressed up and presented in a way that grabs the attention of your reader. Not overdressed (overwritten) but just right.

Brevity and simplicity is your friend. Less is more.

ShowHype: hype it up!

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Juan Sebastian said...

Fun post... very creative...

Tavis said...

Continuing this analogy-- if my screenplay is beginning to look like a Paul Klee painting, is that good or bad?

Julie Gray said... his art, can't see that as a good script though, lol. I read a script yesterday that was quite like the Mona Lisa. :)