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Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Rouge Wave Mailbag

Dear Rougewave,

I keep running into the advice to never use "we see". People say that a lot of readers will throw my script into the "round filing cabinet" if I use it because in general they hate to see "we" in a script. They say I shouldn't take the chance. Is this true?! Do you guys really hate it that much? So much so that if I've written a killer script you'll toss it out just because I used "we" a couple of times? The thing is, I've seen it in all kinds of scripts, but the same people tell me those scripts are later drafts and that I'll rarely if ever see it in early drafts of spec scripts. But I thought spec drafts WERE what I was reading! Gah! I'm confused! Am I taking a chance by using it?

Sincerely,

Ed F.


Ed,

First off, close your eyes and take a deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep breath. A nice, relaxing, cleansing breath. Innnnnnnnn... ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut. Good. (Open your eyes.) Okay, here *we* go...

This is by far the most frequently asked screenwriting-related question (at least on the internet). And I have to be honest -- when Julie told me someone had asked it, I begged her to let me weigh in. Man, for ages, I've been waiting for someone to give a definitive answer. *The* answer. The one that would end all speculation. Well, I'm going to attempt to do that now. Yeah, yeah, I know the debate will rage on long after this blog entry has passed away and gone to cyber-heaven, but, what the heck, lemme tell you what *I* think...

"We xxx (see, hear, fly over, tumble through, etc.)" is part of the screenwriting lexicon. It's not quite a formatting tool, like INT. or EXT., but it's close. I have seen it used so often, I practically *expect* it now whenever I crack open a script (or scroll down in a pdf or FD document). And, yeah, early drafts of spec scripts that sold (and are in development or have been produced) are sometimes riddled with it. And since I know the *real* question is about early drafts of specs that broke their writers into the business, rest assured, you'll see it in those, too. (Check out Brad Inglesby's THE LOW DWELLER, James Simpson's ARMORED and Jon Spaihts' PASSENGERS, for starters.)

So put your mind at ease -- you can use it. Just use it wisely. And creatively. But that applies to everything, right? Instead of writing a bunch of random "We see Gary walking into the bar. We see Todd stumbling out of the bathroom. We see Veronica caving Fred's skull in with a hammer" sentences, think about exactly why you might want to use it on a given occasion. Perhaps it's to create a POV shot in your reader's mind: "We inch our way down the corridor... toward the blood spattered door." Or maybe it's to draw attention to something we see, but a character in the scene doesn't: "Right as Paul turns away from the closet, its door quietly swings open, and we see two glowing RED EYES peering out of it. Paul is oblivious, though, and we want to warn him, we want to scream "Watch out!" at the top of our lungs, as the dark, hulking SHAPE glides out of the closet..."

Crude examples, but you get the idea.

And, yeah, people will say, "Well, in both of those passages, you could omit 'we' and still have the same visual." And then they'll offer their rewrite and it *won't* be the same thing -- it *won't* imply the same visual. It won't have the same *feeling*. It won't have the same, dare I write it, Voice. I've seen that a million times.

Because here's the thing... the real issue: When you write a screenplay, your job is to give a reader (be it a reader-reader, an agent, a producer, a studio exec, an actor, a director, etc.) the experience of watching a movie. You want to immerse them in the film you've played over and over in your mind. Basically, you want them to feel as if they're watching *your* movie when they read your script.

I say use whatever tools you have to use to accomplish that. Use them creatively, use them wisely, and use them confidently.

"We back away, slowly, as the hordes of mutant anti-we-seers crawl out of the woodworks."

Tony Robenalt

****

Yeah. Tony's pretty cool. That's why he reads at The Script Department. If you want Tony's notes on your script you can request him personally. If you dare.


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4 comments:

Emily Blake said...

Blech. I HATE "We see" and I never use it, but that's my own personal preference and I certainly wouldn't stab somebody else for doing it just kind of stick out my tongue. I'm also not a reader so I doubt anybody cares what I think, but, you know, there it is.

Screenwriting is an art wrapped up in the guise of a science, which is great because it means there are no definitive answers.

Tavis Sarmento said...

Everything in moderation...even moderation.

A few sprinklings probably won't hurt-- but really it's all about context and what works best. Personally I like the challenge of figuring out a better way than using "we see", but if it comes naturally I won't slash it just because.

I'd say use in a way that we don't realize you've even used it.

PJ McIlvaine said...

Honestly, I could probably count on one hand the times I've used "we see". And even that would be a stretch.

kahapeterson said...

I often wonder about other "rules" explained in Syd Field's book - because I don't see them used much these days.

Scripts like "Crash" just seem to flow with "bite-sized" thoughts that are easy to read but grammatically challenged.