Beware! Things That Bring Bad
Don't have one character tell another what
he should do, especially through an authority figure. The character should
find his own solutions.
Don't use acts of God and events that come
out of nowhere. The characters should make their own solutions, not some
outside force. For example, Johnny's need for money shouldn't suddenly
be resolved by winning the lottery, or the death of a rich uncle.
Don't have a character say what the story
is about or what the moral message of it is. These things should be obvious
by the character's actions. That doesn't mean a character doesn't listen
to an inner voice, but his motivations should be clear and solutions should
be caused by him.
Don't repeatedly set up a problem in one scene
and resolve it in the next. That rhythm loses viewer interest.
Don't give people special powers. Even the
science fiction series Star Trek, with its cast of aliens, is about
real people facing real life problems in unusual conditions, and the powers
the aliens have is very limited. The exception is fantasy stories.
Don't use excessive foul language, sex, and
violence. Movies that use these, especially when they are not necessary
to the story, are not well received in the film industry. Movies that demean
people, or feature gratuitous mistreatment of people or animals, are typically
ignored by film industry readers, which prevents them from getting to producers
Don't number the scenes.
Don't use technical terms or specify camera
shots or angles. No one will notice their absence, but their presence is
disruptive and often amateurish or erroneous.
Don't give stage directions to the actor unless
it is necessary for clarity. The actors' and directors' jobs are to thoroughly
analyze a script and plan every word and move. They will decide how to
act the play. But keep in mind that the script is first read by others
and giving some idea of what you had in mind is often needed for clarity.
They can mark it out later.
Don't indicate how the actor got from one
scene to the next or what he did in the mean time unless it helps the story.
If he is there, we'll know he got there by some customary means and assume
he probably didn't materialize. If he was traveling over lunch time, we'll
assume he had sense enough to stop and eat. Coming, going, and eating are
not what make a story.
Don't spell the action out in great detail
in action scenes (scenes with a lot of movement). Give highlights of chase
scenes or fights, not blow-by-blow descriptions.
Don't write the way people actually speak.
People meander, repeat, change subjects, get verbose and obtuse, but none
of these help a script. Scripts need to be as direct as possible without
losing the essence of the character or losing the drama.
Don't use quotation marks or he said, she
said, or she felt... in dialogue. Dialogue must stand on its
Don't use slang words or phrases and foul
language. They tend to date your script and obscure the meaning of the
dialogue. Movies aren't reality, and excessive realism detracts from instead
of enhancing movies.
Don't use flashbacks, if possible. Flashbacks
work poorly in film and usually slow the action. When a story is moving
backward, it isn't going forward.