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SCREEN WRITING CLASS - MODULE 3


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#21 aroundworld

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 08:47 PM

QUOTE (kkffoo @ Sep 5 2012, 08:08 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Maggy's bare, soot stained foot draws back when it brushes against Lady Constance's dead hand.
The flames consuming Foley Manor dance in the jewels of Lady C's bracelet.


Well Done!!!!


First thing I want to point out about Kate's film intro:

1. It is LOADED with VISUAL CONFLICT!
THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT! (with exception to your chosen genre.)

2. I can envision Maggy hurrying through a burning building and only noticing LC after her foot brushes against her dead hand, then along with us, she sees the bracelet.

3. The room Maggy is in, is becoming engulfed in flames.




"Maggy's bare, soot stained foot draws back when it brushes against Lady Constance's dead hand.
The flames consuming Foley Manor dance in the jewels of Lady C's bracelet."


Remember, this is the opening scene of a movie.

So, the audience is asking these questions:

Where are we?

Who's that barefoot girl and who's the dead lady? PLANT!

Why is that bracelet so important? BIG PLANT and BETTER PAYOFF by the end of the movie.

Who set the Mansion on fire? PLANT!


Can a movie start off like this? Absolutely, writers/directors do it all the time!!!


The above are all ENGAGING QUESTIONS! It's the beginning of the movie, the audience is HOOKED!

However, YOU MUST ANSWER these questions in THE VERY NEXT SCENE:


SETTING: Where are we?

CHARACTERS: Who is the girl and dead lady?

OBJECT OF INTEREST: What's important about that bracelet? THIS MUST HAVE MASSIVE SIGNIFICANCE!!! It sets the tone for the rest of the movie!

OPENING OBSTACLE: Why was the mansion on fire?


If Kate didn't answer these questions they would all become STORY FLAWS because they were critical questions that weren't PAID OFF (answered).



Now, having said all that there are some minor problems with the way the scene was set up.




Maggy's bare, soot stained foot draws back when it brushes against Lady Constance's dead hand.
The flames consuming Foley Manor dance in the jewels of Lady C's bracelet.


We see the girl reacting to the dead woman and the bracelet. We're not aware she's in any immediate danger.

Foley Manor is burning and it's at this point we're made aware of the bracelet along with the girl.


If there is danger, always make sure your audience knows it UP FRONT!


Lets do this scene in reverse:

Flames consume an old mansion. A young peasant girl stumbles through smoke, choking for air. Her dirty foot brushes against a dead woman's hand. She's repulsed until flames glint off the woman's jeweled bracelet.


In the version above:

Danger is eminent.

We meet the character trying to survive.

She encounters an additional terror, A DEAD WOMAN.

This build up is interrupted by the DISCOVERY of the BRACELET (The MacGuffin)

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?


All I did was take Kate's idea and rearrange it.


Any thoughts?











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#22 aroundworld

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 03:13 AM

QUOTE (squirrelygirl @ Sep 5 2012, 05:36 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Ext. - Small Medieval Village - Night

Four men wearing chain-mail fan out to surround a cottage.

They draw their swords and advance.



Right into the action! smile.gif

Because I'm the audience I have some questions.

Who are they attacking?

Why are they attacking?

What's going to happen?


Not bad for four guys brandishing swords, hooking the audience! Because this is the opening of an action movie you have to PAY THIS OFF VERY QUICKLY with something that has BIG CONSEQUENCES for the rest of the film. The other half of this sequence MUST give the audience SOMETHING TO EXPECT by the end of the film.

Is this scene loaded with visual conflict? Not yet. But it is setup for immediate suspense and delayed conflict! How? Lets take a look! cool.gif


We're watching these four big swordsmen approach, they draw their swords and advance.

The scene changes to the inside of the cottage. This raises suspense. Why? Because we don't see what the four swordsmen are doing! We know they're going to break in, but when and what will they do?

Another way to increase suspense here; maybe the cottage dwellers know the men are coming. They hide. Maybe they're helpless old folk protecting a secret.

It could be that the old folk are changelings. We don't know this. When the men break in the old folk are discovered and we fear for their lives. But then they're provoked and change to Ravenous wolves and kill three of the four men.

Something unexpected! This would set up the movie for a BIG ENDING.


Every movie with structure, will introduce a dilemma or question by the end of ACT I that must be addressed, solved or have some kind of resolution by the end of the movie. Even if it ends with a question.

Major FLAWS in stories happen when the audience is left with no TANGIBLE reason (PAYOFF) for what they've watched for the last 90min.


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#23 kkffoo

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 07:32 AM

QUOTE
Flames consume an old mansion. A young peasant girl stumbles through smoke, choking for air. Her dirty foot brushes against a dead woman's hand. She's repulsed until flames glint off the woman's jeweled bracelet.


This works much better!
I'll try again.

A dogfight over the english channel. German planes pursue and shoot at a lone ?spitfire?
The tail catches fire and the plane plummets. Two men parachute out of the plane.

#24 primaveranz

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 08:09 AM

QUOTE (kkffoo @ Sep 6 2012, 07:32 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This works much better!
I'll try again.

A dogfight over the english channel. German planes pursue and shoot at a lone ?spitfire?
The tail catches fire and the plane plummets. Two men parachute out of the plane.


Well I'm intrigued! Why two men in a single seat plane? Got me thinking.....

"If we only use 1/3 of our brain, what's the other 1/3 for?"


#25 rgr

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Posted 06 September 2012 - 03:16 PM

Always late to the party, sorry about that.

My visual scene is from Jaws: there are many but any of the shots that show the too small boat alone on the open water are so compelling to me. Those shots speak to how alone they are, and how small they are by comparison to the open water.

The screenshot comments are already there but I'll add one idea: they are neither fully in shadow nor fully in light. This makes me think what ever is going on there involves elements of secrecy.

My attempt at visual scene description:

CABAL wakes up brushing ash from his face. He's the first one awake in a room full of passed out bikers. There's a litter of whiskey bottles, mostly empty, some drug paraphernalia, and musical instruments strewn about the room. The shades are all drawn and the phone on the counter is unplugged.

Cabal roots through the pockets of the passed out bikers, pocketing money and cigarettes, grabs one of the guitars off the floor. As he cracks the door to leave, a blinding light shines into the room. He shields his eyes, steps back inside, steals a pair of sunglasses off the counter, and hurries out the door into the light.

#26 aroundworld

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 03:37 AM

QUOTE (JosephKw @ Sep 5 2012, 06:36 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I'm not familiar with some of the technical terms like "We see cues" or "camera calls" so I hope I'm not including them in my attempt at my opening scene. So...here it goes...

A large thick cigar is raised by large thick fingers to thick frowning lips. MR. RONG, age 50, in an expensive three-piece pin-stripe suit stands motionless staring ahead. Large thick batons are held, one each, by four burly men standing two each to the side of Mr. Rong. These men wear filthy wife-beaters. MR. DETT, age 20, with head bowed down and baggy misfitting casual wear, walks around a corner to face MR. RONG and his men. Dett stops in his tracks and his eyes widen as the four burly men spread out to block any escape.

Dett's eyes dart back and forth nervously. The four burly men raise their thick batons, and glance at Mr. Rong. Mr. Rong studies Dett for a few long seconds, removes the thick cigar from his lips with his fingers, points it momentarily at Dett, then drops the cigar. The four batons descend. The cigar hits the floor, splashing red embers about. It lays there a few seconds before Mr. Rong's foot descends upon it, crushing it, the foot twisting repeatedly, deliberately, forceably.



You have very strong visuals, good! For this genre (action/gang related) the intro to your characters is well defined (good guy /bad guy).

The action is clear, the audience could make a plausible guess as to why the gang is beating up on this guy, good!.

The only question I have is, where are we?

Remember, this is your OPENING SCENE! By the next scene you have to tell us why this happened. THAT reason MUST HAVE consequences that SPAN THE ENTIRE FILM!

There must be something here that makes us want to watch the protagonist survive, and beat Mr. Rong at his own game, and we should learn this in the next scene! Sorry to repeat myself but that is really important to avoid the STORY FLAW, unfulfilled expectation. There must be THE PAYOFF at the end of the film!

Why this works.

Bare in mind you could have shown Mr. Rong or Mr. Dett first. The feeling would have been different respectively, but the end result is the same.

By showing Mr. Rong first, you set up the feeling of foreboding. He's gonna do something and we know it's bad.

If you'd shown Mr. Dett first, we would have felt like we're on a walk with this guy waiting for something to happen.

See the difference? It's not wrong, just a different approach is all.

I like your first choice (personnel preference).


ECONOMICAL WRITING:

A large thick cigar is raised by large thick fingers to thick frowning lips. MR. RONG, age 50, in an expensive three-piece pin-stripe suit stands motionless staring ahead. Large thick batons are held, one each, by four burly men standing two each to the side of Mr. Rong. These men wear filthy wife-beaters. MR. DETT, age 20, with head bowed down and baggy misfitting casual wear, walks around a corner to face MR. RONG and his men. Dett stops in his tracks and his eyes widen as the four burly men spread out to block any escape.

[color="#000000"]A large thick cigar is raised by large thick fingers to thick frowning lips. **14 words**


Fat dapper MR. RONG, 50, raises a large cigar to frowning lips.

I said the same thing and conveyed; how he looks, his age, he's smoking and the expression on his face.

Try to avoid WORD REDUNDANCY.



A large thick cigar is raised by large thick fingers to thick frowning lips. MR. RONG, age 50, in an expensive three-piece pin-stripe suit stands motionless staring ahead. Large thick batons are held, one each, by four burly men standing two each to the side of Mr. Rong.


Fat dapper MR. RONG, 50, raises a large cigar to frowning lips. Smoke drifts to his unflinching eyes, he waits. Four burly men armed with batons flank him. MR. DETT, 20, rounds the corner....



Look at how the information is communicated between the two examples of the scene. As you work to communicate your scenes in VIVID language with fewer words, your writing will still have your "voice", but it will read faster and project a sharper mental image.


Nice Job Joseph, and thank you for your patience. smile.gif


Any questions?















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#27 JosephKw

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 04:55 AM

Thanks for the great, in-depth evaluation. I think I got caught up with the previous assignment regarding the visuals (shadow bar couple screenshot) that I forgot this was the opening scene of a film so we need more expectation and setup. Ok, how's this for an opening scene then...

An aged photo of an elderly woman is held by gnarled, old hands. A drop of clear liquid splashes on the photo. Mr. MEL EIN, 70, pristinely dressed in a newly-pressed suit and tie, stares fixedly at the photo in his hands, weeping. Mel puts the photo down, beside a pistol, and picks the pistol up instead.


Question. From what I understand, each page of a script should translate into one minute of film time. Should we take this into account when we decide how much verbiage to use in describing scenes?

#28 kkffoo

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 07:05 AM

I had a thought when I read Joseph's post, that he forgot it was an opening scene.
I also keep forgetting elements of the assignments.
I try something, I try something else, and it seems to muddle up the purpose of the assignment on the way.
I'm wondering if 'cue cards' might help?

I could make my own for sure, but I'm wondering if having an additional separate post which only contains the bare bones of the assignment might help.

So this

QUOTE
ASSIGNMENT

You don't have to use a slug line (EXT/INT. whear ever. NIGHT/DAY)

Write an opening scene to a movie, using two paragraphs. NO MORE.

What I'm looking for: Lean, tight, descriptions. If you must describe clothes try:

fitted suit, or tattered appearance...etc. Something brief and to the point.

What I'm not looking for: Sounds, dialog, lighting, mood, no "We see" cues. No camera calls.

I realize you guys don't have hours to sit around and ponder the three most descriptive words to get your point across, do the best you can.

But that is what screen writing is. Strong, descriptive words that say more with less writing.


Would be summarised something like.... (see below) Content might be wrong of course!

#29 kkffoo

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 07:21 AM

Assignment 3

Outline for a Visual Movie Opening


Two paragraphs


Use
  • Tight lean writing
  • Create expectation

Avoid
  • Wordy descriptions
  • Camera or scene cues (eg ext daytime, closeup on TOM)



#30 kkffoo

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 07:25 AM

Forum code for the above

HTML
[size="5"][b]Assignment 3[/b][/size]

[size="4"][b]Outline for a Visual Movie Opening[/b][/size]


[size="3"][b]Two paragraphs[/b][/size]


[b]Use[/b]
[list]
[*]Tight lean writing
[*]Create expectation
[/list]
[b]Avoid[/b]
[list]
[*]Wordy descriptions
[*]Camera or scene cues (eg ext daytime, closeup on TOM)
[/list]


#31 aroundworld

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 05:57 PM

QUOTE (kkffoo @ Sep 7 2012, 07:25 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Forum code for the above

HTML
[size="5"][b]Assignment 3[/b][/size]

[size="4"][b]Outline for a Visual Movie Opening[/b][/size]


[size="3"][b]Two paragraphs[/b][/size]


[b]Use[/b]
[list]
[*]Tight lean writing
[*]Create expectation
[/list]
[b]Avoid[/b]
[list]
[*]Wordy descriptions
[*]Camera or scene cues (eg ext daytime, closeup on TOM)
[/list]


Hi Kate,



[color="#4169E1"]EDIT: Oh!, HA! I get it now, thanks for the heads up! tongue.gif

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#32 aroundworld

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 06:10 PM

QUOTE (kkffoo @ Sep 7 2012, 07:21 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Assignment 3

Outline for a Visual Movie Opening


Two paragraphs


Use
  • Tight lean writing
  • Create expectation

Avoid
  • Wordy descriptions
  • Camera or scene cues (eg ext daytime, closeup on TOM)



Thank you Kate!!! laugh.gif I hadn't thought of that! Lets do that from now on!!!!

Thank you for your kind a attention to helping organizing my crowded mind!

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#33 aroundworld

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Posted 07 September 2012 - 06:15 PM

I'll be getting to more critiques guys, sorry for the slow response, I was exhibiting in an art show and the opening was last night. So the past few days have been a little busy.


Thanks for your participation and patience!!!

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#34 aroundworld

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 03:14 AM

QUOTE (aroundworld @ Sep 4 2012, 11:17 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Look carefully at this image. What message does it send? The shadows on the wall the posture of the actors; what was the writer's/diretor's intention here?






https://picasaweb.go...feat=directlink

More about this screen shot, and something I would really appreciate all of you to do. PLEASE take some time to let this register. Especially if you plan on continuing to work in machinima or regular cinema.

All of you were correct on one point or another about this image.

As I said, this is taken from In The Mood For Love. It's a story about a couple who's spouses are cheating with each other. The couple pictured by the wall are the victims of the affair. They are unwillingly thrust into a situation where temptation is there only solace, and their only escape is unrequited love.

BRAVO!!!! To all of you!

Now, why I want this to register so deeply. This image communicated a SOLID, TANGIBLE, CONCRETE message.

This is what we want our writing to do. So, what ever way is right for you, allow that to soak in. smile.gif

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#35 aroundworld

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 08:55 PM

QUOTE (rgr @ Sep 6 2012, 03:16 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Always late to the party, sorry about that.

My visual scene is from Jaws: there are many but any of the shots that show the too small boat alone on the open water are so compelling to me. Those shots speak to how alone they are, and how small they are by comparison to the open water.

Yes, the visual contrast is vivid. The other message this sends is the are in a situation bigger than they are; There foe (shark) is more formidable than they realize. Very clear visual message.

The screenshot comments are already there but I'll add one idea: they are neither fully in shadow nor fully in light. This makes me think what ever is going on there involves elements of secrecy.

My attempt at visual scene description:

CABAL wakes up brushing ash from his face. He's the first one awake in a room full of passed out bikers. There's a litter of whiskey bottles, mostly empty, some drug paraphernalia, and musical instruments strewn about the room. The shades are all drawn and the phone on the counter is unplugged.


Cabal roots through the pockets of the passed out bikers, pocketing money and cigarettes, grabs one of the guitars off the floor. As he cracks the door to leave, a blinding light shines into the room. He shields his eyes, steps back inside, steals a pair of sunglasses off the counter, and hurries out the door into the light.







Descriptions are a bit lengthy, but clear. This is a fun scene and would be a good opener with a few tweaks. I'll get to those later.

1. Why does Cabal have ash on his face?

2. What significance does the phone being unplugged have?


To avoid STORY FLAWS, the above must mean something and add to the story. Remember, this is your opening scene.


The ash on CABAL'S face and the phone unplugged must have some kind of significance! In screenwriting, EVERYTHING on the page contributes something to the story. Think through it. If it doesn't tell us something get rid of it.


Economical writing





CABAL wakes up brushing ash from his face. He's the first one awake in a room full of passed out bikers. There's a litter of whiskey bottles, mostly empty, some drug paraphernalia, and musical instruments strewn about the room. The shades are all drawn and the phone on the counter is unplugged.

Cabal roots through the pockets of the passed out bikers, pocketing money and cigarettes, grabs one of the guitars off the floor. As he cracks the door to leave, a blinding light shines into the room. He shields his eyes, steps back inside, steals a pair of sunglasses off the counter, and hurries out the door into the light.




CABAL, 20, stirs awake. He rises from the barroom floor littered with comatose bikers, empty whiskey bottles and some broken guitars. He roots through the pockets of his unconscious comrades; money, Zippo lighters, cigarettes, a pack of over-sized condoms. Then to the last man by the door; bike keys, a gold skeleton key - A GOLD SKELETON KEY?

Cabal grabs the man's wallet and stuffs it in his pocket with the gold key. A quick look about the room. On the bar he spots a bunch of SPILLED SHOT GLASSES with ONE STILL FULL. He downs the last shot and opens the door. BAM! The sunlight pushes him back inside. Cabal grabs a pair of shades from the man who had the gold key, he stirs - Cabal is out the door.


By the end of this OPENING SCENE, we know several things:

1. Cabal is part of a hard living crowd (bikers)

2. Cabal can't be trusted

3. He's got a golden key of Mystery

4. By the last shot on the bar, this is probably his "last shot" at something in life.

5. Those bikers aren't going to rest until they find Cabal


This is what an opening scene should do. Each of the five questions above MUST PAYOFF (be resolved) by the end of the film to avoid STORY FLAWS.



I took some liberties with your idea Rgr, only to show how much you can communicate in the same amount of space with economical writing.

You had a guitar as a central object of interest (MacGuffin). I used a key (it was easier for me to carry smile.gif) either object would work fine.

My point here is: (This is to everyone): You want something for the audience to focus in on that represents the characters need, that will pay off at the end of the film.

Any questions?

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#36 aroundworld

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 09:19 PM

CABAL, 20, stirs awake. He rises from the barroom floor littered with comatose bikers, empty whiskey bottles and some broken guitars. He roots through the pockets of his unconscious comrades; money, Zippo lighters, cigarettes, a pack of over-sized condoms. Then to the last man by the door; bike keys, a gold skeleton key - A GOLD SKELETON KEY?

Cabal grabs the man's wallet and stuffs it in his pocket with the gold key. A quick look about the room. On the bar he spots a bunch of SPILLED SHOT GLASSES with ONE STILL FULL. He downs the last shot and opens the door. BAM! The sunlight pushes him back inside. Cabal grabs a pair of shades from the man who had the gold key, he stirs - Cabal is out the door.


By the end of this OPENING SCENE, we know several things:

1. Cabal is part of a hard living crowd (bikers)

2. Cabal can't be trusted

3. He's got a golden key of Mystery

4. By drinking the last shot on the bar, this is probably his "last shot" at something in life.

5. Those bikers aren't going to rest until they find Cabal


This is what an opening scene should do. Each of the five questions above MUST PAYOFF (be resolved) by the end of the film to avoid STORY FLAWS.

There is no try, only do or do not.

 

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#37 aroundworld

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 09:26 PM

QUOTE (kkffoo @ Sep 6 2012, 07:32 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This works much better!
I'll try again.

A dogfight over the english channel. German planes pursue and shoot at a lone ?spitfire?
The tail catches fire and the plane plummets. Two men parachute out of the plane.



Why do you feel this works better than your original opening?

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#38 aroundworld

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Posted 08 September 2012 - 09:35 PM

QUOTE (JosephKw @ Sep 7 2012, 04:55 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Thanks for the great, in-depth evaluation. I think I got caught up with the previous assignment regarding the visuals (shadow bar couple screenshot) that I forgot this was the opening scene of a film so we need more expectation and setup. Ok, how's this for an opening scene then...

An aged photo of an elderly woman is held by gnarled, old hands. A drop of clear liquid splashes on the photo. Mr. MEL EIN, 70, pristinely dressed in a newly-pressed suit and tie, stares fixedly at the photo in his hands, weeping. Mel puts the photo down, beside a pistol, and picks the pistol up instead.


Question. From what I understand, each page of a script should translate into one minute of film time. Should we take this into account when we decide how much verbiage to use in describing scenes?


"Question. From what I understand, each page of a script should translate into one minute of film time. Should we take this into account when we decide how much verbiage to use in describing scenes?"

No. For now I just want to concentrate on getting a strong OPENING SCENE with very clear visuals that send a message.

There is no try, only do or do not.

 

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#39 JosephKw

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 04:22 AM

QUOTE (aroundworld @ Sep 8 2012, 09:35 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
"Question. From what I understand, each page of a script should translate into one minute of film time. Should we take this into account when we decide how much verbiage to use in describing scenes?"

No. For now I just want to concentrate on getting a strong OPENING SCENE with very clear visuals that send a message.


Ok. So how was my second attempt at an opening scene for setting up audience expectations?

#40 kkffoo

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Posted 09 September 2012 - 08:23 AM

QUOTE (aroundworld @ Sep 8 2012, 09:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Why do you feel this works better than your original opening?


It was your version of my original which I thought was better.
This second attempt was to try and fix in my mind the idea of making the audience aware of the danger upfront.


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