Introducing characters in screenplays – learn from “The Thing”

the thing screenplay character buildingBill Lancaster’s screenplay for “The Thing” is a great read for a  number of reasons – one that struck me immediately, though, is the quiet brilliance of the first page. As a method for introducing a cast of characters, it’s at the same time somewhat unconventional and widely applicable. Unconventional because it presents the characters all at once as a list, rather than in-line as they appear (as the usual convention would have it) – but widely applicable because the characters are built so fully in so few words. If you haven’t read it, click the image to enlarge it. Continue reading

Sentence fragments in screenwriting: bending the rules of grammar

screenplay sentence fragmentsAny student of English language is, at some point, taught that sentence fragments should be avoided. A sentence needs a verb, or a verb needs a subject, and the lack of one or the other means the sentence makes no sense. But take a look at any half-competent screenplay and you’ll find it full of clipped sentences, which still make sense. This is because screenwriting is about communicating a plan of action, a blueprint, not a full-bodied description or a fortress of flawless grammar. Grammar does matter, but the English language is flexible – the question you have to ask is when is it okay to bend the rules? Continue reading

$70 million budget, couldn’t afford a proofreader?

olympus has fallen proofread

Aside from the general mind-numbing amble into cliché and the colour-by-numbers approach to plot and character development, Olympus Has Fallen appears to have suffered from basic grammar errors that apparently no one in the hundreds strong production team noticed. Or cared about. With an estimated $70 million spent on this tripe, was there really no room in the bloated production for someone to step back and say, hold on, are the news reports saying (badly) that a single terrorist has attacked the White House? Or should there be some form punctuation separating (presumably) a story title from its location? Who was responsible for letting this sentence through production?

And on another note, did no one in the scriptwriting, reading, rehearsal, filming or editing stage step back and think the line “We’ll get back with you later.” (spoken by the Secret Service Director) might be improved? How does $70 million not buy a professional standard of English?


The Digital Filmmaking Handbook by Mark Brindle – review

digital filmmaking handbook mark brindle, book review

If you’ve ever wanted a brief introduction to everything you could conceive of relating to digital filmmaking, this is the book for you. It doesn’t look big, but in the space of some 220 pages Mark Brindle has covered the full gamut of modern filmmaking, including what camera to choose, what software to edit in, how to write a convincing a story arch, tips for funding and how to distribute your film. Read it cover to cover and you’ll be able to convince any stranger you meet that you know how to make a film. Continue reading