Film Courage strikes again with this provocative video about what “high concept” is and isn’t. The video concentrates on this as a “big movie idea,” but TV historically has been the arena where high concept ruled. And now…showtime:
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you haven’t already read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, now would be a good time.
by Diana Black
Regardless of what type of project you’re writing, or whether you wrote a Treatment prior to this step (Storybook version of the narrative), the Scene Outline is mandatory.
IF this is a TV Pilot, Telemovie or Limited Series, the Outline must follow strict formatting guidelines. Regardless of whether, you plan to write up a story-book version (Treatment), I suggest you read LB’s article “Writing the Dreaded Outline” – not only is a great informative read, the GDD method really works, especially when you’re up against the clock.
But let’s assume you do have your potential novel/story-book Treatment in hand and you’re wanting to transform it into an Outline… all you need do is simply break the Treatment up into individual scenes. The ‘big-print’ for each scene, should only be a few sentences long and if it’s more than that, break it up into two (2) sentences per paragraph…. the more ‘white space’ on the page the better.
If you’re not having to submit an ‘industry-standard’ Scene Outline, because it’s not a TV project but a Feature instead, I’d advise you to create the following document… it’s a ‘multi-tasker’… why create more work when you can create a killer document that does so many things at once…
Create a Table (computer… ‘Landscape’). The number of columns depend on how many sub-plots you have besides your main plot (A). Let’s say you only one sub-plot (B)… create a table with five (5) columns… an Act # Colum (I, II and III, or if for TV -TEASER, I, II, III, IV, and TAG); Scene & Page #; A-plot Scene – containing the Slug Line and ‘Big print’ (description incl. action); Scene & Page# column for the B sub-plot, and the last one, the B sub-plot Scene details….
Fill the table in as you work through the Treatment and mark with a numbered asterisk e.g. *1, if it’s set-up #1 or mark with a numbered check e.g. ?3 if it’s paying off set-up #3 and so on… this way you’ll easily keep track of the set-ups and ensure you’ve paid them off correctly. The pay-offs are not likely to occur for a while, or if it’s a TV Pilot, the pay-off may not occur until the next episode, but you’ll know where they are in an instant and whether in the end, you’ve addressed them.
Outlining the entire narrative arc in this manner enables you to not only identify whether a scene is the main plot or a sub-plot, you’ll also be able to determine the timing and relationship between them. It lets you chart the energy dynamics and pacing of the narrative… cutting back and forth between A & B will likely quicken the pace.
You can also indicate whether it’s a Flashback (FB) scene… but most importantly, you can locate scenes a lot faster than flipping through an entire script. If you add or delete scenes (rows) on the Outline, be sure to re-number them. By numbering the scenes at this stage on both the Outline and the Script (a no-no on your spec submission), it makes it easier if you’re working in collaboration with multiple writers on a project or conducting a Table read. Having to say, “Let’s look at Sc.#30” is far easier than saying, “Let’s look at Hotel Room – Night er… page 53”, don’t you think?
A – Main
B – Sub-plot
INT. HOTEL ROOM – NIGHT
The PROTAGONIST closes the curtains – watches the street. He turns to the POLICE OFFICER behind him – hands over the box. (*1)
EXT. ALLEYWAY – NIGHT
BEAGLE BOY ONE throws the gun to BEAGLE BOY TWO – he FIRES up at the hotel window.
INT. HOTEL ROOM – NIGHT
Glass shards spray the room – Protagonist and Police Officer hit the deck….
Doing your Outline this way, helps you restrict the big print down to the bare minimum; this should reduce ‘over-writing’ … leave that for the novel. And remember it’s, ‘show not tell’. Elaborate on the script itself, if you must.
Okay, you’re now finally onto the Script. Refer to that wad of rough scene notes that you’ve been scribbling – at 2:00 a.m., in the shower, walking along the beach, in the rest room at the restaurant on ‘date night’ etc.
Having done so much work in the foundation stage, you now know these characters intimately, they’ve been present for quite a while in your life and now they’re not only talking, but surprising you with the choices they make and events that are seemingly coming out of left field. Now sit back and enjoy the process of just simply writing.
Scenes should adhere to the principle, ‘arrive late and leave early’ in relation to the characters, as to what’s just happened prior to the scene, and they’re leaving long before the ‘welcome mat wears thin’ – don’t slow/labor the pace. The scene should clearly address the scene objective without being ‘on-the-nose’ description and/or dialogue.
Beats are a way to amp up the pace and explore subtext, there should be underlying conflict and tension between characters, and with only one of them winning by the scene’s end. This is indicated by the character via word or action; achieving their objective via the dialogue or the action. If none of this is making sense to you, read my article: “Actor-Writer? No! Writer… No…”
On a technical note, as you’re writing the Script, have you got something compelling on the bottom of every page so that it’s a ‘page turner’? Supposedly, J.K. Rowling’s strategy. Go and check out one of the Harry Potter books and the adapted screenplays – see if this holds true. If you’re writing a teleplay, have you got something amazing just prior to an act break in the form of a cliff-hanger?
Take a bow. You’ve worked hard!
See you in the next article… TV Checklist – Part 5
Diana Black is an optioned screenwriter who has placed in competitions with features and teleplays. She’s also a professional actor with a Bachelor of Creative Arts – Drama, Film & TV and a regular contributor to TVWriter™.
Writing is difficult enough in and of itself, so the last thing we need is to sit down at our desks (or coffee shop tables) and feel miserable before we even think of the first word. Here’s some good advice on being positive from…aw, you guessed it, The Positivity Blog.
7 Small Habits That Will Steal Your Happiness
by Henrik Edberg
“Simply put, you believe that things or people make you unhappy, but this is not accurate. You make yourself unhappy.” Wayne Dyer
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” Marcus Aurelius
It is usually pretty easy to become a happier person.
It is also quite easy to rob yourself of your own happiness. To make yourself more miserable and add a big bowl of suffering to your day. It is a common thing, people do it every day all over the world.
So this week I’d like to combine these two things. I want to share 7 happiness stealing habits that I have had quite a bit of trouble with in my own daily life (and I know from the emails I get that many of you do too).
But I’d also like to add what you can do instead if you find yourself being stuck in one of these destructive habits.
1. Going for a daily swim in a sea of negative voices.
This one can be quite subtle.
You just go around in your daily life like you usually do. Hang out with the same people. Listen to the same podcasts or radio shows, watch the same old TV-shows and read the usual blogs, books and magazines.
But what influence do these things have over your thinking and the limits you set for yourself and what you feel you deserve in life?
What to do instead:
Make a list of the 5 people you hang out with the most and the 5 media sources you spend most time on during your week.
Then ask yourself this for each of these 10 things/people: is this one dragging me down or lifting me up in life?
Consider spending less time with the ones that drag you down (or cut them out completely) and to spend more of your time with the people and sources that lift you up and make you feel good, motivated etc.
If you have trouble getting started with this one, then go smaller. Take a few minutes to think about what one person or source that has the biggest negative impact on you. And how you can start to spend less time with it/him/her this week….
Possibly the most influential American artist of the second half of the 20th Century died two weeks ago, and just about nobody – zip, zilch, nada – knew his name.
We’re talking about Russ Heath, a true master of comic book – and strip – art, who lent his brilliant touch of exaggerated realism to pages published by every major comics house in the U.S. including EC, DC, Marvel, Warren, National Lampoon, and many more including Playboy.
The thing about Heath is that although he wasn’t a big star under his own name, his work affected hundreds of thousands of comics fans and millions of members of the general public…because one of the fans of Heath’s comics was Roy Lichtenstein, who based much of his groundbreaking pop artwork on Heath’s panels…never acknowledging their source publicly or financially.
We meant to write about the situation along with an “RIP Russ Heath” piece in August, but two things prevented us.
One was that the past month has been filled with the deaths of talented artists, writers, actors, musicians, and although our editor, Munchman, isn’t known for his sensitivity, he just couldn’t face so many losses.
The other reason we didn’t say anything about Heath and his career is that Heath himself did it better than we ever could in the following piece for Hero Initiative, an organization that supplies financial and other aid to “comic creators in need.” Here’s Heath’s short remembrance of the way he was fucked over…and also the way he survived:
More about Russ Heath’s life and work is HERE
The New York Times insightful obituary isHERE
Find out more about Hero Initiative and how you can lend your support HERE