The Truth About Writing Dialog

Over a career longer than most of us have been alive and breathing, our BLLB AKA Beloved Leader Larry Brody, two of things that he is most eager to share are as follows:

  • Energy sells. Not only your pitching energy, but writing energy. Sentences that zoom from the page and into our brains, filling us with emotion.
  • Great dialog sells even more. Most readers, even the most professional of them, look down the page at the dialog first, and then if it sparks them and makes them say, “Wow!” they pay attention to what else you have to offer.

Keep both those thoughts in mind as you read this excellent and wonderfully titled piece (not written by LB, sorry) on “The art of dialogue.”

No more dialogue B.S. Here’s the truth
by Carson Reeves

The art of dialogue.

Whereas every other component of screenwriting can be taught, dialogue remains a shapeless colorless mist, something we keep trying to grab onto, yet continually come up empty.

How elusive is dialogue? Do a Google search right now. Try to find one article about dialogue that has a tip in it that you haven’t heard 17 million times already.

These people who claim to be dialogue experts can only recite the same tips Syd Field spouted 30 years ago in his best-selling screenwriting book. Come into a scene late. Leave early. Use as little exposition as possible. Blah blah blah. Oh, and here’s my favorite one: Listen to how people talk.

Oh yeah, yeah. I’ll listen to how people talk. Because people talking for 45 minutes is exactly the same as needing to write a two minute conversation in a movie.

Probably the most confusing story about dialogue that I’ve ever come across is the Thor: Ragnarok line. After professional screenwriters making millions of dollars for their months and months of work put Thor: Ragnarok together, they’re shooting the scene where Thor is about to fight someone in a gladiator arena, and out comes the Hulk. Hemsworth says the lines in the script. He then tries a few improv lines. Then there’s a Make-A-Wish kid on set that day. And he says to Chris Hemsworth, “Why don’t you try, ‘I know him. He’s a friend from work.’” Hemsworth does the line, and it not only ends up in the first trailer for the movie, but it becomes the centerpiece of the trailer and its most memorable line.

I want you to think about that for a second. A young kid, somewhere between 8-11 I’m guessing, was able to come up with the most popular line in a movie written and rewritten and developed and re-developed by Hollywood professionals, people supposedly at the very top of their profession.

Messes with your head, right?

Well, here’s what I’ve determined. While there is a randomness to dialogue that contributes to its elusiveness, there is a way to get better at it. There are five areas that influence your dialogue. And that four of them are under your control. The fifth, unfortunately, is not. But, if you can master the other four, you can write good dialogue. So what are these five things…?

Read it all at scriptshadow.net

Never Forget: Superheroes were Created to be Antifa

Now that superheroes – especially Marvel superheroes – rule the entertainment spectrum, it behooves us all to know a little something about them and how they came to be. Art Spiegleman, the man behind Maus, fills us in, and includes some very uncomfortable truths about today.

Marvel Antifa Heroes
A few people we all know and love, yeah?

by Art Spiegelman

ack in the benighted 20th century comic books were seen as subliterate trash for kiddies and intellectually challenged adults – badly written, hastily drawn and execrably printed. Martin Goodman, the founder and publisher of what is now known as Marvel Comics, once told Stan Lee that there was no point in trying to make the stories literate or worry about character development: “Just give them a lot of action and don’t use too many words.” It’s a genuine marvel that this formula led to works that were so resonant and vital.

The comic book format can be credited to a printing salesman, Maxwell Gaines, looking for a way to keep newspaper supplement presses rolling in 1933 by reprinting collections of popular newspaper comic strips in a half-tabloid format. As an experiment, he slapped a 10 cents sticker on a handful of the free pamphlets and saw them quickly sell out at a local newsstand. Soon most of the famous funnies were being gathered into comic books by a handful of publishers – and new content was needed at cheap reprint rates. This new material was mostly made up of third-rate imitations of existing newspaper strips, or genre stories echoing adventure, detective, western or jungle pulps. As Marshall McLuhan once pointed out, every medium subsumes the content of the medium that precedes it before it finds its own voice.

Enter Jerry Siegel, an aspiring teenage writer, and Joe Shuster, a young would-be artist – both nerdy alienated Jewish misfits many decades before that was remotely cool. They dreamed of the fame, riches and admiring glances from girls that a syndicated strip might bring, and developed their idea of a superhuman alien from a dying planet who would fight for truth, justice and the values of President Roosevelt’s New Deal. Barely out of childhood themselves, the boys’ idea was rejected by the newspaper syndicates as naive, juvenile and unskilled, before Gaines bought their 13 pages of Superman samples for Action Comics at 10 bucks a page – a fee that included all rights to the character. Not only was Siegel and Shuster’s creation the model for the brand new genre that came to define the medium, their lives were the tragic paradigm for creators bilked of the large rewards their creations brought their publishers….

Read it all at theguardian.com

New Media and Made for TV Films

Remember when feature films used to be the leaders in cinematic expression?

No?

Well, come to think about it, that was pretty long ago. Here’s an interesting video about the new leaders of the media pack. Enjoy and learn, gang!

From Cinema Cartography

Learning from the Best – Lawrence Kasdan

Lawrence Kasdan on how he writes those beautiful scripts. (Don’t worry if you aren’t sure who he is. The second paragraph below will fill you in.)

How They Write a Script: Lawrence Kasdan
by Scott Meyers

“I wrote screenplays as a way to get into production. I wrote six or seven before I sold one; that was The Bodyguard. I thought if I started selling these screenplays, I’d get a chance to direct. I thought that was the way in.”

Writer-director Lawrence “Larry” Kasdan is a prolific talent who has written movies in almost every genre including the thriller Body Heat (1981), possibly greatest action adventure movie of all time Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), arguably the best of the Star Wars movies The Empire Strikes Back (1983), the ensemble drama The Big Chill (1983), the western Silverado (1985), the adaptation of a best-selling drama The Accidental Tourist (1988), and the romantic thriller The Bodyguard (1992) among many other titles. Kasdan also makes for a great interview, a thoughtful observer of the craft of filmmaking. These excerpts come from “Backstory 4”, another in the fantastic “Backstory” series by Patrick McGilligan.

ON HOW HE GOT INTO SCREENWRITING

“I was interested in writing, and when I got to Ann Arbor [University of Michigan] I started writing theater and fiction and was able to see my plays get produced. I didn’t get into the film program for a while. I was never formally part of it — I was an English literature major — but I eventually started taking film courses. Very quickly I began writing feature-length screenplays.

I wrote screenplays as a way to get into production. I wrote six or seven before I sold one; that was The Bodyguard. I thought if I started selling these screenplays, I’d get a chance to direct. I thought that was the way in.”

ON HOW HE GOT INVOLVED IN RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

“Steven [Spielberg] had purchased my script Continental Divide, which was very different from the film which resulted. The script had a kind of Hawksian speed, momentum, hopefully with about it. I don’t think the film turned out that way, which was one of those painful experiences I had early on. But Steven’s enthusiasm for it was what got me involved with him and George. I think that what they were looking for was someone who could write Raiders in the same way that [Howard] Hawks would have someone write a movie for him — a strong woman character, a certain kind of hero. So that’s what got me the job….

Read it all at blacklist.com

How They Wrote Fight Club

How in the world could anybody who has ever heard of Fight Club resist watching a video about the creation of this classic film?

Chuck Palahniuk (author), Jim Uhls (screenwriter), David Fincher (director), plus a host of others who were involved with the project are here for our educational pleasure. Who needs clickbait when you have info like this?

See more videos like this on the Behind the Curtain YouTube Channel