For February’s Writing Show, JRW partnered with the Richmond International Film Festival to present a panel of local and indie filmmakers: Imogene Drummond, Michael Gibrall, Brent Martz, Scott Mathias, and Ron Newcomb. Julie Geen moderated the discussion. Panelists tackled major topics like dialogue, plot and pacing and more film-specific questions about spec vs. shooting scripts. During the second half of the show, attendees had the opportunity to pitch their own script ideas to the panel.
Julie started the show with a question about dialogue. What do you have to get right with your dialogue. Scott offered that you don’t want your dialogue to be “too real,” that talking in the real world is boring. You want to keep your dialogue interesting. Michael added that a character shouldn’t say more than four lines at a time. The way to cheat this is to break up large blocks of dialogue with action. Michael also discussed recurring dialogue, the same line said by different characters in different circumstances, as a way to breathe life into a script.
Imogene offered a slightly different view of dialogue. Her film, Divine Spark, uses voice-over instead of actual dialogue by different characters. She discussed dialogue as a part of the musical soundtrack. “Sound goes into your body, and is more important than the visual.” Scott also talked about dialogue as a way to differentiate characters without using a physical written description. Each character should have a unique voice. In editing a script, Michael advised to read through once just focusing on the dialogue.
On the nuts-and-bolts of script writing, Michael recommended The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier. In the first ten pages, a script should establish the world in which the story takes place, according to Scott. Michael added to that by saying the screenplay should hook the the audience in the first five to ten pages. While the rules are important, Michael highlighted two famous filmmakers who break the rules effectively; Quentin Tarrentino and Christopher Nolan.
After the break, Brent Martz and Ron Newcomb joined the panel with Scott Mathias. Brent highlighted the importance of knowing who your audience is and telling your story from the point of view of someone who is like them. Ron and Brent also talked about business aspects of filmmaking. Have a marketing and distribution plan. Brent’s advice: Know your end goal and have someone on your team working towards that goal every day.
All filmmakers from the first and second half of the show discussed the importance of making connections in the business. Film festivals, all agreed, are a great way to get noticed and as Michael said, “Network, network, network!” According to Ron, the independents need to stick together and help each other. He recommended getting into your local community.
At the end of the show, several attendees pitched their ideas to the panel in a one-minute elevator pitch. One suggestion was to compare your project to other films and use that in your pitch. Ron’s example: Psycho meets Goonies.
While the show focused on script writing, the panelists’ advice could easily be applied across the board, not only in terms of craft but also with regard to business. As Brent stated, outlets are more accessible today, there are more ways to share your stories. Imogene offered this advice: Be stubborn and do the work.
Coming Up at the Next Writing Show
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Children’s Museum of Richmond
Don’t miss our March Writing Show, “Killing Your Darlings.” We’ll take a look at how to handle violence in your stories. You’ll learn how to keep your story exciting without resorting to exploitation.