Thursday, October 14, 2010

Screenwriting Mistake #24: Bad futuristic descriptions

One of the scripts that I've written coverage for was set 130 years in the future, so I was expecting to see imaginative descriptions of what life would be like in the mid-22nd century. However, the screenplay opened with the protagonist watching TV on his couch and then getting up to go answer his phone, which was ringing in the next room. Sigh.

Take a minute and think about what life was like 130 years ago, way back in the 1880s. Are we doing anything the same way that people did back then? Are we still cranking up our gramophones to listen to wax cylinder impressions of Tchaikovsky’s latest hits? Are those newfangled electric lamps available outside of Manhattan yet? Do people still ride their horses into town for provisions or take overnight steam train rides to neighboring states? Does your telephone number begin with the word “Klondike?” Do people still use open forums to belabor their points ad nauseum? Okay, maybe that one is still happening, but modern technology allows me to do it in a much more efficient way now.

The bad news is that it’s not easy to create a realistic futuristic world because you need to make believable predictions about how technologies will develop and evolve over time. That takes a lot of thought and imagination. The good news is that screenwriters get paid to daydream! You can put as much time and effort as you like into imagining how people will communicate in the future, or how they will be entertained, or how they will get around. (In tachyon-powered Segways – Duh!) Whatever your setting and whatever time period you choose, just be sure to give plenty of thought to what that environment would reasonably look like and what cool new toys your characters will have to play with. Fun!

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