Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Screenwriting Mistake #5: Camera angles (and all other attempts to direct)

I’ve already told you a couple of great ways to piss off actors, so here’s a guaranteed way to annoy the crap out of directors (and readers): Write camera angles into your screenplay. I see this all the time and have yet to find an example of this that added anything to the story. This is yet another way that many screenwriters try to describe the scene exactly the way that they are imagining it. But not you – you know better and will not fall prey to this temptation.
A screenwriter’s job is only to tell a compelling story. You want your reader to be completely immersed in the story that you’re telling in order for him to vicariously experience the emotions that your characters are feeling. Every time you write about camera angles or make any other attempt to direct the movie, you pull the reader out of the story and lose any emotional momentum that you may have had.
If you have some sort of effect that you believe is crucial to a scene, then write it in a way that is integral to the story. For instance, instead of writing:
“Angle on the blood dripping from Lancelot’s sword. The camera slowly pulls back to reveal a huge battlefield. Panning left to right, we see dead and dying soldiers littering the battlefield.”
You could say:
“Blood drips from Lancelot’s sword.
All around him, dead and dying soldiers litter the battlefield.”
The first way makes the reader think about cameras; the second way makes the reader think about soldiers and blood. If you want a reader to like your script, then you never want to make him think about cameras.

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