Movies are dynamic. They're not called stillies. The first films were silent, and some say it is the true test of the quality of a film if the story can be understood without dialogue.
Of course, it would be silly to take this to mean that a film can exist in the 21st century lacking dialogue, but there is wisdom in this rule, and that is to keep in mind that films are in constant motion. Plays are dialogue based. Novels can use flowery language and long-winded descriptions, stopping for pages and pages to delve into a character’s history, or explore her innermost thoughts and feelings. Screenwriters don’t have this luxury. We are writing something that is not meant to be read, but instead is meant to be turned into something inherently dynamic, a motion picture. Every scene should move the story forward, expand on the character development, and represent a change. There should be no neutral scenes in your screenplay. If a scene begins positive, it should end negatively. If a scene begins on a negative, it should end either positively or even more negatively. Things can and usually do go from bad to worse, and occasionally (usually just before something really bad happens) things go from bad to good. But, unlike in real life, in a screenplay, a scene should never go from good, to extremely good. That’s boring, unrealistic, and does nothing to move the story forward.
Review your script, and ask yourself what purpose each scene served. If nothing changes as a result of the scene, eliminate it. Pointless filler bores the reader and causes audiences to lose interest in your story. As discussed in the last post, even seemingly unimportant details may come into play later, or be purposefully inserted to force the viewer’s attention in another direction. If backstory needs to be revealed, do so while the characters are in the midst of something much more exciting, do not create an entire scene devoted to revealing some piece of personal history. Move the story forward with each word you write, and never forget that you are writing a motion picture.
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