Friday, January 22, 2010

Screenwriting tricks we hate...Version 1.0


This all-too-often used trick is really, really stupid.  It bothers us because, more than anything, it’s just lazy.  Here’s an example.


JANE, kisses a YOUNG DICK (lolol) on the cheek. His lips quiver. She drags her finger lightly through his hair.

I’ll be right back. I’ve got a surprise for you…


Where are you going?

Be patient, horndog. I’ll b.r.b.
She smiles coyly.

The dorky loser sighs as Jane slinks out. He looks around the room uncomfortably. Sees a poster of a young Hasselhoff, shirtless on the beach, oiled up and looking good.

Dick regards the photo thoughtfully.  Rips his Batman t-shirt off and drops his corduroys to the ground. He steps out of his pants and his eyes dart around the room. He spots some lotion and smiles to himself.



He proceeds to cover himself in baby oil. Head to toe. He's dripping wet. He looks in the mirror, rubs the oil in, glances at Hasselhoff and smirks.



Come in…uh…I’m ready for you...

The door CREAKS open. Oh no. It’s Jane's militant, gun toting DADDY.  Daddy narrows his eyes and takes the safety off his gun. Dick's eyes widen.



Jane’s footsteps THUD hurriedly down the hallway. She pushes past her parents. Sees the horny nerd dripping in oil.

And that’s it. The scene cuts away to Jane apologizing to the nerd. Or the nerd talking to his nerd friends. We don’t see how the nerd got out of the situation.  We don’t really see the girl’s reaction and the seemingly impossible situation is never mentioned again.

Never a “Uh…why were you dripping wet and shiny?” Never a “You’re lucky the gun had blanks.” And most importantly, we never get an explanation of how he got out of the situation.  We have an awesome opportunity to learn about ALL THREE CHARACTERS and it’s abandoned because it’s too hard. 

Imagine all the places the scene could have gone. How the kid could have tried to explain it. How other things could have come up. How the girl maybe is actually understanding and thinks it’s kind of cute or WHATEVER. We could have learned something here, but the writers were lazy.

A lot of times, this situation clearly arises when a writer is too married to a joke.  You see it a lot in drafts.  A joke is clearly impractical and damages the script and narrative, but it stays in.   It’s an impossible joke that undermines the rest of the screenplay, and that is why the writer has to use the CUT AWAY…it’s a lazy screenwriter’s EMERGENCY EVACUATION button.

Don’t do it, yo!

Also, if you liked the excerpt above, it’s from a feature we just finished called “DAD, DON’T SHOOT DICK: COVERED IN BABY OIL”.

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