No. 2: Start late. In individual scenes, don’t waste valuable time on unnecessary entrances and hellos. See if a scene can be started in the middle. A writer who is willing to self-edit will often find that a scene is strengthened by cutting the first two, and often last two, lines of dialogue.
These tips excerpted from Neil Landau and Matt
Frederick’s 101 Things I Learned in Film School,
(May 2010) one of five books in the
“101 Things” series.
No. 12: A flawed protagonist is more compelling than a perfect protagonist. Inexperienced writers may fail to imbue a protagonist with undesirable traits because they want him or her to appear likable and their cause noble. But a completely capable hero leads an audience to relax its attention: If he can handle anything, why worry? Audiences are usually fascinated by contradictions and shortcomings in a film’s characters. The idiosyncrasies and failings we all have are even more compelling in a character that is otherwise heroic.
No. 25: Create memorable entrances. Your protagonist’s character, style and behavior must be distinctive from the moment we first lay eyes on him or her. Does she trip on a carpet shag? Did she forget to remove a hair curler? Is he carrying a note-quite-concealed weapon? Is he a debonair smoothie amid a hubbub of confusion and crudity? Is she a lone, effervescent figure in a gray London gloom?
No. 29: Props reveal character. In Se7en, Morgan Freeman’s character has a metronome besides his bed. Its ticking rhythm comforted him and helped him drift to sleep. But more significantly, the prop conveyed his desire, as an overworked city police detective, to control one noise in a cacophonous city.
No. 75: Make visual motifs specific. Motifs are visually evocative elements placed strategically throughout a film to amplify theme. They can also act as a structural or pacing device. Themes are broad and universal to human experience, but motifs should be specific to the story and directly relevant to the experiences of the characters.