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View Full Version : What is good screenwriting, storyboarding, & concept?


SamChen
12-18-2004, 09:35 PM
I asked a similar question in the directing forum, but this applies here as well. I think before we start diving into which screenwriters and creators that we like and certain techniques, it behooves us to distill down the elements that make a good concept and script that are appropriate for a CG short specifically.

For example, if LuxoJr were to be thought up now, what kinda of script would that be? ..probably just a paragraph of descriptions and not much. Is the magic mostly in its concept and execution? What about the more sophisticated Geri's Game? What about Ryan? What do they all have in common.. and what should we be striving for as we embark on creating our concept and script within the realm of the CG short format?

Lunatique
12-19-2004, 08:33 AM
The shorts you mentioned have important elements in common, and those are nuance, subtlety, and wit, and a fine eye for defining the difference between excess and restraint (in other words, good taste). You give the same paragraph of descriptions to another team, and they probably would botch it, due to lack of taste.

malcolmvexxed
12-19-2004, 09:20 AM
the most important element is consistency imo. for a screenplay of any length consistency of characters and their speech patterns. for directing consistency of storytelling. The knee jerk reaction is to say that quick cutting = good and long tracks = bad but those are really just aesthetics.

Marc-OlivierBouchard
12-19-2004, 10:44 AM
The scripts I find most appealing are the ones that leave room for the imagination.
Creating an intellectual burden and having the spectator carrying it is in my opinion a sign of a script full of potential. And a lost art. The new trend is script writing seems to be the ultra-twist ending, sixth sense style. They leave me cold. When it's well done, you're surprised and then you amazed at how clever the scriptwriter is and then...you're amazed a t how clever the scriptwriter is. It usually fails to go beyond. So I don't think complexity is the key.
Luxo jr's script was perfect for what it is. A showcase. It's straight to the point, carries it message and doesn't get in the way of the main purpose of the movie.

As for consistency, I am more forgiving than you are about it I guess. I can stand some lengths, some holes if other parts challenge me.

Matty2Phatty
12-19-2004, 10:58 AM
This is probably wayyy off what you were hoping for, but here's a few things i've picked up over time...

Firstly, you should read other scripts. Places like Drews Script-O-Rama are good resources. I gained such an appreciate of guys like Shyamalan after reading his scripts. The guy knows his characters.

I think another good thing too is not to describe what the camera is doing in your screenplay. Unless you're the only one who will be using it, it's kind of annoying for the director or cinematographer to have the script already pushing him in a certain direction creatively. The script really should be all about dialogue, which is why it's so important to know your characters.

As for descriptions of scenes, i think only a basic description is required. It is somebody elses job to design the locations fully (Or yours, later on).

One thing i picked up from reading scripts (especially shyamalans) is that he really knows where to put his beats (the silences for the audience to realise what was just said, or to build tension for the next piece of dialogue).

I think that's all i can think of right now.. i hope i haven't wasted your time ;)

Matty2Phatty
12-19-2004, 11:16 AM
Just imagine if you divided all the different aspects of Pre-Production into different groups, like this :

Storyboards - Camera Work
Scripts - Dialogue

and then you've got your casting directors, who would then go pick the actors for the roles, though in CG films i'd say this would be filled by people sketching out the characters...

but the point i'm getting at is that the script is really for the dialogue

malcolmvexxed
12-19-2004, 08:41 PM
it's true that directors hate scripts that give direction so you're right the script is for dialogue and character development. The exceptions are usually scripts like kill bill where a writer is also the director.

Re: being challenged. it's not really our role as viewer to dictate what type of storytelling device a writer should use. if they use a twist ending that's fine, although I personally hate most of m. night's movies, the fact is that the screenwwriter's only responsibility is to function well within the logic of his own universe. his only responsibilities are creativity and consistency. it's not fair to tell a writer what types of work are more interesting imo.

Marc-OlivierBouchard
12-20-2004, 02:14 AM
very interesting point there Malcom.

Maybe it is their only duty. But I don't think it can be clearly divided as such.
Where as a fail to think of a good screenplay lacking creativity(I can only see effective ones), we'll both agree it's primordial.
But I'm not sure about consistency. What is it exactly?
What intrigued me the most about Charlie Kauffamn's Eternal Sunshine was the episodal departure for his general style (Of full wild-out writing/introvert hurting). You would go and see true interaction between two people. To me, the break of style (is this what you meant by consistency?) felt very disturbing at first but then lent me onto a path of reflection.

On the other hand, take a script Spielberg, Scorcese or De Palma would direct.
They are consistent, avoid loopholes (in the latter works at least), clever: I guess, creative: not really, tear-jerkers: yes, challenging: rarely. I think, sadly it is that last aspect that makes their appeal.
Someone could mention Taxi Driver as a challenging script, but I strongly disaggrea. I think It only presents a violent catharsis. This movie is saved by a great actor and directorial techniques picked from John Cassavetes.
But I'm straying. I only wanted you to define more clearly for me the extent of your usage of the term consistency. I otherwise really enjoyed your argument.

malcolmvexxed
12-20-2004, 05:34 AM
very interesting point there Malcom.

Maybe it is their only duty. But I don't think it can be clearly divided as such.
Where as a fail to think of a good screenplay lacking creativity(I can only see effective ones), we'll both agree it's primordial.
But I'm not sure about consistency. What is it exactly?
What intrigued me the most about Charlie Kauffamn's Eternal Sunshine was the episodal departure for his general style (Of full wild-out writing/introvert hurting). You would go and see true interaction between two people. To me, the break of style (is this what you meant by consistency?) felt very disturbing at first but then lent me onto a path of reflection.

On the other hand, take a script Spielberg, Scorcese or De Palma would direct.
They are consistent, avoid loopholes (in the latter works at least), clever: I guess, creative: not really, tear-jerkers: yes, challenging: rarely. I think, sadly it is that last aspect that makes their appeal.
Someone could mention Taxi Driver as a challenging script, but I strongly disaggrea. I think It only presents a violent catharsis. This movie is saved by a great actor and directorial techniques picked from John Cassavetes.
But I'm straying. I only wanted you to define more clearly for me the extent of your usage of the term consistency. I otherwise really enjoyed your argument.
Eternal sunshine was tied as my favorite movie this year. I try not to compare works to an author's other works. Kaufman i thought went absurd with Malkovich and had gaps in storytelling in Adaptation, Sunshine to me was pretty flawless. The jim carrey and kate winslett characters were the same people the entire movie, and their actions and words made sense within the strange scifi/romantic logic of that script. Again that's all kaufman is bound to, his other works have no consequence to how i view eternal sunshine.

As an aside to complicate matters more, Kill Bill vol. 2 was my 2nd favorite movie this year. and tarantino is one of my favorite writers AND directors but he presents a challenge to my standards. Often his characters lose voice and speak in long winded drawn out antecdotal style, but if that's Tarantino's style is it really a departure? Isn't he being consistent to his own writing and logical to the extent that in his world people make vividly descriptive, entertaining speeches mid conversation? Same thing with Mamet, especially in movies like State and Main. Same thing with Kevin Smith which in addition to his horrible directing is why I hated Dogma so much despite some great ideas. it's a difficult balancing act which I think ultimately separates great scripts from most scripts.

for an example of glaring inconsistency I loved the new movie released called closer,but i hated the departure in consistency in key scenes. Characters began talking like completely different people. At times it was because of setting and because of the hidden meaning of why they were saying things, but it was inconsistent because they had lost their voices in the process. The dialogue in spots was pretty bad as a result. here's a review i wrote of it on my site that may explain how I view movies a little better, as in this film the only real flaw to me WAS inconsistency.

http://ess-bee.com/junkdrawer/movs/closer.htm


Personally I don't care for the Taxi Driver script so I can't say, I love De Niro and no matter who the directorial techniques come from it was brilliantly paced. He created tension but overall i've seen taxi driver twice and have no interest in ever seeing it again. It's just not a very interesting movie to me.

I would severely disagree with you re: Brian. De palma is many times a horrid storyteller who leaves constant loopholes in his stories. Femme fatale for one was trash. But visually he's brilliant. the tracking shot to begin Snake Eyes was amazing and so are many of his other shots. Spielberg is generally to me technically perfect but a lazy unchallenging person who has dumbed down the American audience over the last 20 years with his sappy garbage. Sorry but other than a few exceptions I hate his work. Scorcese is between the two to me but I like his work a lot because I find his love of hateful characters to in fact be very challenging. Is raging bull really an accessible movie? The main character is not remotely sympathetic in character, only in the consistently brilliant portrayal of him by Scorcese. Same with Casino, Good fellas etc. That being said Gangs of New York was trash, but doesn't at all represent his career.

malcolmvexxed
12-20-2004, 05:36 AM
oh also regarding scripts,(someone mentioned m. night) Signs is another great example of what I see as a horrid script. it attempts to setup intelligence (elevating the internal logic) then fails miserably due to lack of creativity and collapses with idiotic resolutions like aliens who are afraid of water attacking a water based planet with no armor. The only time I can take that is in entertainingly horrible movies because...i am very entertained by crappy movies.

Marc-OlivierBouchard
12-20-2004, 06:14 AM
Sorry if I my english mislead you.
I in no way wanted to praise Brian De Palma's (that whore!) scripts.
He is full of loopholes and inconsistency as a person.
I have read a couple of interviews(especially one a Playboy from the 80'), and have been astonished by the smallness/pretentiousness of this man.

About Scorcese, he made Raging Bull, which is a good film.
He was young, he was fresh, he had'nt oover done his subject yet and most of all, like you mentionned, he had Robert De Niro, amazing, scary actor if there's one. End of credits.
He still gets credited as one of the true geniuses of cinema...

Back to good scripts...Kauffman is an author like not many, whose consistency is (was?) his actual fully assumed inconsistensy (idiosyncratism, quirkiness, weirdness like they say in the entertainment).
Wes Anderson+Owen Wilson is one that comes to mind in the same basket. Daivid Lynch, who doesn't often directs his own scripts, has that aspect in his directorial style. Which makes him a hate or love

benfalcone
12-24-2004, 01:02 AM
it might take depalma's death for him to get the reocognition he deserves

imo : story is irrelevant, you need a good story, but only as much as you need good sound effects, good dialouge, you need these things, but it's not what cinema is about, movies are ONLY about visuals, david lynch talks about a place he goes to get an idea, he just takes any idea - all idea's are equally good - and then he listens to that idea, tells it visually. depalma does the same thing, you take any idea, you tell it visually, you have a great movie, lately movies seem to have good stories, and sometimes (david fincher, the guys who made amilee) good visuals, but the two are not connected, it feels like they spend alot of money on good cinematographers, but they dont connect the visuals to the story. deplama tells stories visually, the quality of the story does not matter in the slightest, compare that to a david fincher, yeah the lighting is nice, the story is good, but i dont have an emotional reaction to it, personally i like crazy stories, dawn of the dead (where romero directs with a cold dull style that perfectly suits the story) blow out (a crazy political thriller and partial remake of blow up, where visually every shot is used to tell the crazy story, to make it make perfect sense) suspiria (a girl goes to a school of witches, dario argento is so much smarter than me that i cant even begin to understand what he's doing and how he makes this work, the feeling of suspense tho is ridiculous, his colored lighting and rare film stock make even the most crazy story seem real)

Lunatique
12-24-2004, 04:59 AM
it might take depalma's death for him to get the reocognition he deserves

imo : story is irrelevant, you need a good story, but only as much as you need good sound effects, good dialouge, you need these things, but it's not what cinema is about, movies are ONLY about visuals, david lynch talks about a place he goes to get an idea, he just takes any idea - all idea's are equally good - and then he listens to that idea, tells it visually. depalma does the same thing, you take any idea, you tell it visually, you have a great movie, lately movies seem to have good stories, and sometimes (david fincher, the guys who made amilee) good visuals, but the two are not connected, it feels like they spend alot of money on good cinematographers, but they dont connect the visuals to the story. deplama tells stories visually, the quality of the story does not matter in the slightest, compare that to a david fincher, yeah the lighting is nice, the story is good, but i dont have an emotional reaction to it, personally i like crazy stories, dawn of the dead (where romero directs with a cold dull style that perfectly suits the story) blow out (a crazy political thriller and partial remake of blow up, where visually every shot is used to tell the crazy story, to make it make perfect sense) suspiria (a girl goes to a school of witches, dario argento is so much smarter than me that i cant even begin to understand what he's doing and how he makes this work, the feeling of suspense tho is ridiculous, his colored lighting and rare film stock make even the most crazy story seem real)
Although your argument has merit, it is but only one angle to look at cinema. Too much of one point of view leads to excess, and in the case of your idea of what good cinema is, there are many films executed in that style that could be described as style over substance. You simply can't over-generalize about something as complex as cinema. There are excellent films done in various styles, all with different emphasis.

malcolmvexxed
12-24-2004, 05:51 AM
it might take depalma's death for him to get the reocognition he deserves

imo : story is irrelevant, you need a good story, but only as much as you need good sound effects, good dialouge, you need these things, but it's not what cinema is about, movies are ONLY about visuals, david lynch talks about a place he goes to get an idea, he just takes any idea - all idea's are equally good - and then he listens to that idea, tells it visually. depalma does the same thing, you take any idea, you tell it visually, you have a great movie, lately movies seem to have good stories, and sometimes (david fincher, the guys who made amilee) good visuals, but the two are not connected, it feels like they spend alot of money on good cinematographers, but they dont connect the visuals to the story. deplama tells stories visually, the quality of the story does not matter in the slightest, compare that to a david fincher, yeah the lighting is nice, the story is good, but i dont have an emotional reaction to it, personally i like crazy stories, dawn of the dead (where romero directs with a cold dull style that perfectly suits the story) blow out (a crazy political thriller and partial remake of blow up, where visually every shot is used to tell the crazy story, to make it make perfect sense) suspiria (a girl goes to a school of witches, dario argento is so much smarter than me that i cant even begin to understand what he's doing and how he makes this work, the feeling of suspense tho is ridiculous, his colored lighting and rare film stock make even the most crazy story seem real)
the only way i can comprehend your argument is if we're speaking about silent movies, and even then the lack of storytelling would be a huge detrement. That's like saying a comic book artist doesn't need consistency or storytelling in his artwork as long as things look pretty in his panels.

SamChen
12-24-2004, 02:24 PM
Another way of looking at what makes a good screenplay is how it connects with you. That seems like an easy answer.. but it's actually a big can of worms. Everyone connects w/ the same things differently. One man's trifle is another's artistic gem.

Speaking only for myself, it usually comes down to emotional connection that tends to endure the test of time. Visual masterpieces w/o emotional core are cool... for about a few hours... but they seem to evaporate just as quickly as they came. So since Kill Bill vol.1 was mentioned earlier, I'll cite that one as just a visual and action treat.. but didn't resonate far after leaving the theater for me. (imho). But something as sparse and simple as Il Postino (The Postman), or Cinema Paradiso, and even sappy Disney classics like Snow White, Bambi, to Little Mermaid all seem to resonate longer with me... mostly because of the emotional connection.

However, the emotional connection still needs to be supported technically (and seamlessly) by competent screenwriting, design, direction, editing, score, animation, cinematography and on. A film (often) is only as strong as its weakest link.. and any one of these weaknesses can betray the ultimate "connection" w/ the audience. It's no wonder cinema can't be generalized w/ blanket statements. Cinema is more art than science and most directors struggle with this throughout their entire careers. Scorsese and Spielberg have and still make turkeys.. or at least miss the bullseye at times. It's almost comforting to know that isn't it. There's hope for the rest of us. :scream:

benfalcone
12-24-2004, 10:44 PM
Although your argument has merit, it is but only one angle to look at cinema. Too much of one point of view leads to excess, and in the case of your idea of what good cinema is, there are many films executed in that style that could be described as style over substance. You simply can't over-generalize about something as complex as cinema. There are excellent films done in various styles, all with different emphasis.

cinema isnt complex. it's not supposed to be. it's not intellectual. that's the idea, it's visual, some dude in a trailer park can watch pshyco, and have the exact same emotional response as some dude who's studied film theory for 50 years

i like woody allen alot, and richard linklater, neither make visual films, any woody allen film would be equally effective as a book, as a play, the same isnt true of any depalma movie, it's not that i dont enjoy woody allen, im crazy about his stuff, but just listening to him talk for 90minutes would have the same effect as watching one of his movies

of course there are different types of movies, and different peeps like different things, im talking about what interests me, and it has nothing at all to do with story, all types of art have some merit, it doesnt mean they have to interest me. depalma often gets critisised for style over substance, same with dario argento, lucio fulci, isnt that the point tho? isnt al pacino standing against a painted palm tree more important than some silly plot twist?

Marc-OlivierBouchard
12-25-2004, 12:29 AM
If cinema isn't complex, what is?
Of course, if you enjoy it as escapism, then the visuals are all you need. If you believe it can bring something to you then I think you have to work a little.
I think good movies, like Life, are layered entities, where all layers are connected by an infinite number of threads of ideas, concepts and personnal experiences. No two persons have the same experience of a movie. We may agree with our friend when talking after a movie, but it is only because we drift toward compromises due to our inability to really express an understanding.
All movies are layered. Some a lot less than other...Mr Seagal, I'm looking in your direction...
People understand layers. Some a lot less than others.
A redneck might appreciate Psycho, but I'm not sure if he will take notice of the Freudian plot or the Grammar of it's cinematogrophy. He will probably be waiting for the shower scene, so he sees some tits in this otherwise "queer" movie. These are not at all identical reactions, as you suppose and having studied film history can make a difference.

Of course this is quite a characterization but you get my point. It happens because Psycho is a good, layered movie. Everybody finds it's interest. And it is not always visual.
I draw from your opinion that you have not seen a lot of movies, or at least a great diversity.
If you have then I need you to explain to me how do you not see a complexity in all of this.
A movie like the Russian Ark, where every shot asks you to go back to your History or la Jetee by Chris Marker where visuals are only a small part of the story.

And I don't understand your contradiction in loving Woody Allen. Isn't he all about dialogues. Visuals only play a small part in his cinematography.
I'd love if you clarified these points for me.

BigJay
12-30-2004, 03:06 AM
However, the emotional connection still needs to be supported technically (and seamlessly) by competent screenwriting, design, direction, editing, score, animation, cinematography and on.
Everytime I see that said about technology etc I remember southpark. They went out of their way to show that that design, animation and alot of the other staples we assume may not be neccessary to tell a story we can enjoy.

I think all of the shorts you mentioned are glimpses into the lives of the characters. lol, okay that isn't the best observation since all stories are glimpses into the lives of others. What I mean is that good stories let us see something about the characters that is intimate, something that we are privilaged to be part of that probably no one else is apart of. Think of the Aeon Flux shorts. they are all, what, 10, 15 minutes long with no dialogue. I one that sticks out the most in my mind is War. when the guy stops to comfort the child before going back into battle. We are given a brief glimps at something two others are sharing.

intimate moments won't connect with everyone but those movies that touch the most primal emotions in us will grab the largest group of people. Humor is one of those, everyone laughs. Fear and terror are harder to get into which is why those kids lost in the woods afraid of sticks bored me and had others screaming. I couldn't relate to that kind of horror. Shock and embarressment are another good stable since so many of us have codes of conduct engraned into us that southpark just totally traples on and can connect to so many because of this.

Before I go off on any more of a tangent I think an intimate moment we can relate to or that is totally twisted around will grab an audiance.

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