- Pick the right genre. Seriously, it seems like at least half the scripts I see are period dramas. Looking back and counting, I realize it’s not even close to half, but stories that take place in the past are difficult to sell, because only a certain type of person is really interested in that story. The chances are low that your reader will be a fan of period dramas, so you could be hurting yourself a whole lot with that.
- Lose the stop signs at the beginning of the script. If the first two pages of your script are less than 50% dialogue, rewrite it. Scene description is much harder to follow, and it’s less interesting to the reader. While stylized silence may be great at the start of a movie, at the start of a screenplay, it’s just annoying.
- Pick a great title. It’s amazing how many titles give you no indication of what the film is about. But when I see a title like, for example, “Lucy Goes Ballistic” or “No One Gets Out of Here Alive,” I’m immediately intrigued. Definitely something to elevate.
- Put the logline on your title page. I actually don’t know if you’re even “allowed” to do this. I know a lot of contests have really strict rules about what goes on the title page. All I know is that when I’m fishing around for scripts to read, when I see one with the logline on the cover, I read the logline, and if it interests me, I pick it up, and if not, I don’t. Logically, the person who reads your script, therefore, is much more likely to already be interested in it when they start.
- The bookends are the most important part. The first 15 pages are the most important of your script. Make sure those are amazing. The last 30 pages are the second most important. Make sure those are amazing, too. That way, even if your second act is a little weaker, you’ll at least be setting a good tone to start, and finishing on a strong note.
Last night, as the wife and I were browsing the selections at the MovieCube DVD box in our local grocery store, we came upon this selection. We almost breezed past it, when my wife reminded me that we had seen a coming attraction for this movie at some point.
“We did?” I said. “I don’t remember it.”
“Yeah,” she responded. “You said that that was a lousy title for that movie.”
I looked at the nondescript title. Meet Bill. “Yeah, that sounds like something I’d say.” Apparently, I came up with a way better title based on the coming attraction, although neither of us remember it, even having watched the movie. Maybe if I watched the trailer again I’d remember.
Interestingly, the title does works perfectly within the theme of the film. Its genre being “Midlife crisis/male melodrama” (a genre I coined in a college essay for films like American Beauty and Wonder Boys), the essence of the movie is that it’s about Bill, our hero, finding himself and discovering who he is. Hence “Meet Bill.”
So I’m torn. In the context of a piece of contemporary artwork, the title is great. But as a vehicle to drive sales it clearly sucks. I have a hard time believing, given the quality of the script, that none of the writers or the director could have come up with something better if they’d wanted to – in brainstorming titles myself, one of my favorites is The Acorn Guy – you cut into the trailer the scene in which Aaron Eckhart catches his wife on tape talking about his acorn-sized penis, and I can’t help but think everyone who watches that trailer will remember it, with the film subsequently making more money. But does that compromise the artistic integrity of the director? Is it worth it? I’m sure the producers would think so.
My favorite thing about this movie is that the mentor role is reversed. The hero is roped into “mentoring” a student, except that in the filmic sense, the student is actually mentoring him. I quite enjoyed this dichotomy. I also enjoyed the slow development of the character – rather than clear decisions that serve as major turning points, the whole film is a series of small decisions that serve as minor turning points, until the non-Hollywood anticlimax at the end. (My wife and I both wanted the Hollywood ending, and it easily could’ve been done, but it’s clear that the filmmakers were going for something else here, and I respect that.)
All told, interesting movie, very fun and funny, while provoking some interesting thoughts.