Script Pipeline has reported on the latest Script Sales from May 2020 – a clear sign that producers and studios are still searching for great scripts through the lockdowns! Here’s our pick of the news.
Happy Star Wars Day everybody – May the Fourth be with you! To celebrate, we’re taking a look at the latest instalment from a galaxy far, far away: the first season of THE MANDALORIAN, which is available on Disney+.
When you need to convey information in your script – about characters’ backstories, their relationships, the setting or story – it’s a natural instinct to turn straight to exposition, telling the audience what they need to know through dialogue.
And there’s no doubt that exposition is a necessary evil in scriptwriting. There are always going to be things that need to be established for the audience to understand what’s going on in your story!
Exposition is almost always a problem, though. Firstly, people don’t really talk in an expositional manner – stating a whole load of facts, one after the other – and they don’t tell people things they already know. So exposition often feels fake or forced, seeming to be there just for the audience’s sake.
The other problem is that it often has a negative effect on the story. An “info-dump”, as it’s often known, slows the narrative, putting the story on hold so the audience can learn things. But, overwhelmed by the amount of information being thrown at them, they’ll often just switch off!
So how do you get around this problem? How do you communicate the information the audience needs without boring them, overwhelming them, or making your characters talk like aliens trying (and failing) to impersonate human beings?
Well, the first thing you can do is to fully utilize the visual medium of film, and forget about dialogue entirely…
As a screenwriter, looking at the page all day, it can be easy to get stuck in a world of words. “Surely,” you think to yourself, “if I want to get some information across, someone has to state it out loud.”
But sight is the sense that human beings use the most, and it’s possible to communicate a huge amount about all kinds of things through nothing but visuals. An actor can tell us a lot about a character’s feelings with just a glance or an expression – or even by doing nothing at all!
The famous “Married Life” segment from UP is a great example of how to use visuals well. Decades of marriage are summarised – complete with information about the characters, their relationship, their families, and the things they go through – in four short minutes, and without a single word being spoken.
The power of visuals applies to world-building, too. The famous opening shot of STAR WARS sees Princess Leia’s tiny ship being pursued by the massive Star Destroyer of Darth Vader, and the difference of scale immediately tells us a lot about the two sides. Darth Vader and the Empire are powerful and dominant, while Princess Leia and the Rebel Alliance are the underdogs.
So whenever you think you need to use exposition to get some information across, stop for just a minute and think. Maybe there’s a way to get things across without anyone having to speak a single word. Try to picture things instead. Don’t forget – fundamentally, you’re not just writing a screenplay, you’re writing a film as well!
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this article, where we’ll be talking about those times when you can’t use visuals – and how to make exposition interesting, so that the audience won’t even notice it’s there!
In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how in writing character arcs, your protagonist should be shaped by all the other elements of the script. Structure and supporting characters should all play a role, having an impact and encouraging the protagonist to change.
Image Credit: The Source
Back when THE LAST JEDI came out, here at WriteMovies we had mixed reactions. Just like millions of STAR WARS fans, we both loved and hated different parts of the film. This is certainly not the case for STAR WARS: ALWAYS, the latest material to be inspired by the franchise. Although not officially licensed by Disney, this new trailer is quickly making the rounds online. It’s five minutes long, and the only bad thing we can say about it is that it hasn’t been turned into a full-blown feature film yet.
The trailer was obviously made with nothing but pure, unadulterated love for the franchise. In fact, STAR WARS: ALWAYS was a combined effort between pro trailer editor Jeff Yorkes and actor/long-time Star Wars fanatic, Topher Grace. In a move that would have made his nerdy THAT 70s SHOW alter ego proud, Grace used Yorkes’ long-time expertise in condensing movie plots to create a working trailer for the greatest STAR WARS movie that never was. The goal of the trailer was simple: to envision the entire Star Wars narrative as a single movie.
In order to accomplish this, Grace and Yorkes took some of the best footage from all existing STAR WARS films, including the originals, the prequels, the sequels, ROGUE ONE, and even SOLO. Collider also noticed that they even managed to work in some deleted scenes from the franchise. Needless to say, it contains everything you’ve ever wanted to see in a STAR WARS movie. STAR WARS: ALWAYS begins with Luke Skywalker receiving Anakin’s lightsaber from Obi-Wan Kenobi, followed by flashbacks to the Clone Wars, tied together by scenes from ROGUE ONE. Han Solo’s story arc provides the bridge into the new trilogy. Just as Obi-Wan faced Vader, we see Kylo Ren confronting Luke Skywalker near the end. In many ways, the five-minute trailer provided a linear and much more streamlined narrative, which the official films couldn’t accomplish for some fans.
The trailer certainly makes a case for the concept to be turned into a full-blown film. STAR WARS: ALWAYS reveals just how passionate the fans of the franchise are, and how they’re willing to go further than the films to create a lasting and meaningful connection with George Lucas’ creation. In many ways, Grace and Yorkes are no different from the person who bought Luke Skywalker’s original lightsaber from A NEW HOPE, which Lottoland reveals cost a cool $240,000 at auction. They’re just doing what true fans do – devoting their resources to their beloved intellectual property.
In fact, Grace had already proved that he can pull off making a STAR WARS film. Back in 2012, Grace was responsible for putting together STAR WARS: EPISODE III.5: THE EDITOR STRIKES BACK, an 85-minute film that efficiently condensed the three prequels with help from cuts from the original trilogy, bits of dialogue from audio book recordings, music from the animated CLONE WARS, and even his own original STAR WARS text crawl. The result was a surprisingly good singular STAR WARS movie. Who knows, as the franchise is set to keep expanding, maybe Grace will get to direct and edit his own STAR WARS film soon.
The sad news has broken that actor Peter Mayhew, who portrayed Chewbacca in the STAR WARS franchise until handing over the role to Joonas Suotamo for THE LAST JEDI, died on April 30th at the age of 74.
Chewbacca has always been a strange sort of character, even by the fantastical standards of STAR WARS. A ‘walking carpet’ (to use Princess Leia’s turn of phrase) who seems permanently stuck with the same facial expression and who is only capable of producing a peculiar series of howls, yelps, and roars, he’s never been the most rounded personality in film – let alone the series.
And yet somehow, although Chewbacca may not have a deep personality, he’s certainly characterful. Even though he can’t speak, audiences have a clear idea of who he is – and as a result, defying the odds, he has gone on to become a fan favorite.
There’s an important lesson for writers to learn here about how to shape a character without resorting to the clichés of tragic backstories or awkward exposition. So how is it that the walking carpet won people’s hearts?
The answer lies in his interactions with other characters – which although simple, are also extremely endearing. He lacks much agency of his own, instead always following Han Solo around – but he’s always there, always constant, always loyal.
His reaction to being reunited with his closest friend in RETURN OF THE JEDI – hugging Han and fondly stroking his hair – shows just how much he cares. So too does his farewell hug to Luke in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and his determination to repair C-3PO after the droid has been attacked.
It’s also telling how the other characters treat Chewbacca. Aside from Leia’s insult after she’s first met him, he’s consistently treated with respect and fondness by everyone. Their views towards him help to shape ours. Writers should take note of this; a character doesn’t need to say a lot (or anything at all!) if other characters are saying good things about them.
The other important lesson for writers is to trust their actors to bring the characters to life. A talented actor can bring a huge amount of personality to a character without needing to say a single word, and that was what Peter Mayhew did. After all, it’s no easy task to portray a character with so much heart from behind such a thick layer of fur.
We never saw his face in any of the STAR WARS films he was in – but the impact Peter Mayhew had on the series will always be felt.
“Use the Force, Luke.” It’s one of the most iconic phrases in the history of film – and if you haven’t heard it before, you must have been living on a backwater desert planet for the last forty years.
It also contains a valuable lesson for writers. In our latest Writing Insights article, Edward Smith takes a look at how these four words unlock the secrets of the character arc.
And a quick warning if you’ve been living on that desert planet… This article contains spoilers for the original Star Wars trilogy.
We all want to write memorable characters with plenty of depth, and any writer who knows their craft knows that the key to this is the character arc: a process of change and growth that a character undergoes in the course of the story. A character who changes pops off the page and the screen because they are reacting to the world they inhabit, as real people do, whereas a static character is forever nothing more than a two-dimensional collection of traits.
Yet change just for the sake of change is not enough. The very best character arcs do something more: they equip the hero with the qualities they need to emerge victorious. If your thoughts just went to every training montage you’ve ever seen, you’re on the right lines, but to maximize this concept it needs to be taken further. Skills and knowledge are one thing, but gaining the wisdom to make use of what they know – that is what makes a character’s journey truly satisfying.
And this is where we come to our key phrase. “Use the Force, Luke.”
In the original Star Wars trilogy, the character arc is applied brilliantly – and differently – in each of the three films. Luke Skywalker undergoes three arcs, each one concluding in a different fashion, showing us how invaluable it is to fully understand this concept.
Luke starts out as a mere farmboy who could never triumph against the might of the Empire. In the course of his adventures, however, he grows into a hero who is entrusted, in the film’s climax, with the task of destroying the Death Star. Yet even then, even with all he has learned, he comes dangerously close to failure, and it takes a reminder from Obi-Wan Kenobi to make sure he doesn’t repeat the mistakes of those who came before him. “Use the Force, Luke.” Luke now has the wisdom to listen – and is rewarded with victory.
Here we find the character arc used to different effect – in fact, in entirely the opposite manner. After going to train with Jedi Master Yoda, Luke leaves before he is ready despite the warnings of his teacher – and, erm… It doesn’t end well for him. At all. This is fundamentally the tragic form, in which the hero fails to learn what they need to succeed – although unlike most tragic heroes, Luke is lucky enough to escape with his life.
Luke actually has little physical impact on the film’s conclusion. While the Rebellion faces off against the Empire (albeit aided by teddy-bears), Luke is locked in a personal battle with Darth Vader and the Emperor, emerging with a moral victory by having the wisdom to know when to stay his hand. While it doesn’t directly affect what happens elsewhere, his arc is nonetheless satisfying because it has a karmic effect; his moral victory is rewarded within the story by simultaneous success for his friends in the Rebellion.
So what can we learn from this? The original Star Wars trilogy demonstrates how a character arc is not merely about growth, but growth with purpose, giving a character not merely the skills they need but also the wisdom to use them. It also shows how an arc can be used in different ways: to give your protagonist success, disaster, or a moral victory.
So whichever kind of character arc you opt for in your script, you now have all the information you need – just make sure you have the wisdom to use it…