What Directors Look For In a Screenplay - George Mendeluz at Willamette Writers Con

George Mendeluk
What a Director Looks for in a Screenplay
#wwc12
  • Books
    • Must: The Writer’s Journey. Mythic Structure... by Christopher Vogler.
    • Lagos Egri
    • Writing the Script: Sid Fields
  • Director-Writer-Producer
    • self-taught
  • A screenplay isn’t a piece of literature. It’s a framework or a skeleton that’s supposed to evoke. Movies are a collaborative effort. A director fills in the spaces between the words.
  • Actions tells us whether a person is a hero or not, not their words.
  • A screenplay tells us theme and architecture.
  • Directors learn to feel for the structure under the skin.
  • Subtext is one of a directors most valuable tools (not the words).
  • Screenplays must suggest to and titillate a director, more than tell exactly what it should look like. 
  • (A pitch should tell this theme and premise.)
  • Theme might not emerge in the first draft of a script, but it should later.
  • A clearcut premise almost always rolls right into the synopsis by itself.
  • The protagonist will fuel the plot.
  • A well defined, compelling character will attract strong talent, which will help line up a distributor.
  • Characters can be more compelling to the people you pitch to than plot. There’s only so many plots, and they’ve all be done before. But a well defined character is compelling. 
  • Link to the basic plots in literature (1 plot, 3 plots, 7 plots, 20 plots, 36 plots):
  • Joseph Campbell: The Hero’s Journey
  • The character defines the plot, not the other way around.
  • Structure
    • Act 1: 30 screenplay pages
      • Ordinary World
      • Call to adventure
      • Refusal
      • Mentor
      • First Threshold
    • Act 2: 60 pages
      • Tests, Allies, Enemies
      • Approach to Inmost Cave
      • Supreme Ordeal
      • Reward (Seizing the Sword)
      • The Road Back
    • Act 3: 30 pages
      • Resurrection
      • Return with the Elixir
Act 1: Hero’s Decision to Act
Act 2: The Action
Act 3: Consequences of the Action

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