If screenwriting is your thing, it’s contest season.  Granted, these days it’s almost always contest season, but the start of the year is when a lot of the big ones open for submissions.  And contests are still one of the better ways to get a foot in Hollywood’s door while making you a couple bucks. So if this is something that interests you…
            And if screenwriting’s not something that interests you, well… keep reading anyway. You may glean something from this.
            Now, last year at about this time, I mentioned that I wasn’t going to offer any more screenwriting tips.  I’m sticking with that, but I still thought it might be worth mentioning this one.  Because it’s pretty much the ultimate screenwriting rule of thumb.

            If it’s not on screen right now don’t put it on the page.

            If it’s going on in someone’s head, but we can’t see it on the screen right now… don’t put it on the page.
            If it’s going to come up later, great. Put it on the page then, when it’s going to be on screen.
            If it’s something the director and crew will really, absolutely need to know up front, put it on the screen.  If it shouldn’t be on screen up front, then don’t mention it on the page until it is on screen.  I promise, they won’t start filming before they read the script at least once.
            Well, okay… the grips probably won’t read it at all.  Ever.  Sad truth.  But it’s not really something they need to know for their job.
            This is one of the absolute top killers in amateur scripts.  People load up the page with a lot of details that are completely irrelevant to what’s actually happening on screen right now.  It’s material that will come out later in the story or maybe never needs to come out.  But right now… it’s irrelevant.
            Because all that matters in screenplays is what’s on screen right now.

            Heck, I worked on some produced scripts that did this, and almost every one of them crashed into a bunch of other problems.  I saw one writer who padded a television script with half-page descriptions of every character—then acted surprised when it turned out the episode was over four minutes short (which is a huge screw-up in television). 

            Just remember this one rule and your screenwriting will level up almost immediately. No joke.  Do this and you’ll leap ahead of all those amateurs.
            Next time, I want to talk about structure.  We haven’t really done that in a while.
            Until then… go write.

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