When a picture says a thousand words

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Today I downloaded some simple image manipulation software for my phone. What ensued was a burst of frenzied caption creation. (It’s still kind of going on, I’ve just run out of funny photos at the moment.)

But it got me thinking about one of the more important aspects of scriptwriting – the balance between action and dialogue. Seriously, Hamlet length soliloquies are generally not accepted in scriptwriting… unless you’re a well established scriptwriter like Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino.

When you use scriptwriting software such as Final Draft, you can get a script report that tells you how much of your script is action (i.e. description) and how much is dialogue. In terms of sheer statistics you want at least 75% of your script to be action and less than 20% to be dialogue.

Film is a visual medium, always show before deciding to tell. However, unless you’re planning on directing the film you’re writing, you shouldn’t be describing exactly what happens on screen.

As a scriptwriter you’re walking this fine line between saying what happens in the film and what happens in the film… you need to say how things are progressing on screen, emotions of characters, locations, passage of time, but you don’t go into the details of the mechanics of how to make the film. Generally, if you leave out descriptions of camera angles and going into depth with the cinematography – you won’t be stepping on anyone’s toes.

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