“Directing From The Page” is a contentious issue and something levvied at new writers particularly when they send their specs out to initiatives, but also agents I’ve noticed. Sometimes it’s not called “directing from the page”; you might get some feedback that says you have “overwritten” your scene description, perhaps even the whole thing. “WTF? How can you OVERWRITE?” was my initial reaction when I got feedback like this… I *couldn’t* have overwritten anything, I’d stuck to the four line rule, I hadn’t referenced anything like the camera, I’d laid it all out properly!
Directing From The Page is not just about “proper” format or referencing the camera. For one thing, you can reference a camera without mentioning one: describing shots, pulling back to reveal stuff etc, what’s that but describing camera work really? Writers might say, “Aaaah, but we need to pull back because of this story point…” Cool. Surprises are always good. But can you make that reveal WITHOUT talking about the LOOK of the scene? Bet you can.
Because that is what “overwriting” or “directing from the page” really means – a writer has paid more attention to the LOOK of the scene rather than the story. In other words, the writer will talk about every minute detail in a room, clothes, expressions or it tells how an actor how to deliver a line. Story should never pay second fiddle to anything (except those rare moments where character takes over for a second – like Miles’ Pinot speech in Sideways: yes, you could cut that and the story would make sense. But the character layer would be diminished).
Whilst parentheticals are *technically* allowed of course, do you need 99% of the ones you put in? I bet you don’t. I know going over my old scripts I would cut out most of them (and actually burn the scripts and send the ashes to Mars, but that’s another story).
I’ve said before that I like the notion of scene description being scene action: Bill Martell makes an excellent case in this article for ONLY adding elements that promote action or reveal character in your script’s scene description and I agree because it makes a script easier to read and thus more interesting, since story does not go off-track while it has competes with lots of extraneous detail.
Yet what is “extraneous detail”? Well obviously like most things in this scriptwriting lark this is widely open to interpretation and I can only give you my thoughts based on having read the screenplays I have. Before I do though in the next post, I thought I would open up the floor: what counts as extraneous detail in your view? If you’ve read Bill’s article too, then let us know your thoughts on it too. Read it here.
Over to you…