Yesterday I completed the two-weekend film writing intensive with Vancouver Film School (VFS). It was fun, inspiring and made me a better writer. I came out with three great additions to my writing portfolio, two four minute scripts ready for filming, and a longer 15 minute script, that still needs some polish. I also came away with some great new contacts (people who may end up as writing and production partners for film…fun!). Another great outcome of the VFS intensive was inspiration for a new writing project.
During the Intensive several instructors informed us that there were producers in our area waiting for scripts to fill current needs. What’s the catch? I had the same question… The scripts needed are very specific and few writers want to take up the challenge of closely define topics and format requirements (well and the pay is not great). Well, I love a challenge, and I’m excited at the opportunity to not just sell something, but potentially see it on screen. So my next challenge (as soon as I hand the second draft of Riveted to the editor) will be to take a stab at one of these projects. Best case scenario, I will be inspired by the challenge, write a great script that sells and get my name out there for a new type of writing. Worst case scenario I’ll have some fun, gain another portfolio piece and flex some writing muscles. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.
Does dialogue intimidate you? It used to intimidate me. I could describe something, but ask me to put words in the mouths of my characters and I froze. I felt that everything I said sounded stilted and contrived. I have since overcome that fear by learning that dialogue doesn’t have to be hard, or complicated. The best dialogue just happens as a natural part of the story. This weekend we did an exercise that helped my dialogue along even further.
We were asked to define the characteristics of two characters (Terry and Pat) who were traveling in car together. We were asked to come up with a destination, their relationship, a reason for each of them to be taking the trip and a list of things they could do when they arrived. We were then to write a conversation between the two with seven lines of dialogue each. The lines alternated between the two characters, and the only rule was that the characters could not reference anything physical. (They couldn’t talk about what they were seeing, or anything in or out of the car, they could just talk.)
If you plan on doing this exercise, stop now and do this first part, then come back to the exercise (it matters). Then repeat the exercise, we need two conversations for this to work.
When we were done, we read our conversations aloud but, rather than reading them as written we swapped with another group. My Terry’s lines were read with another student’s lines for Pat and my “Pat lines” were read with a different student’s lines for Terry. The results were amazing. Most of the conversations sounded perfectly natural even though they were not written together. Often the lines were even better swapped around than they were as originally written. The exercise had other goals, but something it reinforced for me was not to let dialogue intimidate, it doesn’t have to be well planned or ingenious to work, just let it happen when it feels natural, and say what comes to mind.