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Sunday, October 14, 2012

HARD CASE, The Movie

I promised to report on my screenwriting endeavor. It began in earnest once I finished editing the third book in my YA trilogy, and finished the release of LANCELOT. The book I picked to convert is my novel HARD CASE. John Harding seemed like the perfect on screen type for a movie, and I hoped I’d be able to find enough to leave out of the script to do the conversion. From my research into conversions, I found that much of what makes a novel work would put an audience to sleep in a movie theater. During the course of any novel I write and edit, I do a polished synopsis of each individual chapter. That is helping immensely in determining how to make the script flow and transition from scene to scene.
The basic parameter, according to most screenplay writing sites and software guides, is each page of a screenplay represents one minute on screen. When you’ve finished a page of script, this parameter does make sense, and seems to be a pretty solid guideline. Each character created becomes part of the screenplay, thanks to Final Draft’s structure. When changing from character to character in a dialogue format, screenplay software keeps track, and provides easy shifts from character to character with additional parenthetical inserts for descriptive purposes (think whispers, sighs, sips coffee, etc.). The elements of the script are: action, character, parenthetical, dialogue, transition, scene heading, shot, cast list, and general. Not all are used in every scene, of course, but they are easily available.
When using a transition to shift from a restaurant to a car or another place, the screenwriting software expects you to create another scene. In a novel, each chapter may have numerous transitions from one place to another, so trying to use a chapter as your scene guide doesn’t work out. A shot indicates camera angle, and is easily the most forgotten but necessary element. It must be considered in each interaction if there are to be special instructions for a focal point such as a key part of the scene that needs to be pointed out. An example would be a murder scene as in The Mentalist when Jane discovers something out of the ordinary on a victim’s body. The ‘shot’ element would dictate the camera focus on whatever Jane found.
Anyway, I have twenty pages of script written, and it’s like pulling teeth with a pair of pliers, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it. The only excitement so far is that I have created twenty minutes of screen time for my character John Harding and his cast. I shall report if I’m having trouble keeping HARD CASE the movie from turning into a six hour epic. Just as agents won’t look at a novel over 90,000 words from a newbie author as a rule, anything over 90 pages of script gets into epic territory for a newbie screenwriter. I’m hoping to bring in HARD CASE the movie at under a 120 pages. I hope. That’s it from screenplay writing land, my new ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ reality.  :)


Charles Gramlich said...

All foreign to me, but I appreciate the info. I already learned a lot I didn't know, like the 1 minute, 1 page thing.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

Charles, that 1 minute, 1 page thing gets real tricky when a novel's over 300 pages, and it has to be condensed down by two thirds. What to cut is a real problem with keeping the cohesiveness of the plot. I figure I'll have to finish the screenplay and then edit the hell out of it. I'm beginning to appreciate the 'cutting room floor' cliche a bit more. :)