As screenwriters, the power of words becomes second nature. Because every word counts, picking just the right ones is our job; we know their over-use or under-use can make or break our scripts and pitches.
Whenever I send in a new script, I always do a “white space alert” — just taking a long view of every page of my script to see if there’s too much black and not enough white. Big blocks of dialogue. Chunks of description. Excess wordiness. All of it has to go. And even a quick scan of every page can reveal lots.
The “reading draft” or the “sales draft” of a script is just that — accented on selling a reader unfamiliar with your story. It is more focused on the hero’s tale, steering the reader to the essentials of the story (for now), and getting them onboard to see its potential with a target audience. Once you’ve sold that script, the breakdown of each shot becomes prep for the director, cinematographer, and line producer, so the “shooting draft” is a brand new animal. Even here, every word counts when 1/8 of a page can be a day’s shoot.
When pitching, my best advice to many writers is: learn when to shut up! Once you’ve told your story, come to the end, done your Fade Out, the temptation to meet silence in the room with further elucidation can be overwhelming… but fatal. If you really have said it all, why say more? Let the buyer jump into the breach.
Crickets be damned!
We must also watch our words in what we speak about our script, our representatives, and our fellow writers. The self-fulfilling prophesy of talking up one’s agent or one’s script speaks volumes about where we are in our careers. Down-and-out moods lead to grumbling — and vice versa. So why shouldn’t positive talk lead to success, fulfillment, and willing into reality the gossamer of ideas in our minds? How many writers have I heard say “My script is perfect for _______,” only to have that actor or director actually appear?
Lots. There is something powerful not only in our written words, but in our spoken words as well.
Use them wisely.
Old Testament Genesis begins not with the waving of a wand to create the Earth in seven days, but saying: “Let their be light.” Words have power. We know better than anyone. Let’s make sure our words are well chosen.