Screenwriting Is About Structure

Question: What are common mistakes of novice screenwriters?

Danny\r\n Rubin:
The biggest mistake is over-reliance on dialogue.  They \r\nremember their favorites lines and come into the enterprise thinking \r\nthat it’s about writing lines of dialog for the actors when, in fact, \r\nit’s really about the structure.  It’s about setting up the visual \r\nscene.  It’s about putting the scenes together in what order actually \r\ntells the story and really taking advantage of the visual medium and the\r\n dialog often comes after that.  It’s - the beginning writer will rely \r\nvery heavily on dialog to give you all the information you need.  So, \r\ncharacters are constantly telling each other things.  “I think this, I \r\nintend that, I like that.” 

Where it’s much better to find a \r\nvisual way to get that idea across.  It’s more elegant and it’s more \r\nfilmic and it’s very, very obviously amateurish to an experienced writer\r\n to look at a screenplay that is all reliant on dialog.

Question:\r\n Does the development process tend to help or hurt a script?

Danny\r\n Rubin:
  In my experience, I’ve spent a lot of time in development \r\non various projects and I’ve seen screenplays get worse and I’ve seen \r\nthem get better and it’s the structure is the thing that usually has to \r\nchange and when you change the structure you wind up having to change \r\neverything else too because what would happen in a scene changes, so the\r\n dialog changes.  Everything does. 

Sometimes it winds towards \r\nthe juicy center and the notes you're getting are helping it become the \r\nscreenplay it need to become.  But, there's some point where it becomes \r\nlike a hail Mary and it just has become very jumbled and messed up and \r\nmixed up themes and different peoples’ stories and you wind up with \r\neverybody looking at it.  It’s not just you anymore.  It’s you and a \r\nroom full of people and everybody has a different opinion and sometimes \r\nthey just say, “Well, try this,” because they just don’t know and then \r\nyou realize the project is gone.  It’s somehow gotten away from \r\neverybody.

And that’s not unusual and it’s not too hard for that \r\nto happen and it’s not really the fault of anybody.  I found that \r\ndevelopment executives and producers are actually very smart and \r\nalthough there are have been many, many stupid and clueless and \r\ndifficult and impossible notes I’ve gotten that I had to somehow solve, \r\nmore often the notes are quite good and make a lot of sense and have \r\nbeen helpful.

Question: What’s the worst advice you’ve\r\n ever been given as a screenwriter?

Danny Rubin:
I \r\ndon’t know.  I don’t know that I can think of anything.  Quit?  Give up?\r\n
\r\nRecorded on May 12, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by Paul Hoffman

The biggest mistake young screenwriters make is "over-reliance on dialogue" when, in fact, a screenplay is really about setting up the visual scene.

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