THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO GET YOUR SCREENPLAY REJECTED
By Elizabeth English & Pinaki Ghosh
Writing a movie script? Want to know the secrets to get your screenplay rejected, for sure? Read on:
- Offer detailed camera directions in your screenplay. Don’t trust the intelligence of the director of photography or cinematographer and offer camera directions in your script like, ‘pan’, ‘zoom’, ‘dolly’, ‘trolley shot’ or ‘low angle shot’. That will make your script look like one from history and is a definite way of getting it rejected.
- Insist on adding editing directions in your screenplay. Similarly, go ahead… show a complete disregard to the editor’s intelligence and write editing instructions like ‘cut to’, ‘dissolve to’, etc. and your screenplay will look like a thing of the past. In modern-day screenplays, editing directions are no longer acceptable. Only FADE IN and FADE TO BLACK are used in an entire screenplay. By the way, FADE IN and FADE TO BLACK are transitions, not scene descriptions, or sluglines, and belong on the right-hand side of the first & last pages.
- Do not not capitalize the character names in the beginning, the first time the character is seen. Leave them in lowercase text or, even worse, have them in UPPER CASE throughout, and your screenplay will be rejected for sure.
- Type most or all of the elements the props person will need to know about, such as DOOR, LAMP, CAR, HOUSE, TREE, in all caps, too.
- Similarly, have words that denote sound, like WHOOSH, SCREAM, WOOF, BANG, or CLANG in upper case, to show that you know all about sounds for the Foley editors, and, incidentally, to make your script virtually unreadable and distracting.
- Make your screenplay shorter than 90 pages or longer than 130 pages. While writing a movie script, you should definitely make it longer than 130 pages, or shorter than 90 pages to make sure your screenplay goes straight into the trash bin, because normal screenplays are generally 90 pages to 130 pages in length.
- Write very lengthy dialogs. Writing a movie script? Love writing interesting dialogs? Then go ahead and have your characters talk on and on! Writing each dialog lengthier than 5 lines, or a short paragraph, with no opportunity for action and reaction, will ensure your screenplay is ripped up and made into paper airplanes.
- Write very lengthy scenes. While writing a movie script, make sure your scenes are lengthy enough to get the screenplay rejected. While normally scenes are less than a page in length to a maximum of about three pages, with five-page scenes being an exception; you should concentrate in making your scenes more than 5 pages in length…in order to join the rejected screenplay writers’ club.
- Write lengthy descriptions. While the normal length of writing a scene description is 1 to 4 lines, you should break that silly rule and write at least 10 line scene descriptions to become a part of the frustrated screenwriters’ league.
- Use character names that sound and spell confusingly similar. Or make them start with the same letter, so that the readers and viewers are thoroughly confused, and lose track of which character is which.
- Don’t use character names for minor characters, even if they have pivotal roles or dialog. COP #1, COP #2 & COP ##, or use long descriptive names, such as ELDERLY WHITE-HAIRED WOMAN IN A WHEELCHAIR.
- Use detailed slug lines. Scenes start with slug lines like: INT. COFFEE HOUSE – NIGHT or EXT. BEACH – DAY -PRESENT TIME. While normal screenplay writers use only ‘day’ or ‘night’, you can be a rebel and use slug lines like DUSK, DAWN, SUNSET TIME, SUNRISE TIME, RAINY DAY, LONELY DARK SNOWY FOREST, & etc., to stay ahead in the race of getting your screenplay rejected.
- Don’t bother with proper screenplay formatting and structure. Don’t use a screenwriting program, such as Final Draft. Just align elements as you wish.
- Keep using the terms (CONTINUED) or (CONT’D) after every single time the character speaks and at the bottom of every single page. Readers simply have no idea that it’s the same speaker, or that the script continues on the next page! You’ll be helping them, and helping your script into the permanent reject file.
- Use plenty of mood descriptions throughout the screenplay. Use of phrases in parentheses, like (smiles), (looks worried), (laughs out loud), (frowning), (angrily) with every possible dialog to show that you sure know how to direct actors. Experienced screenwriters avoid using such phrases as far as possible because these are for the director and actor to interpret. Three to five such uses in a complete good screenplay are allowed, but only where absolutely necessary.
- Do not visualize. While writing a movie script, write it just for the sake of writing it. Do not visualize anything in your mind’s eye. Do not bother if your scenes will be cinematic, interesting, picturesque or boring.
- Exposition in dialog. Have the character explain and describe what is happening on the screen, or what is going to happen.
- Be sure to also have the character speak in dialect, where needed, and write it out: “Choo doon? Y’all gone git movin’, er jest sit dere?” really teaches voice coaching, and is easy to read and understand. An actor would not have any idea about how to speak in a Texas drawl, or in a foreign accent, or even in with poor grammar.
- In the action paragraphs, describe in detail what the character is thinking, wanting, expecting, is afraid of, plans to do, how he/she feels about something in the past, or what he/she did long ago. Don’t show it – tell it!
- Describe the characters in excruciating detail, exactly what they are wearing, their age, hair color, weight, skin tone, & etc. Say what movie star they look like. You’re the casting agent, right?
- Note what copyrighted music should be playing, or what songs are heard: title, artist. This greatly adds to the cost of the production!
- Don’t have characters mention each other’s names at the beginning of the script, or a scene in which they first appear. The audience will be reading the screenplay while watching the movie or beforehand, so they’ll know who is who, right?
- Forget about transitions from one scene to another. Just jump right into the next scene without any mention beforehand of what to expect. Audiences love to be surprised and confused.
- Do not break up dialog with action. Let your character talk on and on. Everybody loves talking heads. Full pages of dialog, with no action, is one of the best ways to have the script rejected.
- Don’t bother having characters react to each other or to various situations, either visually or in dialog. Just drop it there, leave them, and the audience, hanging, and quickly move on. People in real-life never react to anything said or done to them, or to events, anyway, right?
- Just forget about writing a great climax and ending to the story. Don’t bother to wrap up all loose ends. Just stop writing when you’ve gotten tired of sitting at the computer. Nobody reads every page, anyway.
- No need for a great first page. Write a screenplay like a novel, with long 3-to-10-page descriptions of the opening scene. Don’t forget to mention how and where the opening credits roll. You don’t need to “hook” the reader from the first page. They’ll read the whole script, word-for-word, because they’re paid to, and then reject it!