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Super Scripts
Mary Evans
@MaryAliceEvans
[email protected]
What is a script?
The text of a play, broadcast or movie.
www.thefreedictionary.com
So…
 Scripts have another purpose
 They are a set of directions for a production
 The reader isn’t (hopefully) the final destination
BUT
 To get to their final destination…
THEY NEED TO BE A BLOODY GOOD READ!
Who is a novel for?
 The reader
Who is a script for?
 Actors
 Script editors
 Directors
 Producers
 Broadcasters
 Agents
 Costume/Make-up
 Set Designers
And ultimately…
AN AUDIENCE
So always remember
Scripts are the basis
for a production in a
different medium.
Our job as writers…
 Give clear instructions for a production
 Be aware of the specifics of our medium (ie TV =
visual, radio = aural)
 Give actors clear indication of characters
 Create the world in which the action takes place
 Write a compelling plot with fizzing dialogue
Not our job as writers…
 Camera angles (this is the director’s job, so let him/her
do it)
 Every movement, unless important to the story (also
the director’s job)
 How to say every line (give the actors a chance)
 Soundtrack – unless important to the story
 Title sequence (post-production)
TV Scripts
 TV is a visual medium
 We need to show, not tell
 What does everything look like? (characters/setting)
 Does it have to be said? Can it be shown?
 What are people not saying?
Radio Scripts
 Radio is an aural medium
 We still need to show, not tell
 We can’t rely on physical descriptions, so what else is
going to put the listener in the world?
 What sounds are significant?
 Far more reliant on the subtleties of speech
How to construct a TV script
All scripts are comprised of a series of scenes, which
are made up the same way:
Scene Heading
Action
CHARACTER NAME
Dialogue
How to construct a radio
script
Scene no + title
F/X (Sound effect)
Character 1 name:
Dialogue
Character 2 name:
Dialogue
Scene headings
 Scene headings locate the action for audience and
production.
 We need to know where we are and when:
Internal/External [INT/EXT] (ie indoors or outdoors?)
Where exactly are we (ie shop/house/field?)
What time of day is it? (ie, day or night?)
Scene headings
INT. MARY’S KITCHEN. DAY
EXT. NUDIST COLONY. NIGHT
INT. THE OLD FIRE STATION. NIGHT
EXT. TALBOT CAMPUS BUS STOP. DAY 1
Change of place or time
= change of scene
Action
 Sets the scene and who is in it
 Provides excellent opportunities to Show Don’t Tell
 Allows description – but only write what the audience
can see/hear.
 A character’s thoughts would need to be expressed
another way.
Good Action
INT. MARY’S KITCHEN. DAY
MARY (24) a svelte brunette with a figure
like a baby gazelle, lovingly puts the
finishing touches to an Angry Birds
birthday cake. The phone rings. She goes
to ignore it, but sees the name and
sighs. Her fingers covered in icing
piggies, she gingerly picks up her mobile
and crooks the phone under her ear.
Bad Action
INT. MARY’S KITCHEN. DAY
MARY (47) is thinking about all the
things she wishes she still had – youth,
stomach muscles, a pelvic floor. She
remembers that magical holiday in Kavos
last year where she met Dwaine and they
embarked upon a passionate affair aboard
a banana boat.
Flashback Action
INT. MARY’S KITCHEN. DAY
MARY (30s) looks lovingly at the Angry Birds
cake she has just completed. She stares out
of the window and her mind wanders.
EXT. KAVOS. DAY (FLASHBACK)
MARY is charging over the waves on a banana
boat, her arms wrapped around DWAINE (25), a
burly love-god from Walthamstow. She pulls a
Jagermeister from her tankini and the lovers
share a lingering swig.
Flashbacks
 Think absinthe – use with caution
 Don’t use simply to tell backstory lazily
 Only use where there’s no other way to impart
information: ie secrets from other characters (Lost),
expedient exposition (Desperate Housewives), flights
of fancy (Miranda), comic effect (My Name is Earl).
 As a rule, production companies don’t like flashback
(despite its prevalence) – so really justify its existence
Character/Dialogue
 Character names sit on top of dialogue, which is centre
justified:
MARY
No, Mr Clooney, I’ve told you
before. I’m a happily married
woman.
Characters as narrators
 If your character isn’t present in the scene and is
narrating, you need to use (V.O.) = Voiceover
EXT. KAVOS. DAY
MARY frolics in the waves with DWAINE
MARY (V.O.)
How could I have possibly known then how
that summer would change my life? Or just
how resistant to antibiotics Chlamydia
has become?
Narrators
 Like flashback – use with caution
 Needs to be a very good reason for story being told this way
(ie In Desperate Housewives Mary Alice is dead, so can
bring us innermost thoughts and feelings of characters;
Dexter and Nurse Jackie have secrets they can’t share with
their world; My Mad Fat Diary is the private diary of a
reluctant communicator)
 Is your narrator homodiegetic = part of the story
(Inbetweeners) or heterodiegetic = absent from the story
(Desperate Housewives)?
 Make the narrator more than a story cipher – give them a
distinct character and voice
Scriptwriting Software
There are various dedicated scriptwriting software applications available
including Final Draft, Movie Magic Screenwriter, and CeltX.
The following open source scriptwriting software applications are currently
available for free on the web
Celtx - a free media pre-production software designed for creating and
organising screenplays, films, stageplays and audio plays and more.
Page 2 Stage - screenwriting software designed for people writing
screenplays, scripts, and plays.
Five Sprockets - provides a range of free screenwriting software resources.
Taken from BBC writersroom: http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/send-ascript/formatting-your-script
NB
It is not a requirement of this assignment that you
use scriptwriting software.
A properly formatted Word doc will more than
suffice.
The Assignment
Write the opening scenes of an original TV or radio
script (max. 1500 words). Remember to specify the
targeted broadcast outlet and the intended audience.
Also, write a critical evaluation of any broadcast
scripted programme in the same medium and genre
(max. 1000 words) with reference to the successes or
failures of the script, and how those aspects influenced
your own creative piece.
Due by 12noon MONDAY 13TH MAY
The First 10 Pages
Most important part of a script. Need to establish:
 Character – whose story is this?
 World – where the heck are we?
 Genre/Tone/Style – what will this be like?
 Plot – particularly…
 INCITING INCIDENT – the moment this world changed
Good Scripts
 Show don’t tell
 Have oodles of conflict (internal and external)
 Give us complex, flawed characters
 Create characters who want something…
 …but are going to have a lot of trouble getting it
 Use dialogue wisely with much subtext (Dialogue = what a
character says; Subtext = what a character means)
 Have their own identity – could only have been written by
you
Bad Scripts
 Forget their medium (describing the furniture in radio or
a character’s first memory in TV)
 Are implausible
 Are derivative
 Have clunky exposition/on-the-nose dialogue
 Start in the wrong place
 Leave us feeling ‘so what’?
Channeling your script
 Every channel has a very different remit and audience so
research your options carefully
 The channel you choose will dictate the tone (and possibly
subject) of your script
 Remember the watershed – different subjects must be
handled differently (and possibly not at all) pre-9pm
http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/page/gui
delines-harm-watershed/#television-scheduling-and-thewatershed
 Radio and online have no watershed, but guidelines still
apply
A Very Useful Thing
BBC writersroom
http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/
A Useful Read
Writing Dialogue for Scripts: Rib Davis
(808.2/DAV)
Another Useful Read
Making a Good Script Great: Linda Seger
(808.23/SEG)
Script Links:

Life on Mars: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/scripts/life_on_mars_ep_1.pdf

Desperate Housewives: http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/desperate_housewives_-_the_pilot.pdf

Ripper Street: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/scripts/ripper-street-episode-1.pdf

The Dumping Ground:http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/scripts/the-dumpingground-s1-ep1.pdf

The Wire: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/scripts/the-wire-early-warning.pdf

Dexter: http://leethomson.myzen.co.uk/Dexter/Dexter_1x01_-_Pilot.pdf
NB if these links show as gobblydegook, highlight the address in your browser and hit
return or copy links into your browser
Clip Links
 Life on Mars: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rND6u6zo13A
 Desperate Housewives: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvGNtZ4KGzQ
 Ripper St:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00wk6ps/Ripper_Street_I_Need_Light/
 The Dumping Ground:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01pr6fs/The_Dumping_Ground_Freedo
m_(Episodes_1_and_2)/
 The Wire:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01qwgjp/The_Wire_Early_Warning/
 Dexter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDVZuqRuAYs

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