As a newbie screenwriter, I thought I’d run into trouble needing to describe the slightest details: the precise dress combination each character has to wear at a given location or period of time, the exact sequence of body reactions to a certain fortunate or unfortunate occurrence, the kind of music to be played in that melancholic or nostalgic mood, and what have you. Indeed, I was going to run into trouble, but not in the way I thought I would.
We are often misled, when watching a movie, with all we see and hear on the screen, and instantly give credit to the screenwriter for describing in such detail what has been represented. This keeps so many aspiring screenwriters in a kind of “loop”, me inclusive. For me, it was only for a short while, and I’ll explain why. Thankfully, I hate novels and all the flowery descriptions which I thought a screenplay required, so I couldn’t have been the best at such wrong-doing. My “no skills’ kept me constantly aware of my scene descriptions that I often went online to seek answers to my “problems”. Bingo! The answer – everywhere on the Internet, and in the guise of caring about others.
Why should we care about others? Who are these others even? The actors, the camera-man, the costume designer, the location manager, the sound manager, and so much more, like the list of credits that run after every movie.
SCREENWRITER VS ACTORS
You have a character who is about to tell a lie. While most novels would describe in detail the symptoms of someone lying: facial expression and body language, why not leave the it to the actors to play out. Why do you want to teach them their jobs? The way Genevieve Nnaji would behave while she’s lying is different from Mercy Johnson’s or Julia Roberts’. And they’d do it better than you’d ever imagined. Yes, after-all, they are the actors, not you. Except it’s crucial to my story, my grateful to God that I have actors to take care of my lies for me.
SCREENWRITER VS CAMERA MAN
I’ve read some scripts that tell how the camera is panning out and where it’s angling on to. Why do you want to teach the camera man his work? If you’ve described it well, he knows what to do. How sure are you the PAN OUT is the right kind of camera description for that scene? You’re not the camera man, and you certainly aren’t in tune with the modern trends of videoing.
SCREENWRITER VS COSTUME DESIGNER
It’s even repetitive to say what a character wears, if you’ve appropriately described the location and the personality of the character. Except for some story effect –for example, describing a bikini lady in a church. That definitely is story, but apart from that, the costume designer knows what’s best for your characters.
SCREENWRITER VS LOCATION MANAGER
Saying it’s an executive office, or it’s a pool area is enough. Why do you need to include that the pool has a shallow or deep end, or that the office has a 52″ T.V and a luxurious set of couch? Why? If those things aren’t used to move the story forward, why?
SCREENWRITER VS SOUND MANAGER
It’s quite understandable that a writer might want some of his/her favorite songs in his movie, and try to recommend a couple of them. For me, there are two basic issues here: does it move the story forward? Do you have the license? What’s even more annoying is the sounds of splash, sizzling, a cock’s crow, shatters, and what have you, that some writers explore in detail, just as they would in a novel. Even I find such annoying as it interferes with my story flow.
A screenwriter needs to care about these other guys, okay? Because they care that you care, and they instantly have a bad impression about you if it is perceived that you don’t care. Also, it makes you look kinda bossy. Nobody wants to be taught how to do their jobs. Or, do you?
So, yes, I was going to run into trouble describing these details I had no business with. But, that’s even a better trouble than what could have been if I were a competent flowery exploring literary writer. Yes, that would certainly piss these other guys off!
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Isedehi Aigbogun, also known as ISD, is a staunch academic, holding a B.A., M.A., and PhD (in view) in English Language.
She’s a Screenwriter, Screenplay Analyst, Consultant, and Film Scriptic.