On Writing : Difference Between Screenplays and Plays by Terri Viani

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Terri Viani

Difference Between Screenplays and Plays

Hey All! I'm strictly a screenwriter but have a frazzled playwright in my next screenplay. If anyone has written both I'd love to hear about the differences in terms of frustration, actors, pretty much anything. Would also love to hear about the general process. TIA!

Gavion E. Chandler

In the writing of a play or screen play is always the human aspect, the actor and actress that presents it's own challenge, and financing the project, getting the people and material. In screen plays you have CGI, the ability to create sets and shoot on and off location and Scene 1 take one to take 100, In writing and producing a play you are bound within the tangible elements of the stage, and you have to make due with the advantages and disadvantages or rather the challenges of that the stage has to offer. You have to create a sense of plausible reality in good faith, that the 'Dolll house and it's world' is real and plausible. Unlike movies the reality and world of the players that you want create are bound and limited to the tangible laws of reality of the world. You can project things on the screen and you can even have a Green Screen, if you have the finances, but even with the tech, it 's a 'one shot deal' every time you put on the next show. No take backs, it's live and happening now and no one performance is going to be like the last or the next, cause it's live, and that my friend is the beauty of a live play. Gavion E. Chandler 'Man is his own devil.'

Doug Nelson

The differences between a film and a stage production are numerous and various and the writer must keep that in mind. The most obvious difference is that the stage production takes place entirely within the proscenium whereas a film may include multiple locations. A stage play requires much more dialog exposition and the actors must project their voices all the way to that person seated in the last row up in the balcony. Also consider that there are no close ups in a stage play but in film, every little facial nuance or gesture can be shown to every member of the audience. Each has its own writing format. Basically, I think of it more like the difference between baseball and football. They’re each played with a ball on a field – but that’s pretty much the end of their similarities.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

Someone once said that novels are about what characters think, plays are about what characters say, and movies are about what characters do. That's a bit glib but I think gets to the essential difference between plays and scripts. In a script, you want visuals. Yes, smart dialogue helps, but in a script seeing, particularly your main character in action, is believing. So show your characters in action. I'm working on a sci-fi action crime script. Whether I've gotten it right, time will tell. But in the first five pages, there are, in total, 3 or 4 lines of dialogue. The rest is action/scene description. Obviously, a different kind of story would probably require a different, and perhaps a more 'wordy', opening. But for scripts, 'show, don't tell' works.

Debbie Croysdale

Plays are in real time, with an onlooking judgemental public audience, each performance only one shot. If the actors mess up, or don't portray rehearsal ideas correctly at the time of the show, there are no re takes. The mistakes are out, with no chance of cover up, and the director/playwright is shot in the foot. (Albeit not by themslves). Also it's the audiences night out, disappointment is more frustrating than switching off a TV screen in their own home, and they can make disgruntled barks sat in the auditorium. One location, maybe stage hands to change sets, but it's all much more claustrophobic because nobody can escape to anywhere else. Actors can feel more like live meat, (than say in a studio) their prey waiting in seats in front, intimately scrutinising their every move. (Of course Terri, I'm not referring to you personally but you asked for IDEAS about the world on a "Frazzled" Playwright" and this world includes their work being turned into a live show in a theatre.") Not to mention tortuous angst following bad theatre reviews, and the play being judged, partially by the particular establishment it's shown in. Eg The Globe London vs Joe Soaps Theatre The Sticks. Plays involve road life and leg work, unlike films that can be put straight onto the net/DVD. There is so much rope, from bonkas actors to malevolent theatre managers, for you to conjure up your own character of Frazzled Playwright. Good Weekend All! It'll be alright on the night!

Elisabeth Meier

I would like to add some questions to formal things. Is there a rule for how many pages make 30 minutes or 45 min or 60 min on stage? And is there any rule how long an act should be? I mean you can compare it to Opera and there each act can already last an hour - but what is the rule, if there is any?

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