Screenwriting : 50 Shades of Amateur by Danny Manus

Danny Manus

50 Shades of Amateur

Here are 50 common mistakes new writers make that usually jump out at a reader. I'm creating a new list of the next 50 (and yes, maybe a couple of these have changed since I wrote this), but are you making your amateur status clear? Check it out. http://www.nobullscript.net/screenwritingtips/50-shades-of-an-amateur-sc...

50 Shades of an Amateur Screenwriter @ No BullScript Consulting
50 Shades of an Amateur Screenwriter @ No BullScript Consulting
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Cherie Grant

Good to see I have committed very few of those crimes of late. Although I had never noticed that we had to write surnames in the introduction of a character.

Monique Mata

Some of these are also common mistakes of produced scripts.

David Bryant

I've committed some of these crimes. not many thank goodness.

Mike Romoth

I've only been on Stage 32 for a short time, but I already know to give your advice close attention. Thanks for sharing your insights. Just like the rules of editing and grammar, the rules of business are uncompromising...and beginners must adapt themselves to these rules.

Alex Bloom

Agree with em all. Except maybe 27 is only for main characters and 12 -- I'll excuse the odd "ANGLE ON", "PAN TO"... What irks me more is not knowing what's going on in the description in the first place.

Chanel Ashley

Funny, William, good one - excellent list, Danny, must confess, I'm guilty of a few - while most may appear obvious, one sees them time and again - my biggest gripe is spelling and grammar when I review - very common error is your/you're, see it all the time.

Scott Kawczynski

Don't agree with 12, as long as it is used sparingly. Unless you consider John August, Rian Johnson, The Coens and many other amateurs. Otherwise, solid list.

York Davis

Thanks Danny. But if an amateur by 3 or 4 on your 50 listed is successful with a producer or agent, do they still remain amateur?

Greg McGee

So, what software do you recommend for scripting?

F. Aaron Franklin

What's wrong with Celtx, assuming that I am first converting my work into PDF?

Danny Manus

It's funny because when I originally put out this list, the ONE item on the list I got a ton of email about was the Celtx one. Look, Celtx is FINE when you're starting out. But when you become a pro writer, you will be expected to use pro screenwriting software - FD, Movie Magic, or the new Fade Out software are the most popular. I am sorry Alle, but any screenwriter who uses WORD or Notepad and submits a script in one of those formats - it's an automatic pass.

Danny Manus

They are connected, but they are not the same thing. The theme does usually get across a message. And a message is usually connected to the theme. But your story doesn't NEED a message - it needs a theme. The theme is the more subtle backbone and theory of your story , the thing that the character must learn on their arc that once learned, allows them to change and see their world differently. A message is a more overt personal agenda, feeling or twist on a theme that you want the audience to hear. Something you're trying to convince them of.. For instance, a theme would be "true love conquers all." A message would be "gay marriage should be legalized because true love conquers all." A theme comes from the story. A message comes from the writer. This is why I'm not a huge fan of message movies, because if you want to send a message, write a blog, not a film. But they can work. Just as long as you don't treat your message like a theme. Hope that helps?

F. Aaron Franklin

Danny: Sorry to beat the Celtx horse again, but with the Celtx desktop app (paid version) you can convert to PDF, complete with proper title page. When I browse scripts on Blacklist or Amazon Studios, my Celtx generated PDFs appear no different than the rest, at least those with proper formatting. Though I have no idea which of those were made by which software.

Pedro Vasquez

Danny. Thanks a lot. This was a great list. Very useful.

Andy Golub

A decent list, but a lot of it falls into the category of inadequate screenwriting - which many professionals are guilty of as well. You might consider splitting the list into issues with the appearance of the script, and issues with the writing itself. It's the former that makes a screenplay look amateur, while the latter makes it simply not good enough. Very different things.

Axzavia James

Thanks for the info Danny. I'm trying to become more professional every day.

Lani Aisida

thanks for the tips. very helpful

F. Aaron Franklin

I'm not going to lie, when I started out, I was often guilty of 1, 2, and 11. Sometimes 9. Even now, it's hard to avoid those parentheticals from time to time for sarcasm, tone, emotion, etc, even knowing that directors frown upon such micromanagement.

David Dogman Harvey

Good information but seemed little condescending in tone. Most of us didn't take courses in screenwriting and need this info. Most are regular people who have script concepts they think are good or great. Maybe they're not. I do find what you write with, very shallow if true. The industry mindset seems extremely closed minded in certain respects . I work with WORD, I have no idea what my options are. Other then some software. A great story is a great story weather written in crayon or with Final Draft. If I typed my story on paper with a typewriter that wouldn't fly today and that was the real standard at one time.

Steve Sherman

Reading the list, I cringe when I look back at some of my early script attempts. Now, I'm glad nobody saw those! Great tips!

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

Terrific article Danny. Thank you.

Danny Manus

To be fair I have not tried the paid celtx app and it did not exist at the time I wrote this list! A great story might be great written in final draft or on toilet paper with crayon, but writing a great story is only about 30% of what a writer needs to do to succeed in this biz. And I think that's what writers don't realize.

Michael Hager

I've gotten rid of the wrylies in my scripts! (he said smugly) oops!

David Dogman Harvey

I think we know this and appreciate your list. I don't see the greatest of Hollywood films anymore. I think the geniuses that started the film industry has been replaced by their grandsons and great grandson who may be just Hacks. Open minds and better judgement of surrounding talent may better serve them then most of the shit they're putting out now.

Shane M Wheeler

Solid advice throught out, though 46 onward gets kind of a sour tone and clear message that made me Lol after translation. 46) Your script still sucks. 48) You arrogant ass. 49) Nobody cares about your script. 50) Because you're not Tarantino!

CJ Walley

Regarding the Celtx issue, the reality falls second place to the perception. If Danny's gut reaction to someone using Celtx is that they are an amateur then there will be many more who feel the same.

Danny Manus

That is probably very true CJ.

David Dogman Harvey

That's my point. If perception is doing the driving. Something's wrong with the Industry. I'm just lucky I have one foot into retirement and the other one in a shallow grave.

CJ Walley

Final Draft is to screenwriting what Photoshop is to image manipulation, it's become synonymous. I can forgive anybody for having reservations when someone bucks the trend. Even us writers regularly regurgitate the Final Draft is the industry standard spiel. But I feel it's beside the point. If that's the perception then we should thank Danny for the insight and move forward a little more savvy.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Hello Danny, Great advice and I respect all of them, even making a special formatting for each contest/people I send a script when I know their obsessions (bold and underlined headlines = Page, non bold and non underlined headlines = Nicholl ...) what is boring, worrying, and makes me wasting my CREATIVE time, and I agree with Andy Golub . We all know the origin and grounds of the current formatting: - The forties standard COURRIER 12 Typewriter, second pass to underline, third pass to put in bold, - Differentiated dialogues, characters and descriptions, one page of text = one minute of film. - Wisely using of technical terms (VO, OS, OC ...) is essential for the understanding of the action, as possibly capitalizing the first mention of a character and give they attributes. But every other in fashion fluctuating rules without any substantive reason are nit-picking: - Should continue to write "(More) ... / ... (Cont'd)" or not? - Should underline or bold the headlines and the names of the characters before dialogues or not? - Should character names always be capitalized (TV) or only the first time (cinema)? - Should banish particular TOOL despite consistent RESULT (Will I receive a "pass" ex officio if I sent a script typed on a genuine COURRIER 12 typewriter?) - ... BY DEFINITION, a rule which can be substituted by another one without a specific reason dictated to everyone and in every circumstance is UNNECESSARY. And unnecessary rules are rarely neutral: they are almost always harmful: - These are inefficient, - These cause stress to writer and are paid wasting creative time, - These are stupid loss of concentration for the readers, - These are a potential source of waste of good stories: "any screenwriter who uses WORD or Notepad and submits a script in one of those formats - it's an automatic pass.". Is this because they are well formatted Hollywood makes so many duds? This is OVERREADING, "enculage de mouches" that only encourages our psychorigid trends and maybe makes some good stories lost. Bad writing sucks. But overreading also sucks. Please excuse any mistake as English is not my native langage.

David Dogman Harvey

I'm only making the observation that (going to extremes) if a script is written on paper towels with a paper clip using one's blood and it's brilliant, it doesn't become even more brilliant put into proper form only that it's read. If I ran a production company and wanted excellent scripts ($), I'd be more interested in material over form. The "right in the trash" line is lame. Maybe true, but sophomoric. Just saying. A diamond is a diamond and it's unfortunate that one only looks in Tiffany's and never at Stowell's.

Danny Manus

Yes, but if you have a great diamond, you'd want to clean it up, polish it nice, and sell it in a pretty box with a bow. Not hide it in a pile of horseshit and try to convince people - "No really, there's a great diamond in there!" It is about substance over form, but first impressions are important because there's always going to be another good idea out there. And if you can choose between the writer with the great idea who knows format and presentation, and the great idea written on paper towel, then yeah - why would you choose the latter even if it's a slightly better idea? It's more work someone ELSE is going to have to pay for or do themself.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Don't forget Danny, bad writing sucks, but overreading also sucks.

David Dogman Harvey

Please think of me as your cranky grandfather. To the point. When I feel a script is as perfect as it can be and we know there's no such thing. I'm going to have to have to transfer it from WORD to what? I'm going to need to buy some software? This process wasn't very easy with Final Draft that I experiment with. This new hobby, and it is a hobby unless you get paid, is going to cost me more money? Yet contests accept it.

Steve Sherman

Just to add a bit to set perspective ... I ask myself a question after seeing a marvelous work. If I had written this exact same script, would they have made that into a movie? The answer is, of course, probably not. A great script is only one part of a successful piece. In fact, the writer is usually the only guy/gal that can be dead at the start of production. In fact, I suppose that if one is famous, being dead at the start of production only adds to production value. So, one way to look at it is, "will they ever make my great screenplay into a movie?" Maybe. Over my dead body ...

Greg McGee

How would someone know what software I was using to write a script anyway, as long as it was formatted according to standards? I'd just like to have a way to write without wasting so much time formatting. It really pulls me out of the creative process and puts me squarely where I don't need to be: worrying about tab stops and spacing. I'm sure Final Draft is a great piece of software, but I can't justify spending the princely sum of $179 to find out. Right now, I'm using a FREE Open Office template that I created, which sort of works. Until I get someone to buy something I write.

James Chalker

It's about gatekeepers. When confronted with overwhelming numbers of entrants, gatekeepers look for clear ways to knock people out. It's partly legit in that people that have not mastered certain conventions, probably haven't honed their writing to professional standards. It's partly illegit., but what are they supposed to do, they're confronted with overwhelming entrants.

James Chalker

Oh, and disclaimer, I write in Word, so you can dismiss everything I write.

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

You can write with any software you want... as long it's in Courier 12 pitch. You set your margins or whatever you need. Certain margins for dialogue... different margins for the narrative... different margins when two people are speaking at the same time. So why not use a software that formats everything for you that you need to have a professionally formatted screenplay? I'm now using FD9... started with FD5 and upgraded whenever it was made available. Why? Because the Final Draft people made it soooo easy for me not to even have to think about formatting. It was there. They even offer to convert it into pdf in their drop down menu which most people in the industry prefer. Easy. I love them.

James Chalker

I don't want to turn this into another writing software thread. For me it's a question of needing to devote my resources to such luxuries as food, shelter and electricity. I also am comfortable with Word and have no trouble with margins and such. At this point I've decided not to sweat it. If somebody's looking at my screenplay and all they can think about is what kind of software it was written on, then they're probably not interested in my script anyway.

CJ Walley

James, I don't think the software issue is with spec scripts. I feel it's more of an issue that's likely to crop up in meetings. Even in the very few meetings I've had FD has been referenced passively.

David Dogman Harvey

Words from an ignorant newbie. Started writing in what WORD first gave me. 9 Pts and Roman Times. Made an plastic template taped over my screen based on the screen sheet. First script was 78 pages with some bad and good advice I added since I thought I had room. Wrong and my blotted scripts problem fell harder in my second script when reproduced at 12 Pts. Just re-made my plastic template based on the printed page and it's close to perfect now. Formatting has been a negative in my scores getting 7's. Here the kicker PAGE INTERNATIONAL gave me 10 for my new script which was written with the bad template.

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Ah ah!

Jean-Marie Mazaleyrat

Happy New Year!

Chanel Ashley

Then get Celtx, it's free.

Suzette Prutsok

can u trust celtx?

CJ Walley

Yes, but you should go with whatever makes you feel the most comfortable.

Chanel Ashley

Why this trepidation re Celtx? Final Draft may be superior, but that doesn't mean Celtx is no good - personally I prefer it to FD.

Gordon Olivea

We are entrepreneurs, owners of a small business. If you want to be a professional, use professional tools. Final Draft has muscled its way to the top, and fairly or unfairly it is the standard today. A professional carpenter needs a $400 table saw, not the $100 table saw I have. A professional writer needs the right tools just like any other entrepreneur.

Shane M Wheeler

Final Draft has become industry standard, mostly because when you get to the stage where you're no longer writing the script AKA you sold it, another writer or director or cinematographer or producer etc. is going to need to break it down or rewrite it or budget it, etc. I can't afford FD right now, but if I sold a script, I'd be buying it in a heart beat, importing a text version of the celtx script (they translate in fairly well with some massaging), and get it ready to go for when somebody else needed it. The being said, if you can't afford it, use Celtx. You'll write faster and get better writing on that than you will on Word, and when you're ready/can afford it, FD will be waiting.

Pierre Langenegger

I'm a little late to the party on this one Danny but, good condensed article.

Lisa Clemens

Eventually you will need Final Draft. The Director/Producers I work with ALWAYS ask me to send them the script in Final Draft so that they can work on the budget. It's an investment but well worth it.

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