Screenwriting : Better Call Saul board by Adam Harper

Adam Harper

Better Call Saul board

I saw this in twitter land and thought that fellow Stage 32 people may find it interesting/useful.

If you don't want to ruin the Better Call Saul season 4 finale for yourself, don't open this image and squint at it!

Does anyone else do similar? My home is too small for an outlining wall :-( I was using an excel spread sheet but, a writer friend introduced me to Trello this week and I'm hooked on it!

Bill Costantini

That should inspire (almost) everyone. Nice share, Adam. Here's one of mine, titled "Sleepy Writer Needs Haircut." Shawn Speake, My Man from Coloradostan, has some killer boards, too.

Pamela Bolinder

Please elaborate on the teaser.

Adam Harper

Nice work Bill! It looks crammed with juicy detail (in a good way)

Hi Pamela, Better Call Saul episodes always start with a little teaser (only a few minutes long) which tends to be a flashback (but it has been a flash-forward to the present day too). It's usually something anecdotal or seemingly insignificant but, they tend to reveal a little something new about the character or reflect the theme of the episode/season.

After the teaser the opening credits kick in, then after that it's into the four acts :-)

Luis Lauschner

Trello is very useful. I used it for my last short. It saves space in your room and it saves time. Very helpful/useful!

Pamela Bolinder

Bill - please elaborate on your storyboard. I'm curious, how do you start it? When you change stories do you file it away? What is your system? Does it change?

Pamela Bolinder

Adam - would you apply the teaser concept to script development?

Pamela Bolinder

Trello?

Pamela Bolinder

I really appreciate this post. We are back to craft questions! YAY! I also appreciate that I can ask questions without feeling concerned about how those questions might define me. When answers come... I have a notebook where I jot it down responses. That is the perpetual student in me.

Adam Harper

Pamela - I think a teaser is used a lot in TV. If you think of sitcoms such as Friends, there is always a small scene before the opening credits. I suppose it comes down to how you'd like to format your show. It's not really relevant in features (although in horror there seems to be a tendency to start with a stranger being killed before the story truly starts. In a way these are teasers).

Trello is a website/app. You can create your own digital boards, it's easy enough to create one that would look like the Better Call Saul example. But, because it's digital it's much easier to switch beats around, insert new ones, add additional comments etc. It's free too, which always helps :-)

Adam Harper

Pamela, for the record, I'm still learning too, but I'll help as much as I can. I'm really interested in structure so I love these kinds of discussions :-)

Bill Costantini

Pamela: well, I use a few different methods. I have a BAB (Big Ass Board) that I start with, and that's for the beginnings of scene ideas, and for my grand rising action path. I use a detailed matrix-style beat sheet in a spreadsheet for external action, character transformation, escalation of external conflict, escalation of internal conflict, emotional states, and ironies. I keep that hard copy of that on the desk when I'm writing.. I use the little board that you see there for mindful things that I always need to see in front of me, like important shifts in a story, important dialogue quotes , a-ha moments, and scene names, and whatever other mindful things I need to see in front of me. I always name a scene - that scores the intent of each scene, like a lot of tv shows and films do. So I do a lot of thinking, question-answering, planning, and pre-writing, before I actually start writing.

All the screenwriting softwares have those elements built into them, but I like to see everything in front of me on a wall. I hate jumping from feature-to-feature on a computer, and like to have as much stuff on my wall boards and on my hard copy beat sheets as I possibly can. I simply hate having multiple windows open on a monitor, and I even use two computer monitors at all times now, too - one for my script, and the other for any extemporaneous thoughts or dialogues that might float into my head while I'm working on the actual script drafts. I type a lot faster than I can write longhand, and I use a tape recorder, too. But this whole process is what works best for me, and keeps me in that zone I need to be in to write the best that I can.

I've always been a "board writer," and learned the importance of that in college, and got better at it when using project management softwares for my various jobs throughout my life. Even when we were doing 30-second commercials during an internship at NBC, we had a BAB. Everything was always detailed out, including the teaser(s). The teaser, in fact, began and ended our 30-second spots for NBC shows. MovieMagic Screenwriter has a lot of great tools for the whole screenwriting process, too, but I hate doing that, for the reasons I described above, but I really do love that product. And the others, too - all the big name products are really great tools for writers.

Beth Fox Heisinger

I don’t do cards myself, although I’m currently working on a storyboard. And I’m not exactly sure what is in the image above? Doesn’t look like a typical war room/writers room board, but certainly could be? TV series are typically run by a showrunner (head writer/producer) and work with a team of writers. So outlines, plans, boards are often key to working together and structuring not only each episode but the season as well. A lot of feature writers use index cards too. Me, I prefer a simple document. Although charting helps as well—laying out moments along a horizontal line, helps to see when something should occur for effect. ;) Hope that helps!

Pamela Bolinder

Bill! Filled up a whole page in my notebook! Thank you, thank you! What do you mean by important dialogue quotes? And, how do you use those exactly?

Pamela Bolinder

Bill - You mentioned "name a scene - that scores the intent of each scene". I can see how this would help you quickly assemble a treatment. Right? I was asked to do a treatment. It took me an entire night to knock it out. If I would have had my scenes named/intent... that would have speeded things up. I want to dive into the topic of treatments—maybe another thread topic.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Bill, I agree. I prefer to get off the computer too. Jumping from feature to feature rather shuts me down sometimes. Apparently, my past in advertising/branding affects how I approach writing now. I know you’re an artist too, Bill, so I assume you work visually as well when it comes to screenwriting. My two cents, I think writers tend to get a little too myopic. And adding other approaches or talking out their stories may help writers to see their work from a wider perspective. But, of course, everyone has their own process. Whatever works best for you. ;)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Sorry, Bill, just had a chance to read your post in full. Yes, we did boards and concept walls in advertising/branding where I worked as well. Had to present ideas/concepts to the group. Defend. Debate. Absorb others opinions. Make adjustments. Or be given the lead. Same thing in fine arts. Stand in front of the room and talk about your creative choices. ;)

Adam Harper

I imagine standing back and looking at your plan spread out on a big cork board is much more gratifying and rewarding than me squinting at my tablet!

Maybe that is what I should ask Santa for this year. A huge cork coard, and index cards, lots of index cards!

Dan Guardino

Pamela. Teasers are sometimes used when formatting a TV script. You wouldn't use them in a feature film screenplay. A treatment is used to pitch when there is no screenplay. Some people do use them as an outline when writing their screenplays but I don't. A story board are drawings that show the different scenes.

Bill Costantini

Pamela: I don't know about "quickly". The only things that I do quickly are typing forum replies, and striking out when I'm playing baseball. It should help, though - it helps keep me on point for each scene/keeps me focused on the intent/and helps me deliver all of the functions and purposes of that scene. The first time I saw that used extensively in TV/Film is on the TV show "Frazier", and in various Woody Allen films.

Pamela: important dialogue quotes are, for me, like a funny-ass line, or a heartbreaking line, or something ironic, or some other type of important line. Those things come to me when I'm brainstorming, and I have to write them down. They also look nice on my board and keep me inspired and focused, and help keep my eyes on the prize. I flesh them out when I get to them, or somewhere during the process. I also involve others in fleshing lines out - women, children, teens, young adults, and others. I know some here do otherwise, but I need help from others in creating/validating how people other than myself talk, and even in validating how I feel people other than myself may think or process things. That's what a lot of script doctors do, too, that the studios pay for, and who are usually uncredited, and another reason why TV shows have/should have diverse writers' rooms.

Beth: I hear you. Man...some of those storyboards even had the color schemes used (as you know, colors have their own intended impacts, like in film and other works of art), and even had the subliminal elements to be utilized. Man, those sneaky....oops...I didn't type that....my computer has been hijacked again. Code Red! Code Red! Stat! Heh-heh.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Well, a teaser-like aspect could be part of your opening pages in a feature, say, as part of the hook. ;)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Adam, sure, but doing boards can also be a lot of busy work, perhaps unnecessary, you know, just a way to avoid writing. Lol! :)))

Beth Fox Heisinger

Also, boards serve a function, especially if working with a team of people.

Dan Guardino

I am kind of thinking some are confusing a storyboard with a beat sheet or cards. Story boards are drawings that someone else would do.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Bill, yes, we had to do color boards, mood boards, concept boards, and concept videos and ad mock ups. Sometimes for multiple different directions — all flushed out in full. Whew!

Bill Costantini

Not to sidetrack, but speaking of "subliminal effects".....lots of art has subliminal messages. My favorite example of subliminal effects in film is in The Exorcist and those scary faces that you see for like a fraction of a second. Man...when I first saw The Exorcist, I was staying at a friend's house for the weekend, and his parents were away. Man...we slept in the backyard all weekend after seeing that film, and it was winter in Chicago. When I first read that novel, I was like in 6th grade and didn't go in our basement for like two months. That is such great writing and filmmaking. I was like...oh shit....what was that sound in my attic? Oh man....gotta go - gotta go! Heh-heh.

And Beth...yeah, my vision gets kinda cloudy when jumping from window to window, and even when they are side by side. And I get a bad kinda tunnel vision and even headaches at times, instead of a good kinda overview that keeps me in a good head space. I gotta get up and look at nature or landscapes or stuff like that when that happens. I just can't do that with computer screens.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Right, Dan G. Sorry, I don’t mean to confuse. I’m talking about all kinds of boards. Index card boards or big whiteboards divided up into sections or acts are more common for writers, either working independently or with a team. Although image boards can be helpful too.

Dan Guardino

Beth. No problem.

Kevin Carothers

I tried trello and another app available for iPads but they got cumbersome to me...

But with that said, working with large groups of software people, we use post-its on whiteboards all the time - so whenever I work with a team I will use either a cork board or white board with large post-its - it just works to have all eyes involved with the project looking at the same thing.

BUT - if I'm just writing a spec script, a simple text editor (textedit on mac, textpad for windows) works fine (for me) for storyboarding.

Cool pic btw.

Bill Costantini

Kevin: we used PrimaVera at two of the companies that I worked for, and that stuff is da bomb.

Some of the plans of the various projects had over 10,000 action items, and I listened/wrote many of them into the plan. I had no idea what the developer/DBA folks were saying - it was all a like a foreign language to me - but I just kept saying to them "five words! Say it in five words!" Fortunately, we had really great DBA's, and they were able to do that. Great DBA's are worth their weight in gold, and the rest of the development chain are, too.

I did come away with a deeper respect for those architect, coder, designer, tester people, though, and vice-versa. PrimaVera is great stuff.

Kevin Carothers

Bill:

Ah - now you're talking Project management software.... That's a different thing in my mind.

But yeah, Primavera is a Cadillac in that arena - although I tend to shy away from Oracle; $expensive$ and not browser based.... Which means no Mac support.

I use JIRA for PM - mainly coz it's cheap, works everywhere, also pretty scalable fast. It gets weird in places, though.

John Iannucci

Just got free app - Cardflow - it’s great. Easy to use and easy to outline story. And it’s free in napple store

Kevin Carothers

John Iannucci I dont see it in the app store,... Is it spelled right?

John Iannucci

I'm looking at it as we speak - Cardflow. It's for iPad Nice thing is it's optimized for iPad pro (works in others) so I can use pen when I use it. Nice break after typing actually script. Used it last night - carded complete first act for next script. (not in app store for iMac though) You can move cards around with hands - really easy.

Kevin Carothers

ahh - sorry. I'm on my macbook... different animal :)

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