Screenwriting : Never do that! Maybe. by Leo Sopicki

Never do that! Maybe.

I've always heard, "Never use voice over in a script." At SXSW the panel moderator asked Sam Esmail when he chose to use VO in Mr Robot. “Right away,” Esmail said. “Do I talk to myself? That’s between me and my imaginary friend, but because Elliot didn’t talk to people, we had to use that screenwriting tool. Lots of people tell screenwriters not to use voiceover. Don’t listen to that. Many great films have VO.” Are there other "Never do that" rules that you break? Why do you do it? When is it OK to break the rules?

Anthony Cawood

There are no rules to break, as there isn't a rule book. There's just the current fashion for screenplays. So even things like VO or an element of camera direction in a spec can be okay if it's right for the script and not overdone, and as writers that' our choice. IMHO of course.

Frederic Lecamus

Voice Over is usually not recommended because it is the easy way out for exposition and story/universe. If you use it, reviewers will ask you where it comes from if it's not explicit in the narration. Unmotivated voice over means breaking the fourth wall - the spectator becomes part of the conversation and stops being an invisible witness to the story you've created. It may not sound like it but it is a big deal, and it will be seen as an amateur move, a shortcut to drop pipe where laying it would have been too difficult. Breaking the fourth wall is common these days but shouldn't be treated lightly. It is most definitely a hit or miss. Having watched Esmail's work, and that mind-boggling quote, I'm not surprised this concept goes over his head.......

Bill Costantini

I love films with multiple narrators, like Amarcord, Casino and Goodfellas. There are probably hundreds of great films that have used narration throughout the history of cinema. Many television do it, too A few rules I'd ALWAYS adhere to are the rules of formatting. Margins and font type/size rules should never be broken. I'd also adhere to rules specific to contests, and submission rules to producers and other entities that have them. I also adhere to various theories/elements essential to dramatic writing and cinema, but that's a list for another forum topic or two...or twenty. Good luck, Leo Sopicki from Rannnnnncho C!

Eric Rudnick

I've also heard that a lot of films w/ voiceover add it in the editing when it becomes clear that story points that were meant to be translated to the audience are not clear. If it seems integral from the outset (like a writer going over his life in a coming of age story), then yeah. Otherwise, I've been advised to use VO when it's the only way to tell the story you want to tell (ex. murder victim giving his/her side, etc.).

Dan Guardino

I do it the same way as Bill does it.

William Martell

Anyone who says "Don't use voice over" really means "Don't use it incorrectly" - and the problem is, most new writers use it incorrectly. They use it as a crutch. That's the truth behind every "rule" - there are no actual rules, but these are things that so many people get wrong that it's just easier to say "Don't do that."

Lora Covrett

I heard someone on a podcast once say they stop reading if the writer uses an X in the character's name...like Jaxon. I don't let that stop me from naming my characters whatever I want call them. :)

Pierre Langenegger

An X in the name? Really? That's rather narrow minded.

Leo Sopicki

Searched "X" in characters on IMDB and got over 100 hits. Couldn't be that bad.

Leo Sopicki

Ronnie Mackintosh - Good link. I was unfamiliar with that site. Thanks.

Lora Covrett

LOL...I wish I could remember who it was that objected to the X names...it was a guest on Pilar Alessandra's podcast from a few months ago. (Pilar is awesome though.)

Adam Tester

Never say never, if it works for what you need then go for it. That's what I think

Aray Brown

All in moderation

Leo Sopicki

Lori, agree about Pilar. I find her course very practical.

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