Screenwriting : SPEC vs. SHOOTING SCRIPT: Training with TRAINING DAY, the script by David Ayer by Pablo Ponce de Leon

Pablo Ponce de Leon

SPEC vs. SHOOTING SCRIPT: Training with TRAINING DAY, the script by David Ayer

Hey guys! Instead of getting into an abstract discussion about the rights and wrongs of writing a spec (other entries already got into that) -- I propose something different just for fun (and for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES). So if you’re cool with it, I propose working with the shooting script for TRAINING DAY which David Ayer originally wrote as a spec many years back (which is not available). So working with the version that is available -- this one: http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/Training_Day.pdf -- I ask the following: If you had written this VERSION of the script as your spec and were sending it in today (2016) to be read by Joe or Mary Reader and you had zero feature screenwriting credits nor friends up the food chain -- before sending it in -- (being as this version contains some camera direction and director lingo) -- what would you change, if anything? What would be your reason for it? ------ PS: I sometimes feel that a spec screenwriter is a lot like rookie narcotics officer HOYT (Ethan Hawke) from the movie. He gets a lot of input on what he should or shouldn’t do to be a pro, but there comes a time when the line between right and wrong is either too thin or practically invisible. After all, as his training officer ALONSO (Denzel Washington) tells him, “the sh*t’s checkers. It ain’t chess”. Let's roll! Thanks in advance!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Well, I'll start with a quick superficial glance... I don't think I've ever read this script, so I'll have to read it more thoroughly later, anyway, what jumped out at me immediately were the action and camera directions given within slug lines(?)—hmmm, haven't seen that before. That I would change! The other thing... I found myself rolling my eyes over the sexism/misogyny all within the first ten pages—yeah, yeah, I know it's part of this "world" and characters. Which reminds me... I don't think I cared for the movie?—way back when. However, it's been a long long time and I only saw the film once. It will be interesting to read the script after all this time. Plus, I'm curious to see what others may comment. I'll have to add more after I've read the script. Great idea, Pablo. ;)

Conrad Ekeke

That should be more of a shooting script. A spec wouldn't contain those camera directions unless they're very very necessary.

Owen Mowatt

Massive difference between Spec and Shooting script. Download Michael Clayton, or Sideways, which are Shooting script and see the difference. There are a few directorial notes in Training Day, but in no way are they intrusive, more suggestive to me. Alexander Payne, Tony Gilroy, The Coen brothers, Tarantino, Nolan, P.T Anderson and all other writer/directors, you shouldn't really be looking at their scripts for formatting purposes, certainly not for a beginner. They don't produce their work to make life easier for some pimple faced reader or studio exec to understand. I can recommend reading Se7en spec script, then watch the film and see how many changes they must of made for the shooting script.

Pablo Ponce de Leon

Thanks, Beth. Yeah, the camera directions in the slugline are something I had never seen either. Reading it, it really does make it more dynamic I believe, but I wouldn't do this on spec for sure. Regarding the sexism, yes, I could see where it gets a bit much, but like you said it is part the world of the story. In fact, it's actually one of the key differences between the two leading characters, appearing like a sub-theme, within the bigger ethics theme driving away at the conscience of Ethan Hawke's character as he clashes with Alonso's way of doing things.

Pablo Ponce de Leon

Thanks, Conrad! Yes, I agree, the spec most likely didn't have these camera directions.

Pablo Ponce de Leon

Thanks, Owen! I'm sure there was a massive difference between this shooting script and the spec one we're trying to imagine here. I'll check out the material you recommended.

Owen Mowatt

It's not a shooting script, that was my point. Look at the examples I've advised and you'll see they are littered with directorial pointers.

Pablo Ponce de Leon

Do you know this for a fact, Owen? Dan Guardino said it was in fact the shooting script. I don't know whether it is or isn't. But being as what's made available to the public by the studios are usually the shooting scripts, I was inclined to agree with Dan. I have read many shooting scripts and I know they contain more directorial pointers than this one. At any rate, the question on this post was would you submit this as a spec as is or would you make some changes. The idea is to have fun with that. Are you in?

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yes, I'm well aware of the different personalities/ethos of the two main characters, hence the great power struggle between them—the writer does a fantastic job with both characters and the building tension between the two. However, that doesn't mean I have to like the subject matter. Lol! Nonetheless, I try to be as objective as possible. For me, I found the camera directions very distracting—looking at this script through the lens of the hypothetical spec script of today. I would remove many. Owen mentioned Sideways—great script! Sideways, for a shooting script has very little "direction." I'd say that script is much closer to a spec script. :)

Beth Fox Heisinger

This pdf of Training Day is the shooting script and it contains much direction: POV, MOVING, CLOSE UP, WIDEN TO, CUT TO, TIME CUT TO, FOLLOWING, ETC. The direction given within the sluglines would be an issue. That seems like something added during development.

Beth Fox Heisinger

It would be fantastic to get our hands on the first version, the spec script. Especially to see how the story may have changed, developed, what was added, removed, etc. I'm much more interested in those types of things than mechanical differences. :)

Bill Costantini

I love Training Day. David Ayer is a brilliant writer. I especially loved End of Watch. He's a writer's writer and certainly understands drama, as does the brilliant director Antoine Fuqua. It's interesting to note that Training Day is being reimagined as a television show this year. There are like a handful of successful movies that are being reimagined as television shows this season. A new trend is in the making.

Tim Johnson

Another simple one is the presence of scene numbers, which is just an on/off setting in most apps (usually want it Off). And I've heard others say try to avoid overusing CUT TO's for two reasons - one is that you could say every scene change implies a cut-to so why use up the lines in the script. The other is that it's not so much a directorial instruction as it is an editor's instruction, ie even further "downstream" instruction. One reason I love reading great scripts like this is the great description lines that you would never otherwise know about as a movie-viewer (even though you see the result). A line like "can kick your ass with a look" inspires reader, actor, and director alike and is great fun to read: DETECTIVE SERGEANT ALONZO HARRIS, in black shirt, black leather jacket. And just enough platinum and diamonds to look like somebody. He reads the paper in a booth. The gun leather-tough LAPD vet is a hands-on, blue-collar cop who can kick your ass with a look.

Pablo Ponce de Leon

Oh, wow! Great input, folks. Let’s see… BETH - You’re right. Even if the writer does a great job, it doesn’t mean we have to like the subject matter. If only film critics could be as straightforward about such things. With regards to camera directions, I would definitely remove them as a spec writer today as well. But in my case, not because they distract me, only because it's what’s expected. growls -- I come to writing from directing and post production, so when the script says WIDEN, CLOSE UP, etc I visually do as it says effortlessly. But yes, I know... // Sideways is a wonderful script (and movie), and you’re right, it pulls it off without camera directions all over the place. Yes, it’s likely that many of TRAINING DAY’s camera directions were probably added in development. If I find the original spec for it or for any other movie, I’ll let you guys know. BILL - I really like David Ayer’s writing too, END OF WATCH included, although I’m not crazy about U-571 and SWAT, but in terms of craft and style, he’s super talented. About this trend to make successful movies into TV shows, I don’t know. Let’s see what they do with TRAINING DAY, TV version… fingers crossed TIM - You’re right about CUT TO, pretty pointless most of the time. Perhaps, it could work to emphasize when it’s an abrupt cut, as in the middle of action that you would expect to continue otherwise. And yeah, reading descriptions like the one you point out makes it a much, much better read. I also like the way Ayer conveys the character’s feeling toward something with a line of “inside conversation” within the bulk of description. “Jake reacts. Then smiles -- This is kinda cool.”

Shelly J Buckman

I'm a little late to this party but when I searched the lounge, I found this and it's exactly what I'm dealing with right now. A little background. I had been writing more like a Novelist but found it tedious. I had read some 'shooting' scripts, got myself a copy of 'Screenwriters Bible' and starting writing in this new, more direct style. I really enjoyed it. I read all sorts of shooting scripts, used examples and fashioned myself a lovely FIRST script with all the appropriate 'book learnin' Direction. I've never seen an example of a 'spec' script so when I offered up some pages to another Writer here at Stage 32, imagine my surprise to discover I had not written a 'spec' script and that, in fact, I had written a 'shooting' script. Unfortunately, my Direction just made it a choppy read because I'm not a Director. I'm a new Writer and my Direction is going to be ignored anyway. So we focused on just the first page of my script. Thank you Dan M.! From Dan's note's I now understand the difference between the two types of Scripts. I mean I understood in 'theory' but, without notes or examples, it's difficult. I can learn ANYTHING but I need to to see it for myself. I could REALLY use some example Spec's. Has anyone found any yet?

Dan MaxXx

luv training day.. cant knock an Oscar winner.. but Im always on the fence when BONES does not help Alonzo at the end. I know BONES makes a comment that he 'hates this shit' (referring to Alonzo's presence in the Jungle).

Owen Mowatt

Alonzo wasn't one of them, they simply tolerated him wanting more than he gave. In the end he was asking for too much.

Regina Lee

Hi Pablo, based on only reading page 1, the 2 things I'd suggest changing are: 1) Delete Scene Numbers - In the US, Scene Numbers imply that you believe your draft is Production Ready, and are therefore, probably not very open-minded about development. In some non-US countries, Scene Numbers are standard, and do not imply the above. 2) Use more basic Scene Headings. "2 INT. JAKE'S HOUSE - KITCHEN - CLOSEUP - BRASSO - DAWN 2" This high level of detail asks your reader to expend a lot of mental energy picturing this scene, and there's not a big enough payoff after spending all this mental energy. IMO, you'd rather have them expend their mental energy on the big picture, not the small details, unless the details are vital to telling the story. Every reader has only a finite gas tank, and it will run dry. Plus, when a reader is reading a bunch of scripts, we start to skip over the Scene Headings anyway (and often, also only skimming stage direction/action) to save our mental energy for when it really counts. As an exec, the "Wide Angle" and "Cut To" don't bother me at all. "Wide Angle" is written so efficiently, it helps us. "Cut To" doesn't bother me, but it does take up space and makes the script run longer. "Cut To" usages will add up and increase page count. A longer page count could be more intimidating to your reader. I think most execs would be very happy with how efficiently the script tells its story. In the Hollywood Studio System, the format difference between "Shooting Scripts" and development drafts are NOT very different. The content might certainly change during creative development, but the format is typically very, very similar. Production Drafts start to take physical production into account. For example, you couldn't get permission to shoot at X location. The Production Script is revised to reflect the new location. You didn't plan 3 night scenes in a row; you revise to a day scene.

Pablo Ponce de Leon

Woah... somebody turned on the light again. Cool! ... SHELLY - Interesting experience you've had. Thanks for sharing. Yes, finding real specs has become the Holy Grail for many of us. It was pointed out earlier on this thread that the screenplay of SIDEWAYS has minimal camera direction and could therefore serve as a model. I do agree with that. I just wish we could find others like it for other genres more action-oriented so we could see how the writer got it done before the development. DAN / OWEN - I agree, Alonzo totally has it coming. I see it as sort of a theme of this movie / script. In a world of where you need to break all the rules to uphold the "law", how far is too far? Well, Alonzo is the poster boy for that, though he had us going for a while. REGINA - Interesting you mentioned outside of the US, I've written and produced for television in Latin America where there are many different ways to present scripts, depending on the style of the production company. Some are still working double column. -- Regarding TRAINING DAY, yes, the first thing that gets most of our attention is why does he turn a close up shot into a heading. As for the level of detail, I see that he is brief when that's all he needs: "In a Santa Clarita housing tract. It's dark." and provided a more vivid picture with words that evoke an experience in others: "Eyes glisten in the clock's shine, patiently watching the time." He could have just said, "He patiently watches the clock." or as some do it: "He watches the clock. Patiently." I think a reader would keep reading in both cases if he / she is engaged and pass otherwise. At any rate, I'm of the opinion that this script as a spec didn't look much different, except for Scene Numbers and camera direction like WIDEN and CUT TO. Whoever read it was indeed engaged. I believe he used it as his calling card for some time. But then again, this happened many years ago, so the question remains what do successful spec samples look like. Ideally, they look like ours. ;)

Shelly J Buckman

Again Dan M. thank you Sir! I think you just gave me my next 'Rule for Self'. If my story cannot be clearly understood from the dialogue then it's time to rewrite until it does. Here's the issue I've had with Writing my Spec, well besides the obvious, not being able to find any good examples ... it's bare bones to the max. I know that many writers will likely disagree with this but, PERSONALLY, I think writing a compelling Screenplay is more challenging than Novel writing. Why? Because that little tiny paragraph or two of action before the dialogue has to be so tight that EVERY SINGLE WORD counts. The meaning cannot be conveyed over the space of a full page or two. Each scene is its own mini world. I did find an article that was helpful in this regard and also offered a few pages of spec writing. Here it is. :) http://www.scriptmag.com/features/why-spec-scripts-fail-script-formattin...

Dan MaxXx

shelly- aint no hard rules. sprinkle your "voice" or "personality" in the action description. drop some F-bombs or Holy Sh*t with the "!" . Wake up the Reader/Intern/Junior Agent/Manager/Producer!!! (they're skimming pages anyways because your NAME on the title page is not famous). I think I wrote some shitty action description like this: JOE enters the seedy massage parlor and shoots 2 Dirtbags in their foreheads; this Mofo thinks he's the Killer from John Woo. make scripts fun to read.

Pablo Ponce de Leon

DAN- In one word: Yeah! In two words: F*ck yeah!

Regina Lee

My 2 cents - That is excellent advice from Dan Max. If I have to read a script that I'm not terribly excited about, if it's a low priority script, or if I'm in a rush, I start to read ONLY dialogue, and then I go back for stage direction ONLY IF I'm confused and can't follow the story. Any reader who has to read hundreds of scripts has a finite gas tank and finite time, and almost anyone in Hollywood will tell you that they read only dialogue when in a jam. Great advice, Dan Max. (If I'm consulting or producing the project, I of course read every line!!!)

Dan MaxXx

regina thanks for the props :). my last advice to new Writers printing scripts. tape $20 in the middle of script. The Reader will thank u and push your script to the 'good' pile. my biggest 'tip' was 2 dodgers tickets glued at page 50ish.. Great script :)))

Cherie Grant

Dan I agree re making scripts fun to read and I try to do that too. and I sure will drop a 'f-bomb' now and again.

Dan Guardino

Dan M. How man of the scripts got made that you recommended for a $20 bribe?

Dan MaxXx

O scripts. I did not recommend a single script, must have read over 3000 specs in 1 year.

Dan Guardino

Dan M. I must have misunderstood you. I thought you said you would recommend scripts if someone slipped you a $20 or Dodger tickets. After reading over 3,000 scripts in one year which would average about 8.2 scripts a day and you couldn't even find a single one to give a recommendation? You are either really, really, really picky or there are a lot more crappy screenwriters out there than I thought. However, I don't ever read other peoples screenplays so I really wouldn't have a clue how many bad scripts are floating around.

Dan MaxXx

My superiors wanted the next Ron Bass, Bruce J Rubin, Oliver Stone. They simply did not come up in my stack. (The bar is really high, the best 1% of the 1% percent). Whatever factors(names, commissions, 3-5 years of an Agent's time to develop), people want to work with people they know and are proven.

Regina Lee

Hi Dan Max, as you might have seen, I'm afraid that blanket statements might give young writers the wrong idea. I know you are savvy, but some people take blanket statements as gospel. In your defense, it can be said it's their own fault if they take any "rule" or assertion as gospel! Thus I'll offer this blog piece and say "it depends"... Justin Marks talks about finding the right young manager at the right time and growing up together. Btw, I agree it's not exactly "easy" to find a young manager, but it's too much of a blanket statement to say "people to to work with people they know and are proven" without saying that there are exceptions to every rule, especially for reps who want a portfolio of talent at different levels. There are those who actually ENJOY working with new talent. http://johnaugust.com/2011/get-a-manager

Dan MaxXx

Regina- very true. it's a combo of Talent, Luck, patience, and being at the right place, at right time. Just be ready when your number is called :) i wonder what was Justin Mark's salary before Jungle Book ? gotta be mid- 7 figures now for Jungle Book 2, plus merchandise, Disney theme parks.

Dan Guardino

Dan M. It is true a big agency might not want to rep an unproven screenwriter and most will not even accept unsolicited material. However there are a lot of smaller agencies that will rep unproven screenwriters they don't know if they believe that the screenwriter can produce will-written screenplays on a regular bases.

Dan MaxXx

Dan G- The 3 top dogs (Caa, wme, icm), they will find you. They looking at writing contests winners, Film school, festivals, short movies, playwrights, novelists, graphic IPs, youtube stars.. People are looking. Just be patient.

Dan Guardino

Dan M. Thanks for the advice but I already have a Agent. Also I am quitting writing screenplays to produce movies.

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