Screenwriting : Watch Your Language by Fiona Faith Ross

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Fiona Faith Ross

Watch Your Language

Can any of you please advise what language is permitted in family movies? For USA/UK what is allowed in Family classification (presumably none) and what in PG13? What expletives do teens use? What is considered permissible before a script tips into R? I'm having real difficulty getting the facts on this. If you don't want to post rude words here, PM me. And finally, is 'freakin' a swear word? Really? Sorry, not wishing to offend anyone.

Michael Wearing

In UK BBFC classifies films for theatrical release here is their guidelines on U, PG and 12/12 A as they relate to language Will there be any bad language in a U film? At U we only allow infrequent use of very mild bad language (e.g. ‘damn’ and ‘hell’). Will there be bad language in a PG film? There may be mild bad language (such as ‘shit’ or ‘son of a bitch’) in a PG film, but the context and delivery are always important. For example, if the language is used aggressively or if there is a great deal of bad language, a work may be passed at a higher category. Will there be uses of strong language in a 12A or 12 work? The BBFC's Guidelines state that strong language (e.g. 'f***') may be passed at 12 or 12A, depending on the manner in which it is used, who is using the language, its frequency and any special contextual justification. Aggressive uses of strong language may result in a film or DVD being placed at the 15 category. There is some allowance for puns on strong language at this category. There may be moderate language (e.g. uses of terms such as ‘bitch’ and ‘twat’ at 12 or 12A). It is useful for filmmakers to have a full understanding of the classifications as if you don't you may miss your intended audience entirely. This PDF provides full guidelines http://www.bbfc.co.uk/sites/default/files/attachments/BBFC%20Classificat...

Anthony Cawood

Fiona, unfortunately it isn't as simple as that, it never is. The BBFC for the UK has a classification guide PDF, quick Google and you'll find it... In general they state that they no longer rely on a list, but instead take into account the strength, context and tone of the words. They further state... U - infrequent use of only very mild bad language PG - mild bad language only 12A/12 - Moderate language is allowed. The use of strong language (e.g. Fck) must be infrequent 15 - Frequent use of stonger language, e.g. Fck, is allowed, The strongest terms e.g. Cnt, may be acceptable if justified by the context, but aggressive or repeated use is unlikely to be acceptable. 18 - Go for it. The MPAA also have a PDF about their ratings system and from what I remember they are very similar about their language... Only exception I can remember was that a PG13 wasn't supposed to have more than one stronger profanity in it, which I read as fck. Repeated use of that or worse would result in the film getting an R, which we don't really have the quivalent of in the UK as technically any age of child can go to an R - if they go with an adult... I'd avise you write the script with the UK guidelines in mind and don't get too hung up about it until someone wants to film the script, at that point aiming for a rating may change some of your profanity choices.

Tony Fisher

Hi Fiona, with regards to actual facts the best I could fins was this http://movies.about.com/od/dvds/fl/How-Does-a-Movie-Get-Its-Rating.htm No "freakin" is not a swear word, although its meaning will vary depending on the context. From what I have seen / heard most teens stick with the curse words we know of and use them frequently. Its also worth noting that more and more teens communicate in a shorthand. Things like TMI, TBH, BRB, OTP, Shipping, OMG etc.

Fiona Faith Ross

@MW, @AC, @TF, Thank you so much for comprehensive answers. Exactly what I needed to know. My character says 'freakin' alot (as does Will-i-am so I've heard.) It's part of the character's style. It seemed soft enough to me. The language I want to use is at the mild end of the spectrum, and it's always used in a humorous context. Nothing threatening in this story. The overriding tone is irony. I never use the "C" word. Can't bear it. Ugh. I wish it had never come into common parlance. In the UK we don't really like it at all, but maybe in US it's not perceived as strongly as it is here.

Bill Costantini

Check out the website for the exact rules that the MPAA follows. One sexually-explicit word can change a G-Rating or PG-Rating into a PG-13 Rating; more than one moves a film into an R-Rating; and content that is considered only appropriate for adults gets an NC-17 Rating. Drug use, nudity, adult themes,violence and sexual content are some of the other factors in the ratings as well. You can print a PDF of the Ratings Rules from the Film Ratings website. http://filmratings.com/what.html And this is one time that "rules" really are "rules", and not just "tools."

Jody Ellis

I have an incredibly foul mouth so pretty much any script I write is going to have an R rating, lol. I do temper that when writing tv pilots because if by some chance a non-cable channel was interested I don't want them to be put off by my plethora of F bombs. I also did a book adaption for a lady whose book was very much a PG story. It's hard for me to keep it clean though! My own stories are usually quite violent, sexual and sweary.

Fiona Faith Ross

TF, good point about the acronyms. I should try to bring those in more. I'll review the narrative. PF, I should explain it is not my intention to make this project a family movie. I had intended it as PG13, but I wanted to make the comparison and check the boundaries. Of course, it's a no-brainer really isn't it? No bad words in a family movie.

Bill Costantini

But what if that family movie is about a drunken sailor and his truck-driver wife whose three Cockney children run a shoplifting ring in the East End?

Fiona Faith Ross

Bill? You mean a contemporary take on Fagin, with Nancy as the truck-driver? Ha ha.

Pierre Langenegger

Yes Leon, you're allowed one F bomb per PG-13 and what's more, it can't be in reference to sex but can merely be an expletive.

Fiona Faith Ross

There are no F-bombs in my screenplay. The controversy is around the word "freakin".

Pierre Langenegger

Freakin' is not a swear word it is simply the insinuation of one.

Bill Costantini

This is weird...I never noticed this before. Every time I try to type the "F" word here....it automatically changes to "cherry." Cherry. This is so cherrying weird. Jee-zuz...Cherry you, Tomasz!!!

Jody Ellis

Why would there be a controversy around the word freakin? It's not a swear word.

Al Hibbert

is it friggin or frickin?

Thomas Scott

It might be your spell checker. Urban Dictionary says friggin: 'a non-swear-word replacement for "f_cking"' Freakin: 'To replace the word "f_cking" when you are saying/writing it for a large audience, esp. in a business setting.'

Al Hibbert

I never frickin knew that!

Al Hibbert

What the flock are you talking about? (ha ha).kidding!

Al Hibbert

There's a new usage- I'll use it in a sentence " Hey man, you really got Fizzacked!"

Pierre Langenegger

Never heard of fluck. Where the hell has that been used?

Al Hibbert

Sanda Fluck?

Fiona Faith Ross

You know what? I saw Deadpool yesterday. F-bomb the f-bombs! I gotta write what I gotta write. However, my character doesn't need to drop the f-bombs. He says "freakin" and it suits him. However, one of my editors has an issue with it.

Jody Ellis

Victor I've never heard the word fluck. Seriously are you guys just making shit up now???

Robert Rosenbaum

I try not to worry about what rating my screenplay might receive as to the language my characters use when I'm writing it. I try to temper my use of swear words, but it depends on the character and situation. Write what is true to your story. A character might say "freakin" in one situation and "fuckin" in another. In any case, those things can be change during shooting, or even shot two ways for different markets.

Geoff Webb

I wouldn't worry about it toooo much, the director/producer will add or cut any swearing as required. Just make it sound good and true to the story.

Pierre Langenegger

Victor, please don't make the assumption that I don't know what goes on in the U.S. or other countries just because I don't live there. I can tell you now, it's not common usage so perhaps it's just a regional thing isolated to your little corner of the world. Robert, you're 100% correct. You have to write what is true to your story and not worry about the rating. The rating is not determined until after the film has been made and as we all know, a lot can and does happen between writing your first draft and completing the edit of the film and the film can also be re-edited should the producers receive an unfavorable rating.

Al Hibbert

In real life, some people cuss, and others rarely, if ever cuss. Some people every other word is a cuss word, and others, may let one or two out under duress. This is really a question of knowing the 'voice' of your character- I haven't read every post in this thread, so I'm sure somebody or a few-bodies have made this point. And it's not always tied to how moral, or immoral a person is- There's some very 'moral' people who cuss up a storm and visa versa.

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