Screenplay Time

November 26th, 2012 by

Time is a mystery and perhaps nowhere more than in stories. As writers, we can jump through decades with one scene transition. Conversely we can stretch out mere moments for many pages, slowing down, even stopping the clock. Indeed something so fundamental as the choice of past tense, typical of novels and short stories, and present tense, the standard for screenplays, influences how we approach our writing.

But do we as screenwriters even think about screenplay time? Consider all of these narrative devices available for us to use: Flashback, Flashforward, Set-Up / Payoff, Callback, Montage, Series of Shots, Cross Cut, Transition, Pre-Lap. All related directly to time.

Yet for all that, I don’t think I have ever seen anything of substance written about this subject – no article, no book, no class. That’s rather shocking because the simple fact that we can control time in a screenplay makes us a little like a god… but only if we know how to handle that power.

Beginning next Monday [December 3rd], I will be teaching Core VIII: Time. It is a 1-week online screenwriting course featuring 6 lectures, inside tips, forum discussion, writing exercises and a 90-minute teleconference. The lectures are as follows:

Lecture 1: Present: Being in the Moment and Writing in the Moment

Lecture 2: Present-Past: Backstory and Nonlinear Storytelling

Lecture 3: Present-Future: Destiny and Narrative Drive

Lecture 4: Set-Ups, Payoffs, and Callbacks

Lecture 5: Montage and Series Of Shots

Lecture 6: Flashback and Flashforward

Script excerpts we will analyze include Ordinary People, The Hangover, Big Fish, Bull Durham, The Sixth Sense, Back to the Future, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Apartment, The Matrix, Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump and (500) Days of Summer.

This is the last of 8 Core classes I have created [Character, Plot, Concept, Theme, Scene, Dialogue, Style, Time], representing over 250 pages of theory and practice including dozens of insider writing tips and techniques. I will not be offering individual Core classes again until the 2nd quarter 2013, so if you have been thinking about taking a class with me, now is a great time.

To enroll, go here.

As always, I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.

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