“Each scene must be a drama in itself. The whole picture must be made up of a series of small dramas. This makes the completed picture a mosaic of little ones. Scenes that have no dramatic value in them, or say nothing, must be eliminated. So the scenario writer must bear in mind at all times not what he can put into a picture, but what he can leave out.”
This from Jeanie Macpherson, actor and screenwriter from the silent picture era with over 200 movie credits. Thus her words have heft. Let’s parse those words.
We have a series of imperatives:
1. Each scene must be a drama in itself.
2. The whole picture must be made up of a series of small dramas. This makes the completed picture a mosaic of little ones.
3. Scenes that have no dramatic value in them, or say nothing, must be eliminated.
4. So the scenario writer must bear in mind at all times not what he can put into a picture, but what he can leave out.
This really is the Grand Slam of scene-writing advice.
As you write your first draft, you may grind out some scenes that are imperfect. That’s okay. Just. Keep. Writing. But honestly assess the scene and make a note about its problematic nature, flagging it for the rewrite.
Meanwhile as forge ahead, be mindful of this point:
“Each scene must be a drama in itself.”
I encourage you to head to comments to discuss today’s questions. And for a related discussion on The Black Board, check out these topics:
- Evaluating a Scene
- The fractal nature of screenplays
- How do you cut scenes?
- The importance of great scenes
- What is a scene?
The Quest” has entered Week 20! And so did Go On Your Own Quest, an opportunity for anyone to follow the structure of “The Quest” to dig into screenwriting theory [Core - 8 weeks], figure out your story [Prep - 6 weeks], and write a first draft [Pages - 10 weeks]. It’s a 24-week immersion in the screenwriting process and you can do it here – for free!
Today and every Monday through Friday for 10 weeks, I’ll use this slot to post something inspirational as GOYOQ participants pound out their first drafts.
Why not use the structure of this 24-week workshop to Go On Your Own Quest? That was an idea that gathered energy among many members of the GITS community which I described here.
For more information on Go On Your Own Quest, go here.
Plus you can join The Black Board, the Official Online Writing Community of the Black List and Go Into The Story, another free resource to help keep you inspired and on target at you Go On Your Own Quest from FADE IN to FADE OUT on the first draft of your original screenplay.