Peter Langmead's Blog

Film Director, Screenwriter, Composer, Steadicam operator, Social Documentary Photographer. My latest film is The Borderline, released on December 4, 2019.

Writing Film Scripts 4: Blinking Hard Work

After the action statement, fragmented or not, put your dialogue under the character’s name in capitals. Get the implied action and dialogue from the four chapters into the four script pages. You live with judgements on inclusions and exclusions for the rest of the adaptation, but they make it yours.

Harry Hama, played by Dixon Mumba Harry Hama on location, crew in the background.

Was that interesting? Not at all what you were expecting I am sure. Further, all you have done, if you did it, is physically organise Jane Austen’s material to fit, just the mechanics, without the continuum between Jane Austen’s era and yours, ‘[i]t is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife’ that is your real contribution.

Have you wondered why I might be writing this? I do not need to, I am even ‘retired’, but I am narked by the books based on workshops of enthusiastic students with ideas and no practical experience, but it is an approach to ‘knocking’ out textbooks, even if they are flawed to practitioners, who do not tend to write books anyway. There are exceptions, of course: they are more relaxed, but about something else: Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing’ is excellent; others are David Mamet’s book ‘On Directing Film’; Mike Figgis on ‘Digital Filmmaking’; and Walter Murch’s ‘In the Blink of an Eye’. None of these are textbooks, and none are about scriptwriting per se, but they will give you practical insights into writing film scripts.

But I have digressed: many people want to write film scripts, and some ask me if I can help. I live in Zambia, but this is not the reason: there is literacy and then there is literacy. I repeat, if you want to write ‘professionally’, you need to read a lot and write a lot. It is often said, we all have a book in us, and it is probably right, but if you are not writing frequently, it will take a long time because you do not know how to write or have a style. I am wrong? What is odd about numbers in this text; what is odd about the titles in this text; how about capitalising proper nouns – when should it be Prime Minister and when should it be prime minister?

With your biopic, the film script will never be finished, be in doubtful English and have no market; while, adapting a recognised book from the literature canon, you will discover how to write a film, inherit an timeline and pacing, and have a saleable script in the end. Kenneth Branagh did lots of them, wisely. Eventually, you will write your own material, but it is less costly when it is out-of-copyright. No, I did not follow my own advice!

Best regards,

Peter Langmead

P.S. Please have a look at my website here, for all sorts of interesting things about my film productions, operas and books on social photography. Remember, if there is no spit on the lens, you are not close enough - I do not know who said that but it is true. Write to me if you have a question.

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The Next Movie

The script is prepared for my next movie and pre-production is in progress. This is the most time-consuming part of filmmaking and production is expected to begin at the end of the year,