Film Courage: What were some common clichés (at that time) which you were seeing in these scripts?
Daniel Calvisi: Well, some big mistakes from scripts coming in the door were big, really dense blocks of description, just too many words on the page. The worst is when they make the margins really small so they can fit more on the page because they haven’t tightened the script up enough. So with making the margins tiny and even the spacing, you can make tighter in Final Draft and in other screenwriting software, if you do that the [script] reader immediately knows you are cheating and they know that your script may say it’s 110 pages. But if you went to normal margins and normal spacing, it would probably be like 123 pages or something.
So [professional script] readers hate that. You know right off the bat because you are taking up more of their time and it also shows that you’re an undisciplined writer who doesn’t know how to write a well-paced script in the proper spacing and format with let’s say the average script being around 105 to 110 pages these days.
So there is that and then it takes too long to get to the inciting incident. The inciting incident should be between page 8 to 10. Sometimes 12 is okay but we really need a catalyst, you know? We need an inciting incident to happen. And then (as well later on) you don’t want Act 1 to be too far into the script. The break of Act 1 and Act 2 should be probably around Page 30. It doesn’t have to be exactly on Page 30, but around Page 30. But in some beginner scripts it would literally be on Page 47 before a really big turn in direction happened and it felt like we were in Act 2. So those are some examples.
However the on-the-nose dialogue could be one of the worst. I like to say sometimes talking heads dialogue where it’s just two characters talking to each other (kind of at each other). And then Q&A sessions are the worst. That’s where one character keeps asking another character questions and then they just keep answering it. So it’s almost like a interview. And if that goes on for too long it really tires out the reader and it gets really what we call on-the-nose.
Question to the Viewers: What mistakes did you make as a beginning screenwriter?
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