“What’s The Deal With That!?” Learning Dialogue From Seinfeld.

Dialogue is tricky, you try and be innovative and you either end up dead on the nose, or sounding like your characters are starring in their own lifetime day show. The reason it’s so tricky is because as a writer you have to find the balance of creating a character which feels real, while sneakily writing in foreshadowing, character development and even plot developments, yadda yadda yadda.

Bottom line, it’s not too easy.

So how do you do it? One show that’s known for it’s strong dialogue is Seinfeld; the show about nothing. Now I know what you’re thinking:

“But Greg, if Seinfeld isn’t about anything, how can I use it to write meaningful dialogue for my independant-character-drama about the anatomy of the human soul?”

Settle.

Copying Seinfeld is not what I’m talking about; what I’m talking about is looking at what the show does really well and using it as inspiration for your own work.

1. CHARACTER VOICE

One of the big traps about writing for multiple characters is accidentally making them feel like the same character instead of individual people.

This is something Seinfeld does really well; Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine are all different characters that feel real and different. They get along, they clash, yet they all fit in the show’s quick-witted-sarcastic theme.

Give your character a quirk and let their dialogue reflect this quirk.

2. PULL THE RUG OUT

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Nothing is worse than cliche dialogue, it’s boring and we’ve heard it a million times.

Subvert your audience’s expectations, don’t give them the same run around again and again; pull the rug out from under them.

It’s one of the reasons shows like Seinfeld and directors like Wes Anderson, or Edgar Wright are as successful as they are. They know how to catch you off guard with their dialogue.

In Moonrise Kingdom When Bill Murray gets asked if he’s concerned that his daughter runs away from home his response is: “That’s a loaded question.”

When Simon Pegg starts excelling at work in Hot Fuzz he gets punished because “Frankly, you’re making us all look bad.”

And lastly when George gets told, “It’s not you, it’s me,” his response is, “You’re damn right it’s me!” Or when Kramer says… well when Kramer says just about anything.

When writing your dialogue remember, your audience probably has a sense of where a conversation is going, try to throw them off. Set your character up for a promotion then demote them, have them take control, or lose control in unexpected ways. It’s more memorable and you’ll probably have a lot more fun writing it out.

3. BEND REALITY

When writing dialogue, you would think you’d want to write as realistically as possible. It’s not true. In real life our words get away from us. We trail on and on and on, go down tangents and rabbit holes, until we’re half way through a story about our cousin Louie.

Point is, you don’t really want to write to reality, but you do want to cater to your theme. Going back to point 1 all of the characters in Seinfeld are their own person, but their dialogue fits the tone and pacing of the show. Exhibit A.

It feels real and authentic because as the audience we like these characters and we’ve bought into their world. It’s also one of the reasons as a filmmaker why I constantly find myself using the show for inspiration.

 

Written by Gregory Garofalo. 

Wonder Woman: More Than a Feminist Icon

Motivated by compassion and love is Diana of Themyscira, the Wonder Woman who is the latest superhero to grace our cinema screens. We all know her as the powerful goddess who answers to no man and seeks to defeat Ares, the god of war, thus saving humanity and making it pure again.

If only it were so were so simple.

Wonder Woman stands as an empowering testament of female capability, yet it masks itself in the desire to make life mean something. Men and women alike can relate to her character because of what she stands for: the desire to ‘make a difference’ in a suffering world, and the desire to continue doing so even in the realisation that the world will always suffer.

Before the age of disillusionment and cynicism rises to meet us, young adults often face a wonderfully powerful Messianic phase in which desires of finding a ‘cause’ to cling to come to fruition. Many times these desires are enacted upon and take many forms, whether it is through education, donating to charity or placing oneself in the midst of the trouble, it is common to give a damn.

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Perhaps this is why we see so many people entering fields such as medicine, social work and law enforcement – these are practical ways of enacting this Messianic phase.*

As someone who never had to care before, who didn’t even know there was a world to care about, Diana instinctively latched onto the idea that the world needed her. She was not aware of the power she possessed, and she was never told the purpose of her creation was to save the world from itself.

A powerful scene towards the beginning of the film shows Diana sneaking away from her home in the middle of the night to embark on her journey of Ares’ defeat, when her mother finds her and warns her that she may never be able to return. “Who would I be if I stay?” she replies. She became aware of a cause, and as a result felt responsible to do something about it.

Similarly, in our society, once a social issue is brought to light, it becomes our responsibility to do something about it. Ignorance is no longer blissful, and if one so chooses to do nothing, it becomes wilful – and who wants to be guilty of that?

Wonder Woman urges us to fulfil our perceived duty as human beings: to realise our common purpose, to live for something bigger than ourselves and to leave our comfort zone when doing so, even when it seems like nothing will change.

The themes of compassion, justice and ‘making a difference’ in the world is pertinent in the film. More insightful, though, is Diana’s journey from being the ‘saviour’ to realising she is actually powerless to change anything in a world that is self-destructive – in a world not wanting her help.

How do we, as those who do want to have an impact, respond to this? Furthermore, why should we even care? Why should we, like Diana, keep on fighting for humanity even as we watch humanity make the same mistakes? Diana’s partner in the film – American soldier and spy, John, insightfully outlines his motives for his actions. He says he can “do nothing or do something… I already tried nothing.”

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This is a statement I believe resonates with many people, yet the perplexing question for me is: Why do we even feel like we want to do something? For Diana, it was the purpose of her existence – her “pre-ordinance”, she called it, and so it makes sense.

Is it also our pre-ordinance? What is our motivation and why do we persevere even as the world continues in its suffering? Interestingly, superhero films, such as Wonder Woman, all carry these similar themes of responsibility, duty and ‘saving the world’. They are the highest grossing films of our time.

It seems like a collective fantasy we have as a human race: to make our lives count for something great. Perhaps we project this ideal onto films such as these. They make us question our own pre-ordinance, and if we don’t have one, then we crave it. They call us to action. Ultimately, they are representations of what we could be.

Wonder Woman, albeit an empowering female figure, is a picture of the human purpose – a motivation to contribute to the common good of humanity. She calls into question our desires and motives for making a difference in our dark world, and challenges us to continue doing so even when nothing seems to change.

Written by Hayley McGarvie.

 

*Going into medicine is one way for people to enact that Messianic phase.

How to Find Royalty Free Music That Doesn’t Suck

If you’ve ever been a film school student or a no-budget independent filmmaker, then you know the pain. Finding high quality music to fit your movie for free is darn near impossible.

God bless Kevin MacCleod, but if I hear “Sneaky Snitch” in one more short film I’m going to throw something.

Before you get started on the journey of including royalty free music, be sure you understand the laws surrounding creative commons and licensed music. Every artist may have different stipulations for the use of their music in your film; many of them refuse it for commercial use (you would make a monetary profit from the video) and almost all will require you to credit their work.

“Royalty free music” does NOT always mean “free to use.”

Please have a firm understanding of what is required of you in using the artist’s piece before including it in your film. When in doubt, contact the artist and ask them directly.

Here’s a list of resources for your own short films and videos to help fill it out and bring it to life.

1. Incompetech

I literally warned you about “Sneaky Snitch” two seconds ago, however there’s no denying Kevin MacCleod’s music is iconic to the fledgling filmmaker. It can also be a great introduction into the world of royalty-free music for film. If you’ve never used any of his music, check it out!

However, don’t be surprised when you hear it in every other student short film known to humankind.

2. Free Music Archive

With a wide variety of music, some with lyrics and some without, this is a great one stop shop for all your royalty free music needs. All the music is free to download and easy to use. It has a great search engine to better find the kind of music you’re looking for.

Also, if you’re an up-and-coming composer, you can upload your works to this website for filmmakers (or whoever) to download.

However, like every royalty free music site, you really need to invest some time in separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of quality.

3. Bensound

Another website similar in style to Free Music Archive, but with a more limited library, Bensound is filled with royalty free music by French composer Ben Tissot. There is some great work on this site, but much like Kevin MacCleod’s works don’t be surprised to hear it in several other short films and videos.

4. YouTube Channels

Currently, YouTube provides me with the best royalty-free music on the internet, particularly if I’m looking for anything remotely resembling trap/club music.

You can find music one of two ways:

  • Look through the audio library and download the song you like directly from YouTube
  • Search YouTube the old fashioned way, find a channel with great royalty free music, and follow the channel’s instructions to download the track you like. Channels like RoyalTrax, AudioLibrary, and Argofox are great places to start.

You’ll find some familiar faces hanging out on YouTube as well (Bensound & Kevin MacCleod). The only downsides to using YouTube as a source are:

  1. It can be a complicated process downloading the track you like.
  2. Finding the specific style of music you’re looking for can be a bit more complicated than some of the other sites.

A FEW MORE OPTIONS….

Now before you start a download frenzy with the above listed resources, here are a few more options to think about.

5. Hire a Local, Up and Coming Composer For Free

Of all of the roles in film production, I’ve never had a group of people literally throw themselves at me like film composers. 60% of the messages we get as a production company asking for an opportunity are composers. I’m not kidding or exaggerating (if anything I lowballed the percentage).

There are people out there who are looking for a chance to score a film. Ask for their samples of previous works, and if you like what you hear, then you’re able to help them out as well as yourself.

6. Ask Your Musically Talented Friends to Help You

Other than downloading music from the interwebs, this is my go-to for finding music for my projects. Being a creative, I have no shortage of friends who are musical geniuses who have yet to make a break into the business.

They often appreciate the opportunity to stretch themselves in creating something, as much as I appreciate receiving some great music for my film.

Be sure to ask a friend however who is open to constructive feedback and direction. You don’t want to ruin a great relationship over a short film.

7. Audiojungle

If I find myself in a pinch, I bite the bullet and purchase a song from this comprehensive music library.

While there is plenty of mediocre music on the site, there is just as much of good quality. I’ve never been disappointed by a track I’ve downloaded, and to date I’ve never paid more than $20AUD for a track.

There is some great music out there, free for you to use. Happy hunting everyone, and don’t be afraid to find creative solutions.

 

Written by Brenden Bell.

Continuity is Important: How to Keep it Consistent

Written by Brenden Bell.

As an independent filmmaker, continuity isn’t something you really think about as relevant or important to a film. Especially when you’ve never made one. If you’ve made one, then you know how crucial it can be.

When you’re watching a film, the filmmakers create the illusion of continuous action on a linear time line (unless you’re watching something like Memento or Arrival), and it’s the continuity department’s job on a film set to ensure this illusion is maintained.

While the film often plays out in a linear format, it’s almost never shot that way. You may shoot a scene with your character standing outside a building and walking into it a month before you film her walking through her office and to her desk.

It’s continuity’s job to make sure these scenes can be edited together continuously.

The continuity head has many official titles: continuity, script supervisor, or script girl (if this was the 1950’s). For the sake of continuity (see what I did there?), from here on out we’ll call this person the script supervisor.

This has been my role on two feature films and countless short films at this point, and I have a love hate relationship with this job. Mostly, I enjoy it because I get to be bossy and anal, which is always a great time for everyone involved.

I’ve learned quite a few things on how to do this job both from mentors and the school of hard knocks.

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1. Create Your Own Script Breakdown

 

This is CRUCIAL in maintaining continuity.  This can be a document or a spreadsheet, but it needs to be something you can quickly and easily reference that breaks down scene by scene which costume a character should be in, which props need to be on set, what makeup and effects are needed and so on.

This was especially crucial for me on my last feature film, Out of the Woods. Half of the film takes place in the woods with our lead character wearing the same basic costume the entire time. In my breakdown, I had tracked the amount of distress his costume needed to be in for each scene. Using this method I would know which version of his one costume he needed to be in for each scene.

Something else important to include in your breakdown is both the literal day and script day. Literal day is the actual date each scene is supposed to take place on, tracking the passage of time throughout the script.

Script days are only the days that will appear on screen. So Scene 1 can take place a week before scene 2, but scene 1 would be Day 1 (D1) and scene 2 would be D2. While they wouldn’t be back to back to each other in literal date in the world of the story, there is no scene on the dates between those script days.

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2. Take Pictures of Literally Everything

 

Since everything needs to stay consistent, it’s important to keep a photo log of everything: sets, props, costumes, makeup, hair, etc. This is done for several reasons:

  • There could be re-shoots down the road, and the script supervisor’s photos would be vital to reconstituting the set to exactly what it looked like. This is the same with the hair, makeup, and costumes of the actors. If it’s not consistent with what was previously shot, then the reshoots will not be able to edit into the original shots seamlessly.
  • There may be a great deal of action within a scene that requires the destruction, movement, or removal of set pieces, props, costumes, or makeup. There will not only be several takes attempted of one shot within a scene, but several shots of the same scene from different angles. All of this will require the script supervisor to know how everything was originally set in order for the scene to be reset between takes and shots.
  • If two scenes take place on the same script day and feature the same characters, generally they will be in similar wardrobe, similar makeup, and may even be carrying the same props. Photos will ensure consistency, as these will often be shot out of sequence.

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3. Take Notes About Literally Everything

The majority of your job as a script supervisor will be sitting behind a variety of monitors and watching the action. You’ll be taking notes like a madman. I tend to write down every physical choice the actors make and when they make those choices within the scene.

It’s your job during takes to be sure that the scene is playing out in the same way every time. If an actor takes a sip from their glass in a scene at a different place every shot, it will be impossible to edit that sequence together in a way that feels continuous. You’re job is to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Now before you alert your superiors to every little thing, wait till a take has been printed before you say anything. The director and actors are still finding their rhythm and how they want the scene to go. I would then use the printed take as a template for the actor’s physical choices and politely notify the nearest A.D. or your Director of any errors that could cause an edit to lack continuity.

There’s so much to say about being a script supervisor. I hope this helps in your journey as independent filmmakers toward having the best continuity in your film ever.

How To Use Comic Books To Improve Your Filmmaking

Written by Greg Garofalo.

Film is a visual medium, unlike other forms of story everything is told mainly in what isn’t said. The classic rule of thumb is “Show don’t tell.” It’s something you have to get used to when you become a filmmaker.

One unconventional way of studying this is by reading comic books. Yep that’s right, comic books.

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Comics are an extremely visual medium, they also happen to base themselves off of cinematic angles. As in film, most of the story is told through what you see and not what is said.

I always like to go back to Matt Fraction’s run on Hawkeye.

Honestly, I believe this could be translated almost shot for shot into possibly the best movie ever made (and yes that is part of my pitch to direct, Marvel if you’re listening my contact info is at the bottom).

Take this panel for example from that particular run.

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Now let’s pretend this is a scene from a film and each panel is a shot and the characters aren’t drawn, they’re framed. What do you notice about the Femme Fatale?

Let’s dissect it visually shot for shot:

Shot 1) You never see her face you only hear her voice.

Shot 2) We only see her feet walking towards Clint.

Shot 3) We see most of her body but she’s turned away from us.

Shot 4) We finally see her face, but part of it is framed out.

Together, we are given a scene that visually supports the narrative of Clint’s question: “Are you lying?” We never see the woman fully for who she is, she’s revealed to us slowly as we gradually see more and more, but still not a full picture. We can assume that whatever she says is only a partial truth; we won’t get the full story.

Reading further, we see that the dialogue supports this idea with the woman’s line: “Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.” She isn’t exactly going to lie to him, but we’re not going to get the truth either.

We can do the same thing with Hawkeye’s character. From what we see of his apartment in the two above photos, Clint lives in a dirty, cheap place.

In the first photo he’s drinking coffee straight out of the pot and is covered in small bandages. We are instantly given something entertaining about his personality and know that he doesn’t really care about how he looks.

The bandages are a key point of Hawkeye’s character in this story; remember this is a superhero story. To have a hero with bandages tells us he’s not invincible. He’s a normal guy. This isn’t a superman we’re seeing, but an everyday guy.

It also adds a lot of personality to Hawkeye. There’s something that sets him apart visually from other characters and that peaks our interests as readers.

Basically, comic books are one big storyboard and can be a great tool to study and draw inspiration from.

Find a comic (probably a story that’s more grounded in reality than this…)

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…and try to mimic the feel of the book. Use it as a storyboard and see what you can make out of it.

Take notes on the visual exposition of the characters, and on the lighting in the scenes. How can you apply it to the films that you make?

Something else that works great for using comics to help you with your short film is knowing comics are self contained, while being a serialized story at the same time.

It’s a perfect format for short films because instantly you get thrown right into the action without being bogged down by exposition. I’ll use Hawkeye again for this. Here’s the first page of the first issue of My Life As a Weapon.

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Instantly we’re put into an exciting and interesting situation and we are compelled to turn the page and see what happens next.

Now, not every character is going to be falling out of a window in every short film, but it’s a great way to learn about getting right to the point. Viewers get bored easily and you need to find a way to get them hooked. Especially if you don’t have thousands of dollars invested into your project.

Now, if comic books aren’t really your thing and you hate them with a passion… well then, sorry I wasted your time.

HOWEVER!

If you love both film and comics, here’s a way to use your love of comics for film.

‘Nuff said.

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Lessons from an SAS Alumni

Ever wanted to know if the School of Acting for the Screen is for you? Check out this article written by SAS alumni, Ash Menelaws, about his experience on the school.

“The School of Acting for the Screen (SAS), for me was a life changing experience. It was on this school I found my voice and began to find great confidence. It was beyond challenging and at times overwhelming, but it stirred up a great passion that has taken me far and will yet take me further.

Through the SAS, I learnt the utmost importance of first discovering myself and doing everything whether it was learning lines or late night assignments from that point. And the key to creating and becoming someone else comes from that also.

God stirred up a passion and revealed a great talent for writing. Weekly I’d score highly on the short stories and it made me realise with effort and dedication I can take this much further. And I have. If it weren’t for that experience and being pushed to being better, I wouldn’t have started writing monthly for Australia’s biggest christian magazine.

One of the biggest things I took away from my SAS, is to live in the moment. And just how powerful this is not just for story but for life. SAS is an opportunity to opportunities otherwise unaccessible in life. And to this day is one of the best decisions I have made.”

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