No Off Screen Action!

This is from my first day in Majorca. Just now back where my laptop will function, and I can put up a more lengthy missive… so forgive the time warp aspect of it…

Greetings from Majorca, Spain. You get in a plane in Scotland and you get out here. Easy as pie. Mallorca. Majorca. They’re not sure which way to spell it, or at least, I’m not. It’s an island. Of course, you can’t tell that unless you come to the very edge of the thing. Then you get the impression there’s water all around. I am going to work very hard to relate the beaches of Majorca to screenwriting. Not sure how I’ll fare, but for you, I’ll give it a try.

Well, I failed.
That didn’t take long.

There is nothing here to remind me of screenwriting, except the stunning young women sunbathing topless on the beach. THAT reminds me of screenwriting, and how!

Anyway, I digress. But, hey, who wouldn’t?

Here’s a screenwriting thought before I trundle off to the beach with my binoculars.

If you’ve got a draft, go through the draft with this thought securely fixed in your little Wish I Were At A Topless Beach brain. “No off screen crucial action.” Hard to keep it in mind with visions of topless girls in tiny black swimsuits? You bet, but it’s worth it to suffer for your art.

If you’re a woman reading this, and you have little to no interest in sandy young things in the nearly altogether, you can imagine the two handsome guys next to me on the beach, going over their sex lives in luridly elaborate and fascinating detail… in English. THERE’S a scene in a screenplay… especially when they figured out I speak their language.

Okay. Wrench myself back to the topic at hand.

You need to be careful you don’t have too much juicy action taking place OFF camera. Rule of thumb: action germane to your tale should happen in front of us. Don’t have a character come in, bewigged and powdered and say, “Hey, those zany anti-British! They just tossed five tons of tea into Boston harbor! What goofballs!” Take the camera and the crew down to the harbor and SHOW IT TO US.

The lead character’s wife should not die before he walks in the door… unless that particular agony is something you want. Have him gather her in his arms and choke out a confession that he neglected to get her transmission fluid topped up… and she slaps his hand and manages to choke out, “You big silly.” and THEN wheezily expire. Use the moment, don’t let it happen in another room.

If the entire story is about what happened after your heroine thought up the idea for lighter than air zepplin travel, then you don’t want her to say, “Hey, gang, remember when I was topless on that cool beach in Majorca, and I came up with that nifty idea for lighter than air zepplin travel, that I have now devoted my entire life to pursuing?” You must SHOW her on the beach, making notes, thinking hard, sweating… unable to solve the problem of zepplin travel… and then she looks up and sees an enormously fat woman jogging down the beach, topless (told you I would work this in) — her prodigious bosoms bouncing up and down, in slow motion, like great floating basketballs… almost as if LIGHTER THAN AIR…” Eureka!

That scene will no doubt go in the trailer. In Europe.

So, don’t have important material happen off screen. Show stuff happen that we will really want to see. Remember the topless beach.



Filed under Scenes, Screenwriting, Writing Process

5 responses to “No Off Screen Action!

  1. Hi there,

    Hope you are having a lovely vacation! I think it’s great that you are taking the time to write blog entries whilst you are away.

    I only just found your blog a few weeks ago and I really enjoy reading it 🙂

    I shal be purchasing your book soon upon recommendation by some fellow writers/film-makers. Looking forward to reading it!

    Thanks for the topless girl images! Perhaps you could add a few male ones into the mix for us ladies 😉


    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Several hunky looking gents on the beach with all over tans… they seemed quite pleased to be on display. The funniest part about it all is how it all became instantly something that was no big deal. Very un-American in my reaction to the whole thing I am.

      If I can look up the name of the beach, I will let you know. 40 minutes by car west of Palma near a lighthouse… walk twenty minutes… rocky beach, rocky beach… rocks, rocks, rocks, and finally, sandy beach. A mile of beach and fifty people.

      First nude beach or semi topless or whathaveyou that I have ever seen where I was pleased that everyone who was naked, was naked. Generally, I want to hand out muumuus.

  2. I wish I was on the topless beach reading this blog. Granted, I’d be interested in the hot guys, not the topless women. At least we’d both have something to inspire our writing!

    This post really makes me think about what action I’ve missed in my screenplay. On the next round of edits I’ll be on the look out.

  3. Tim

    Were the kids on this vacation? How did they like the special beach?

  4. Tim

    BTW- I am glad that you’re un-american about the whole thing, americans are too uptight and silly about this kind of thing, IMHO.

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