Reading a screenplay

Kurdiscinema.com / 12 June 2007

by Jalal ‘Jay’ Jonroy, (writer/director of David & Layla- a new film inspired by a true Jewish
American  Muslim Kurdish love story)

1. To simulate a movie experience, read a screenplay -like seeing a film or a play- in one
go, at worst within the same day. Otherwise momentum and impact would be lost. You
wouldn't enjoy a movie or a play, if you had to see it in bits spread over a few days! Read it
fast and it should only take around 2 to 3 hours- about a minute a page. If interrupted,
restart from a couple of scenes earlier to regain momentum.

2. A page is about one minute of screen time. So typically a screenplay must be around
100 pages when written in standard format. Hollywood prefers to see fewer than 100
pages as no one has time to read. Or, perhaps to save eventual production cost! Also,
fitting a film into schedule of multiplex cinemas dictates length of about 120 mins=120
pages max. to show more movies. Unless one is already a big name!

3. A screenplay is a blue print. Unlike a novel, a screenplay cannot dwell on thoughts and
feelings of characters. A screenplay is a skeleton of characters’ action, behavior and
dialog. Imaginative directors, actors, art designers, etc., flesh it out into a full, live moving
story.

4. So imagine your favorite cast of actors playing the characters as you read through as fast
as you can.

5. INT.  means Interior location;  EXT.  Exterior location; POV. Point Of View. (O.S.) Off
Screen next to a dialog means character is heard but not seen on screen during that
dialog. (V.O.) Voice Over means voice over narration.

6. A screenplay, being shorthand for movies’ big screen live visual experience, is not a
piece of literature or theater. So don’t be put off or upset if you note inelegant expressions
or grammatical errors especially in dialog/speech of characters!

7. A screenplay, like any fiction, even when based on a true story is the writer’s selected
point of view. It may somewhat stretch and play with facts for dramatic or comedic effect. Or,
to provoke: by aiming for a larger or unpopular truth against common perceptions: “Art is
not the truth but a lie that shows truth.” Picasso. So please don’t always expect, nor judge
on, strict accuracy of information. Nor expect common, comfortable views!

8. Just like seeing a movie, wait to read/see the end at the end: Resist all temptation to see
end on last page!

*******

After reading and imagining it as a movie you may ask:

1. Was it an engaging story? Was it satisfying, or provoking, or..!? Was it original/unusual,
or déjà vu derivative?

2. Within the style -drama, comedy, satire, fantasy, etc. - are key characters
convincing/believable?

3. Was the idea behind (if any!) worth telling/sharing?

4. Which characters were most likeable and which least likeable?

5. What are your favorite scenes and what are the least favorites?

6. Too long or too short? Which scenes and/or characters I could have done without and
therefore cut?

7. Was I content with the ending? Would I have preferred a different ending?

8. How would you rate it on  IMDB NetFlix star system 1- awful …5- I love it. Would I
recommend it to anyone?