Keep your film dialogue short

For filmmakers and script writers, here’s practical dialogue advice from screenplay expert Michael Ferris:

Keep your film dialogue short.

computer keyboard“A script is not a play – your goal is NOT to have dialogue that looks like a bunch of monologues. Try to keep 95% of your dialogue to 3 lines or less on the page. Clever dialogue is found in quick back and forth exchanges, not prose-y speeches. Think about one of the best screenwriters known for his dialogue – Aaron Sorkin. Have you ever watched a scene from The West Wing? It’s not a perfect example, but it illustrates the point that if you keep it snappy, it keeps it moving. And a fast moving script, like a fast moving story, is entertaining and – sometimes – it can move so fast that you don’t have time to realize whether it’s great quality or not. You just know you’re entertained. So, use it to your advantage. Keep the dialogue short, quick back and forths, and you’ll reveal plot and character just as quickly.”

The quote is from my ebook, Filmmaking Basics: Finding Your Creative Voice.

Thoughts on Filmmaking

Several thoughts on filmmaking from cinematographer David Libertella.

On Script Review

David Libertella
David Libertella

Libertella’s initial preparation for a film project begins with the script.

“I read the script once through, reading aloud and paced so as to get a feel for the rhythm of the script.” He says, “I don’t begin consciously thinking about what shots or what lighting to employ until after I have read through it once and come to understand the story, the arc.”

Notetaking follows the first read-through. “I read it again and as I go through it I make notes, either in the margins or on a separate paper, about possible shots, color palettes, foreseeable problems to be solved.”

On Color Correction

“I like to do all my correction on set,” Libertella says. “I do not feel it takes time away from the day and believe it just adds more time in post. I feel the most effective relationship between a cinematographer and a colorist is to give the colorist the least amount of work to do. I do not like spending time in the suite and prefer only very small tweaks to be done there.”  (More on color correction.)

See Libertella’s reel on Vimeo. And read a full interview at The Filmmaker Lifestyle.