Typing Faster

September 17, 2010

ScriptShadow Tells You How To Write For A-List Actors

Filed under: Craft — petertypingfaster @ 7:00 am

ScriptShadow is a great, albeit controversial, site (run by a guy by the name of Carson Reeves) that breaks down and reviews new scripts. It’s a great place to go for one man’s insightful analysis of what’s working and what’s not in the current crop of movies.

Sometimes they’ll post pure nuggets of writerly advice, like a recent post on how to write for an A-List actor. I think Carson’s bang on when he says that “…there’s no quicker way to get your script sold or made into a movie than to attach a star”, so what can you do to increase your chances?

Carson does all of us writers a favor by breaking down the most recent roles of 25 A-List actors in an attempt to see if there are any commonalities. So what does he find out? What kind of things tend to attract top level talent to a given project?

First of all, the role has to be challenging in some capacity. True, many of these actors are slapping down product in the middle of the summer where mediocrity reigns supreme, but that doesn’t mean they want neutered down roles. These thespians have gotten to the top of the heap by playing dozens if not hundreds of characters. They’re looking for something new and different. Brad Pitt plays a character not only at many different ages in his life, but plays those ages on a reverse timeframe. That’s challenging stuff. Denzel Washington plays a character who rarely speaks, who emotes only with his eyes and his actions. That’s a challenge. DiCaprio operates in a dreamworld where he’s imprisoned his wife. Every time he then goes into that dreamworld, he’s faced with a sea of conflicting emotions.

Next up, I think your character needs to be heroic. A lot of these characters are saving other people. I hate to state the obvious but actors are very egotistical. They want to play God and save others. There’s nothing more heroic than that. Just remember, heroism doesn’t always mean stopping an asteroid from hitting earth. It can mean delivering the last bible across a post-apocalyptic U.S. It can mean committing suicide to have your organs save seven other people. Whether you’re saving a nation or saving others, look for ways to make your characters heroic.

The last thing I noticed was that characters should have something going on inside of them as well as outside. Running around shooting people is fun but it’s not stretching any acting muscles. You gotta give’em some toys to play with upstairs. Benjamin Button has an ongoing physical transformation as well as having to deal with the realities of being different from everyone else. Denzel Washington gets to shred people into sushi yet must learn to open himself up to others. Tom Cruise gets to fly around on cars but still must learn to be selfless before he can find happiness. Note how in two of these cases (Cruise and Washington’s) the internal stuff is tied to the character arc and in Benjamin’s case, it’s more of a general internal battle that never arcs. That’s fine. Whether you’re arcing your character or not, at the very least, give them some kind of issue they’re struggling with internally.

It’s pretty obvious stuff really, but worth mentioning again and again until we all remember it.

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