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Tips To Fine Tune Your Screenplay
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Before submitting your screenplay to a contest or literary agent, be sure to clean up common screenwriting errors. If left unaddressed, these errors will switch festival judges to sleep mode. Although these errors may seem minor in comparison to the story content of your screenplay, they will quickly add up to carve a negative impression on festival judges, agents and any reader who has to evaluate your script. Basic errors that are overlooked can dampen the overall quality of your screenplay. You want to leave the judges with good marks, not bad marks.
Furthermore, agents and producers will not take you seriously if you hand them a screenplay that is peppered with misuse of voice overs. Make no mistake that voice over is used when the character is narrating a scene. Voice over is commonly used when the protagonist is telling his story in flashbacks. An example would be a scene where the lead character, a veteran, narrates his war stories. We see images of the lead character fighting in combat in his younger years, but we hear his older voice narrating the flashback scenes. That is one of the many instances you can properly use V.O. and not O.S. in your screenplay.
As for O.S. (off screen), it is commonly used in scenes where Character A is present in a scene, while Character B is nearby but not in the same scene. An example would be Character A watching TV in the living room, and you hear Character B yelling off screen to Character A, "Dinner is ready!" So remember, do not let V.O. and O.S. trip your readers.
Last but not least, the most dreaded mistakes found in screenplays are explicit camera directions. As a screenwriter, try not to get confused between a screenwriter's script and a director's shooting script. When you write your screenplay, write as a writer and avoid the temptation to direct in your screenplay. Do not include camera directions such as "Angle On," "Close Up on" or "Tight Shot of." Leave the directing to the director.
A shooting script will include various scene breakdowns and camera directions, but this version of the script is used by the director only when a project is slated for production. The shooting script enables the director to organize and plan the way scenes will be shot on the set. Therefore, be mindful when prepping your screenplay for submission to screenwriting competitions. Any screenwriting mistakes that you can avoid making or repeating will bring you closer to reaching your goal as a professional screenwriter.
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