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Old 10-15-2018, 03:16 PM   #1
Godfrey811
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Inner Thoughts of a Character

Hi,

I'm a little confused as to how far a screenwriter can go in talking about the inner thoughts of a character. I've heard that only what is clearly visible outwardly to the audience should be mentioned in the script but I see many scripts saying things like "X wonders if he's alive." etc. so I was wondering which of these would be normal in a script like:
-"X seems confused."
-"Car noises run through his mind."
-"Panicked thoughts flood through him."

Thanks
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Old 10-15-2018, 04:10 PM   #2
mlesemann
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You can use physical actions to show "x seems confused," such as looking all around him, double-checking something (s)he read, etc.

Thoughts and memories per se don't work in a screenplay. You can use flashbacks or hallucinations, meaning that the scene is spelled out in the screenplay.

And welcome to IndieTalk
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Old 10-15-2018, 05:19 PM   #3
Godfrey811
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mlesemann View Post
You can use physical actions to show "x seems confused," such as looking all around him, double-checking something (s)he read, etc.

Thoughts and memories per se don't work in a screenplay. You can use flashbacks or hallucinations, meaning that the scene is spelled out in the screenplay.

And welcome to IndieTalk
Thanks very much - Do you know why in a lot of famous screenplays, like in The Godfather and plenty of others, I noticed it say things like "Michael wonders if he is alive" and many other things that aren't described through action but thoughts that are just stated in the script? Also, are none of the examples I mentioned above suitable for a screenplay?

Thanks
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Old 10-15-2018, 05:35 PM   #4
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For context here is the scene. Complete with typo (pushing) lol.

THE HOSPITAL (10:30PM)

Michael arrives by cab. He enters the quiet hospital to find no one at the nurse's station. He walks down the hall to check an office, and only sees a half-finished sandwich on a desk. He runs down the hall and up the stairs towards his father's room. He pauses, noticing there is no guard outside the Don's door. He walks around the corner up to Room #2 and hesitates before he pushing the door open. His father is in the bed, and Michael wonders if he's alive. He walks up to the Don.

NURSE (entering the room)
What are you doing here? You're not supposed to be here now!
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Old 10-15-2018, 06:24 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by indietalk View Post
For context here is the scene. Complete with typo (pushing) lol.

THE HOSPITAL (10:30PM)

Michael arrives by cab. He enters the quiet hospital to find no one at the nurse's station. He walks down the hall to check an office, and only sees a half-finished sandwich on a desk. He runs down the hall and up the stairs towards his father's room. He pauses, noticing there is no guard outside the Don's door. He walks around the corner up to Room #2 and hesitates before he pushing the door open. His father is in the bed, and Michael wonders if he's alive. He walks up to the Don.

NURSE (entering the room)
What are you doing here? You're not supposed to be here now!
Yh, thanks. That's the one. And also the part where it says "noticing there is no guard" in that text because that's still an inner thing more than an outer expression so how much leeway would we have with this and is that big of a deal?
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Old 10-15-2018, 06:36 PM   #6
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It was written by a novelist so maybe some things leaked in that normally shouldn't have... is all I got...
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Old 10-15-2018, 07:18 PM   #7
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And he was adapting his own best-selling novel, so I think he had a bit more leeway than us mere mortals
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Old 10-15-2018, 07:21 PM   #8
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Certain things are impossible to exhibit without a voice over... do we know if that's actually what michael is thinking when we watch the film? It's something for the actor to think about and there is an expression he can make while thinking it, so even if the audience doesn't understand exactly what he's thinking it can be interesting to see that there are some thoughts going on in his head.

What I just did was a bit of grasping at straws
The way I look at it is this... you've got to sell a screenplay before you make a movie. Not everything needs for a movie needs to be written down but sometimes a little extra writing can help your readers follow the story and help you to sell that screen play.

Sometimes it's about the reader experience and not the movie audience experience.
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Old 10-15-2018, 10:38 PM   #9
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Thanks very much for all the help.

So just to make sure it's best not to use any of the examples I gave in the first post and even something like "X's eyes scan the floor as if looking for something" should be avoided? Because I thought that might be a situation where the expression and purpose is kind of a visible thing.
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Old 10-16-2018, 08:35 AM   #10
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Correct - best not to use the examples you gave.

Just use "X's eyes scan the floor" - it should be clear from the script that he's looking for something.
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Old 10-16-2018, 09:32 AM   #11
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Vrrom vrooom. Agent smith runs over a phone booth.

Quote:
After a moment, a black loafer steps down from the cab of
the garbage truck. Agent Smith inspects the wreckage.
There is no body. Trinity is gone.
His jaw sets as he grinds his molars in frustration.
Agent Jones and Brown walk up behind him.
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Old 10-16-2018, 10:20 AM   #12
directorik
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Just be mindful.

The screenplay is a different form of expression from a novel. The
goal of a novelist it to connect directly to the reader one on one.
The purpose of a screenplay is to lay a foundation for many people
to create something completely different – the movie.

The inner thoughts of a character may help the actor interpret that
character but the cinematographer and director and editor cannot
do anything with “car noises run through his mind”. The viewer of
the movie will never see “panicked thoughts” as they watch the movie.
On a big studio movie 200 people may read the screenplay but
10,000,000 may see the movie.

The people turning your screenplay into a finished movie are not
interested in the inner thoughts of the characters – the craftspeople
and artists and technicians need to know what you, the writer, want
people to see on the screen. What is that character doing as “car
noises run through his mind”? What is seen on screen as “panicked
thoughts” run through the characters mind?

If you believe it is essential to write a characters inner thoughts there
isn't a “rule” that says you can't. But be aware that if you do you will
face criticism. Many people will read your screenplay before it is given
to a producer who will hire a director. It is wise for an unproduced
writer to keep the screenplay as lean as possible. Remember you are
not writing for the enjoyment of the reader, you are writing for, first;
people who will put money in hoping to make money and second; to
a group of technicians tasked with turing your words int something
visual.
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Old 10-16-2018, 10:26 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by directorik View Post
Remember you are
not writing for the enjoyment of the reader
This is definitely true in a professional context.. but is it always true in an indie context?

Suppose there's an actor you want to work on your film for a minimum wage... and all you've got to motivate him is your screen play. Well if thats your situation i would argue it's vitally important that the reader (this actor) enjoy his reading of your screen play. There was an interesting thread a couple months back where people were talking to me about how sometimes the reading comes first.
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Old 10-16-2018, 10:45 AM   #14
directorik
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Nothing is always true in all contexts.

If a writer feels it's vitally important to include the character 's
inner thoughts in the screenplay there is no "rule" that says that
can't. If a writer feels that's the only way to motivate an actor
to work for minimum wage then in that context there may be
a very good reason to include the inner thoughts of the character.

In general, I think it's much better for a writer to not include
anything in their screenplay that cannot be filmed - even in
an indie context.
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Old 10-16-2018, 01:20 PM   #15
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45th Academy Awards - Best Adapted Screenplay

Or if you want to win an Academy Award just put inner thoughts in there.
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