Adapting “Less than a Person” and the Hitchcock Rule!

Yeah, I realized I did a lot of posting on my ALTB screenplay progress, and I want to do the same for this one.

Amazing that I decided at the end of January to write the ALTB script, and finished at the beginning of April, and placed as a finalist (top 20 out of 200) in the Reddit /screenwriting competition in June… And I’ve made even more improvements to it since then. TAKEAWAY: Never ever listen to humba dumba people who tell you to “throw your first screenplay away, and the next, and the next.” They’re blowhards who want to pontificate, and make the whole thing sound impossible so don’t try, humba dumba doo.

If you read the How To books (I can’t recommend Crafty Screenwriting enough, very nuts and bolts), you learn the most important things very fast:

How to format a script. No, you won’t look cool if you don’t use Courier. (I use Courier Prime because it’s bolder/darker and more readable on the printed page, but it’s still Courier.) 1 page = 1 minute of screen time, generally speaking, in Courier, and that’s why it’s still used.

What NOT to put into action lines: “His face tells the story of his inner anguish and his long quest to find the perfect milkshake.” NO, it doesn’t. If you don’t give him powerful dialogue about his quest for that milkshake, his face doesn’t say jack shit.

To sparingly use parentheticals – aka “wrylies” because they’re always emotional directions for the actor, as in, (wryly) above the dialogue to specify tone, when context and dialogue should do that on their own.

Not to mention the garden variety stuff ANY writer should know, like, you know, run a spell check before you send it to an agent or a competition? “That shouldn’t matter if the story’s good,” I’ve heard people say on Reddit. Well tough shit, because it does.

Oh, and I’ve learned another critical thing that separates pros from amateurs – the ability to TAKE A NOTE. To listen when someone offers you advice or suggestions. (And even if you don’t like the note, even if you think it’s bullshit, at least say, “Thanks, I’ll take a look at that!” instead of immediately launching into a soliloquy about Why I’m Right And Don’t Need To Stop And Even Think About What You’re Saying.) Whatever it is, however much it hurts to think about making that change – maybe especially if it hurts, because you may be overprotective of that bit of your story – think on it and for God’s sake, don’t take it personally.

Yeah so anyway 🙂 One more iteration on ALTB this week, based on the great notes I’m getting from my local screenwriters group, and then it’s into the Diverse Voices contest at WeScreenplay, which closes 9/15. It’s for “Writers who have been shown to be under-represented by the WGA diversity report: ethnic minority writers, female writers, LGBT writers, writers with disabilities, and writers over 40.” Hey, I hit a triple!

And then, on to the adaptation of my novel (written in my previous incarnation as “Orland”) Less than a Person and More than a Dog. Someone in the group asked me if I’d seen Her, and I said no, especially after I saw in a review when it came out that one line in it was “less than a person and more than some people,” and I got sick and almost threw up, because now everyone will think I stole the line when in fact I put that line out on “Orland’s” blog back in 2010 and I’m not giving it up now until of course I have to because someone will think I stole it so yeah I guess I’m fucked there 🙂

My take on the whole “digital friend” thing is different, it’s more about how companies will use it to manipulate us to buy this, vote that, how the whole “Hooked”/”sticky” app psychology is used to manipulate us into “giving ourselves over” to an application, how if the deeper connections with you that AI exploited were an “in app purchase,” and you lost your best friend the minute you couldn’t afford him, how unlikely an “open source” AI is when even publicly funded university research is handed to corporations… Yeah, it’s a great story, the novel was flawed in its execution but the core can be saved and improved in a screenplay.

I saw a really good idea that I tried to apply in the pics you see here, the “Hitchcock Rule.” When Hitchcock adapted a novel, he’d only read it once, and didn’t refer back to it; he said if he didn’t remember a scene from the novel, it wasn’t worth putting in the movie. Well, I tried that, but it’s been so many years since I wrote/reread LTP that I forgot a lot. But, even cheating a bit, I boiled it down to these sheets, same thing I did for ALTB:

I was under the (sole) influence of Syd Field when I put ALTB up on the wall like this, absolutely sure Act 3 had to, had to start on page 90. I’ve read a lot more books since then, and a lot more screenplays, and so I’m not as hung up on any one “expert” opinion on How It’s Made.

But I do know when I look at the structure that there are a lot of “talky” parts in the book that have to be punched up or replaced with something that makes the same point in a more dynamic way. But I’m up for it!

Oh and if you think this sounds like a super idea, please visit my donate/support page where you can anonymously donate BTC or ETH cryptocurrency. Artists like me don’t get grants – self-educated and therefore not “in the system” of educational institutions/tenure track, not credentialed enough to be hired by/funded by big foundations/organizations, working on literary endeavors that aren’t MFA style writing. Thanks!

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