Monday, November 30, 2015

More Industry Slang for Screenwriters

A few years ago I did a post on film industry slang that screenwriters should be familiar with. Today I’m going to add a few more words to the list. It’s useful to know these things so you don’t sound like a newbie.

Shared Universe – This is the hot new buzzword in the film business. It means a story world that encompasses multiple movies featuring different characters in interconnected stories. The term was born to describe the “Marvel Universe,” but it also applies to the “Star Wars Universe,” Sony’s upcoming “Robin Hood Universe,” and Universal’s new shared universe built around their classic monsters.

I.P. – Stands for “Intellectual Property” and is generally used colloquially in the film business to refer to underlying copyrighted material like a comic book, novel, play, etc. (In legal discussions it means a collection of rights associated with material that is protected by patent, trademark, and/or copyright.)

Option – Used as a noun to refer to an option-purchase agreement (“I have an option on that script”), or as a verb to refer to making an option-purchase agreement (“I want to option that script”). In an option-purchase agreement, a producer or studio acquires the exclusive right to purchase a script for a specified period of time. They pay a small fee for this right. If they “exercise the option” they pay a pre-determined amount and then own the script. If they “let the option lapse” (by not “exercising the option”) the writer keeps ownership of the script as well as the fee.

– This refers to a situation where a producer or studio brings in multiple writers in separate meetings to pitch their take on an assignment. The producer/studio then selects the pitch they like best.

Beat Sheet – An outline using bullet points or numbered beats to outline the steps of a story.

Marked Script – This is a draft of the script that shows the changes from the previous draft. You generate a “marked script” by turning on Revision Mode in Final Draft before you begin making changes.

Locked Script – Once a script is locked, scenes are numbered and any changes require the adding of “colored pages” to indicate the change. Scene numbers can’t change, so any added scenes will be given a letter (e.g. Scene 2B) and omitted scenes will be designated as such. You create a locked script by selecting “Lock Pages” in Final Draft. (Note: This is why you should not number scenes in your spec scripts – the script is not yet locked, so it appears you do not understand the filmmaking process.)

Selling Script – A spec written for the purpose of selling or as a writing sample. Used to distinguish from a script being prepared for production. Selling scripts differ in that they are written to read well. Attention is given to making the wording of action and description compelling, and format rules may be fudged to ease the reading process. Scripts heading to production must adhere to much stricter format and style rules.

Pre-vis – Short for pre-visualization. These are videos created using rough CG animation to visualize how a scene will be shot.

Pitch-vis – Some directors have begun making pre-vis videos of sample scenes for pitches to show how they would approach a project. Writers are not expected to do this.

Notes – Feedback from producers, executives, the director or stars to guide the writer on the next rewrite.

Page One Rewrite – Refers to a major overhaul of a script. In theory, the writer would throw away the entire previous draft and start over from page one. Often, though, the term is used to simply mean the rewrite will require substantial changes.

Polish – A small revision to tweak scenes and dialogue, not requiring major structural changes. Although in practice writers will often be asked to make a few big changes as part of a “polish.”

Water Bottle Tour – When you do a series of general meetings at various producer/studio offices. So-called because you will be given a bottle of water at each meeting. Since you will probably not finish the bottle in the meeting, you soon have a collection of water bottles in your car.

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