by David Barbeschi | May 9th, 2020
When one reads scripts from Shane Black, they notice that his scripts are filled with quips and jokes throughout the descriptive action lines. A famous example is this part from his Lethal Weapon spec script:
EXT. POSH BEVERLY HILLS HOME – TWILIGHT
The kind of house that I’ll buy if this movie is a huge hit.
Further down he writes:
This is a really great place to have sex.
Hilarious, right? Right. Thing is this:
Shane Black is the exception, not the standard. As are like-minded celebrity screenwriters known for their humor. Do not attempt to do the same in your script.
You might think that “hey, when he wrote Lethal Weapon, he was just starting out like me”, but the truth is that his narrative voice went well with the overall tone of the script.
This writing style is famous, it’s his. So if you attempt to do the same, 99% of the time it’ll just come across as a cheap imitation from a narcissistic writer.
When I worked as a script reader, I read a drama screenplay where the writer tries to put humor and quippy comments in the description. Where the protagonist’s mother dies. And the narrative voice is cracking jokes. It doesn’t fit. And in a comedy script, sure, it can work sometimes, but you do run the risk of your narrative quips being funnier than your actual jokes. Humor and fourth wall breaks in a script’s narrative voice take the reader out of your story, regardless of whether or not they are funny.
A script is a blueprint for a production team of filmmakers to build upon. Its narrative voice is supposed to be neutral to help the reader immerse themselves in your story.
If you put too much of yourself in the narrative voice, you risk lessening the impact of your scenes, characters, and dialogue, because hey, “you needed the spotlight”. How about you let your story have the spotlight instead?
So yeah. There’s my rant about people trying to be the funny guy in a script.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | David Barbeschi
David Barbeschi is an Italian-Armenian filmmaker with a solid track record of producing and writing award-winning fiction projects.