When most screenwriters are knee-deep in the process of writing a script they usually spend a TON of time on things like dialogue and characters – but neglect that most important screenwriting element: writing a script with some killer and awesome locations.

But this is a HUGE mistake for film scribes learning how to write a movie for the first (or second) time.

Why?

Because locations can:

  • Add tension and conflict to the scene
  • Keep the viewer from falling asleep
  • Turn in a mediocre script into a seriously awesome script
  • Do some serious storytelling work for ya…and all without using less dialogue

Location, Location, Location

Like overpriced real estate in California, location does matter.

Say we’ve got a scene where a sales manager in his 30s has to tell a regional sales rep, thirty years older than him, that he’s being laid-off.

It’s one thing if we play that scene in an office conference room.

But what if we moved the scene to a urinal?

Or a Jacuzzi?

Or the sales rep’s driveway?

Would any of these scenes play differently in these situations? Of course.

If we’re in the sales rep’s driveway, he may feel “more comfortable” coming after the young upstart with a chainsaw pointed at his face.

But if we’re in a Jacuzzi maybe the sales rep. feels not only the indignity of being fired, but also insecurity about his less-than-stellar physique next to all of these thirty-year-olds who look like sleep at the gym.

And here’s the cool thing: you don’t have to have your character say a SINGLE word about how they FEEL.

“Of All the Gin Joints…”

So how do you give your scripts a location steroid boost?

Well, there are a couple ways:

Writing a Script With a Kick-Ass Location Tip No.1: Make Things Unequal

Script Writing and the Importance of Location on Character

Move the location of the scene to a place where one of your characters gains the upper hand. The football jock beating up the Mathelete in front of the school is one thing. Move that scene to a Neil Gaiman Comic-Con panel and that may change things slightly

Writing a Script With a Kick-Ass Location Tip No.2: Go for the Awkward Jugular

Move the scene to a location that would STRONGLY embarrass one of the characters. Would that cool, ironic emo kid be quite as suave if it turned out his Mom was the opening headliner for his band?

Writing a Script With a Kick-Ass Location Tip No.3: Focus On Locations

Dedicate an entire rewrite of your script that looks at nothing but locations. That scene between your two romantic leads. You know the one that lies there like a big old goose fart in your first act?

What if you put it at a roller derby match?

How about a Thanksgiving pageant with Ritalin-infused third-graders?

Or the cut-throat environs of the New Horizons Senior Citizens Bingo Night?

Here’s my patented trademarked copyrighted ScriptBully Location Rewrite Formula:

  • Find the scenes in your script that felt like they were written on Ambien.
  • Pinpoint the character that is “driving” the scene and what it is that they “want” (Not always the hero, but most likely…)
  • Make a list of 4-5 locations that would create a literal or metaphorical obstacle to that character’s goal
    • (If the scene is a ‘meet cute’ for a young couple I might go with one of these: Loud punk rock concert; Support group for divorcees; Shooting range; hot air balloon (that runs out of air); Convenience store robbery…etc.
    • Rewrite the scene with the new location.

“The Dude Abides. I Don’t Know About You, But I Take Comfort in That…”

This doesn’t mean you have to put your scenes in exotic, visually-stunning locales to juice up the conflict in your scenes.
In Kramer Vs. Kramer, the family kitchen becomes a site of confusion and technological warfare when the Dustin Hoffman character tries to make French Toast for his son.

In The Social Network, the most poignant scene of the film happens in an impersonal conference room where the Mark Zuckerberg character learns the limits of his “friendly” empire.

In The King’s Speech, the spare, stripped-down office of the Australian speech therapist sets the stage for an explosive clash of egos and wills.

Just remember to keep the locale simple, but the tension high and you’ll find your location can do some of the major storytelling heavy-liftin for ya. (And who doesn’t like somebody else to do the heavy lifting for them?)

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One Response

  1. L.A. Eide

    As usual, I loved it your writing style — unique phrasing, energetic, clear and insightful. And I will save the essence of your tips on my computer’s hard drive under in the Writing Techniques folder. But I won’t rip off your blog in its entirety and thereby infringe upon your patented, trademarked, and copyrighted system of location steriod/pumping up thingy.

    The newby writer is likely to take the lazy way out and have scenes in a bars, coffeeshops, etc. and unless one takes great creatives pains to find a unique angle, those will fall flatter than that hot-air balloon you referred to. There is one bar scene in both “Stone’s Throw From Hell” and “O.F.F. is On”, two of my newer scirpts, but I believe I took the right tact in making those scenes work. Of course, since I haven’t sold either of those scripts, maybe location is part of my problem after all.

    Just one teeny, tiny. little error I noticed (not judging you, just saying): You left out a word (they) in the sentence about younger salesmen who appear to sleep at the gym. Otherwise it was like a perfect blog. Thanks for the tips.

    Reply

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