I thought it might be fun to do a post about commonly used phrases in Hollywood and what they mean. Actually, many of them are very useful and can offer real guidance to a writer. The reason for these musing was I learned a new one today, and I think it’s great. So today I went off to a very helpful and productive meeting with my excellent producer/executive Gregory Noveck over on the Universal lot. A brief aside, it always makes me pinch myself when I’m walking across the lot when these three car long tourist trolleys go trundling past with a tour guide talking about how Alfred Hitchcock’s office is still preserved on the lot — along with the set from Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera BTW — and here I am walking on the lot as a writer and not on the tour trolley.
Anyway, we discussed possibly adding another character into the Wild Card script. I liked the notion but was concerned about the time it would take to “set up” this new character. Then Gregory nixed the idea saying “no, we’d have to lay so much new pipe to get him in.” Which was a perfect description of the amount of work required to add that new person.
Which got me thinking about other common phrases and how helpful they are. Some of you have probably heard me speak or lecture and know that I will sometimes advise a writer to “hang a lantern on it”. What does it mean? Just this. Say there is some obvious point that you sense will really bug an audience if you don’t address the issue. Now you can try to be subtle or clever but oft times that just makes it worse. Far better to raise the objection/question the audience will have and address it with a simple declarative line of dialogue.
The “Walk and Talk”. How to impart a lot of exposition and try to keep the audience from realizing they are getting an info dump. The West Wing did this brilliantly. It gave the illusion of action when it was really just exposition.
The “Meet/Cute”. How you get your hero and heroine together.
“Do it with a look”. Meaning let the actor do some of the work for you. As a writer if an actor can impart an emotion or reaction without words — let them.
It’s been a long day, and I’m tired so I’m drawing a blank on others, but as they occur I’ll add them to the lexicon of Hollywood Speak.