George Escobar is a co-founder of Advent Film Group and an accomplished writer, director,and producer. He has a series of workshops during the Guild that tackle how to write great scenes and dialogue. Today’s workshop dove into dialogue.
“It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,” is Duke Ellington’s famous line that applies to writing great scripts and dialogue.
Escobar highlighted 10 common problems with dialogue outlined by Robert McKee:
- Character has neutral language (not distinctive/unique)
- Arid speech/dry
- Overstatements (often where profanity comes in to cover for poor dialogue)
- Talking wallpaper (hum drum chit chat)
- Forced exposition (telling another character what they already know)
- Malformations (scenes badly shaped)
- On the nose dialogue (character saying exactly what they’re thinking with no pretense of subtext)
Escobar announced a FREE course being offered by Pixar on Kahn Academy on How to Do Great Storytelling. Take advantage of it writers! Pixar is a master storyteller and one of the best places to learn how to write a great story.
Here are the four requirements for writing great dialogue:
- Text (spoken words we hear)
- Context (container or vehicle of dialogue)
- Subtext (unseen engine that powers dialogue, below the surface, makes audience work)
- Irony & rhythm (dramatic, situational, and verbal irony and the rhythm is the pulse of the story or scene, cadence, pace, timing of characters. Part that brings them alive.)
Escobar argued that every great story must ring true to the audience, like Dorothy’s longing to get back home in Wizard of Oz. ‘There’s no place like home’ is a universal theme everyone can relate to. He called it the ‘True North’ principle.
He concluded reiterating his 10,000 hour challenge to become a master writer. Malcolm Gladwell believes it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery. Escobar continues to recruit writers to take the challenge and he laid out the steps it would take to get there: reading, research, Bible study, watching movies, writing screenplays, and taking courses.
Achieving mastery takes a level of commitment and dedication that Escobar admits he didn’t have when he started. He shared of his many years wandering in the wilderness until the Lord woke him up when he encountered Stephen Kendrick at the first film festival in 2014 and Kendrick asked him, “George, what have you been doing with your life?”
“I know he meant what was I doing for the Lord in my life? I had to confess, nothing. It was all about me,” Escobar confided. “I had to repent and I asked the Lord to use me.”
So he started Advent Film Group and the Lord has blessed his effort.
“When you yield to what the Lord has for you, as a filmmaker, as a screenwriter, and give it to Him for His purpose, He will do something,” he pleaded. “I don’t want you to go through a wilderness moment and make the same mistakes that I did.”
“I challenge you to dedicate yourself and I’m here to help you.”