Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Slow Mo

I want to use SLOW MO in my script but I haven't used it before.

I want to use it to build tension and draw the audience's attention to something crucial. How do I do it? How do I introduce it into the script and how do I exit it?

Your advice will be gratefully received.


Oli said...

Generally, slow motion is a director's choice; J.J. Abrahms does it in the pilot script for Alias, but he also does a load of shit you're not encouraged to do in a spec like 'we see' and talking directly to the reader.

Of course, he can get away with it, because a) he's also directing, and b) he's not really speccing, he'd just come off Felicity.

I don't know the details behind the sale of Alias, whether it was a pitch or a spec, but he was hot and he could have done what he wanted. It reads well in his script, but not something I'd recommend if you've got to go through readers, who tend to hate this sort of thing, rather than to a producer who already digs you.

The script is available here:

Jon Peacey said...

I would tend to second that. From my limited understanding of the position, I would say avoid doing anything that might put a reader/ director/ producer's back-up at spec stage. Technically there should be no rules but sadly there are conventions.

If it was up to me, I would create emphasis to desired moment and possibly include some indication of the slowing of time ('time slows for him as...') using a slightly more poetic injunction as prescribed in one of Lucy's recent posts. However, I wouldn't say that's much of a solution... just a thought/ suggestion/ blue sky thinking! Certainly drawing very specific attention/ emphasizing the crucial moment would seem perfectly acceptable.

I just had a look at J.J. Abrahms on IMDB ('cos the name looked familiar) and was reminded that pre-Alias he'd also scripted Regarding Henry, Forever Young, Armageddon and the enjoyably tense Joyride. I'm guessing by the time he was touting Alias he was allowed to pretty much do as he felt! ;-)

Sorry, I couldn't be more help!

Far away said...

My proviso would be that:
if there is a slo mo sequence then it really needs to be predicated by the use of video/DVD or editing equipment or somesuch somewhere within the script (operated by someone or other in the script)- so that the audience can instantly 'get' it.

For no other apparent script reason other than stylistic, then I'd say slo mo is a no no

Phill Barron said...

I'd go for something like "Time slows as ..." and end it with something like "time springs back to normal ..." or "time restarts ..."

Lucy said...

Please don't. Not only cos I'm seconding what all the guys say but 'cos SLO MO is so often used for no reason other than the writer think it would look cool when in actual fact it just leaves the reader thinking, WTF? Story is the important thing here, what does SLO MO give to story? Nowt as far as I can see.

Dom Carver said...

Thanks for the advice, but I've put it in anyway. Why? Coz I can. ;-)

I know, Lucy, it's gonna wind you up like mad.

The slo mo happens in three scenes, interlaced with other revalations. The scenes are of our hero washing his car and a car pulling up along side him, the window winding down and the driver leaning out, the sun glinting off metal in his hand obscuring his face. You're meant to think it's one of the bad guys come to shoot the hero, but it turns out to be someone asking for directions holding a mobile phone. Slo mo heightens the tension until the other scenes are revealed.

Andy Goodman said...

I can completely see where you're coming from, Dom. In a lot of the writing I do (and I suspect that I'm not alone) I visualise everything that I write. And this often includes cinematic elements like SLO MO.

However, I'm given to understand (mainly by Lucy, I might add!) that such things aren't accepted by 'Readers' and they may bin the script for that reason.

I think that's a little harsh, but them's the breaks. Keep the SLO MO in and start a trend. Best of luck.

Phill Barron said...

I spoke to two directors yesterday and asked them about the SLO MO issue, they both thought you should just write SLOW MO.

Actually, one of them was a bit more vocal and ranted on about fucking writers trying to make things complicated. If they fucking mean SLOW MO, why don't they just fucking write SLOW MO?

I kept quiet.

Lucy said...

There is no substitute for good writing, certainly not tags like SLO MO... That's why Readers don't like them, it's a crutch.

Robin Kelly said...

I think we can use all the tools at our disposal to tell our story, we just need to be careful and ensure they aren't used as crutches.

The reason for not using things like 'slow mo' is because technical terms might throw the reader out of the story (not because it's telling the director what to do) so I agreed with Phill's first response.

I sort of still do, despite his second response, but it's nice to know it doesn't really matter either way.

Dom Carver said...

Good comments. Thanks, guys and gals.

Tim Clague said...

I always like to have the last word :-)

If you wish (for some reason) to not mention slow motion in your description then just allude it by putting in lots of tension causing action. You said in your comment Dom...

the window winding down and the driver leaning out, the sun glinting off metal in his hand obscuring his face

That to me alludes to slo-mo. But you don't need to say it. As most of you guys will know I have a low tolerance for this kind of thing. I think I always agree with the 2 directors that Phill spoke to.

Just do it and be damned. Rules! Stuff it.

Lucy said...



Fuck the rules. Rules aren't worth shit. Go against expectation, subvert "normality" - PLEASE DO. You've got every reader's blessing, 'cos normality in terms of drafts generally means predictable crap. Anything out of the ordinary then is a bonus.

But as for this debate--

It's about doing the best for your story. Is reminding the reader THIS IS A MOVIE the best idea for your story? Is putting in stylistic tags like SLO MO, etc any substitute for good story?


Find another way to "break the rules" - I read enough drafts from writing initiatives with stuff like SLO MO in. Does it make me go, "Oh wow, this writer's breaking the boundaries?" Or even, "That's a really interesting use of imagery?"


It's just enough writer sticking stuff like SLO MO in because it "looks cool" - and I wonder why they bother anyway, since how one person views a scene is different to another in any case.

Lucy said...

P.S. Wow, I actually am a "Dragon Lady" aren't I??

Loving your work, dah-links, MWAH (especially Tim and Robin's)

Piers said...

The way I see it, there's three options.

1) You care what a reader thinks.

Don't use slow-mo, work around it using your writing skills. Some readers get distressed at the words and might not give you a consider or recommend. You may care about this.

2) You care what a director thinks.

Use slow-mo. Fuck readers. Communicate the story in the most efficient way.

3) You don't need the slow-mo.

If you're just doing it for a stylistic trick rather than to advance the story, cut it out.

James Moran said...

Bit late to this party, but I'm throwing my oar in, or my spanner or whatever.

If you write SLOW MO at the start of a page, I'm not going *read* it in slow motion, or imagine the slow motion myself - can't be arsed. Unless you force me to. So your best bet is probably to *describe* it in slow motion. Sure, add in the SLOW MO or "time slows down for Whatshisname" (prefer the latter), but describe it in detail, slowing the action down - space it out:

Time seems to slow to a crawl for HeroBloke, as he notices the car approaching.

The car slows down.

Squeak as the window winds down, slowly and carefully.

The driver leans out.

Metal glints off something held in his hand - just a phone? Or a knife? Or a gun?

Car slows down even more.

HeroBloke drops his sponge, the suds splashing his shoe.

Feels his pocket for his own gun, which ISN'T THERE--

--looks through the window of his own car, sees his gun carelessly tossed on the seat--

--lunges for the door handle--

--the driver of the other car leans out further--

--but then drives away, talking into his shiny silver phone.

HeroBloke breathes out, slowly, calming down, everything back to normal. Gets the gun from his car, jams it into his pocket. Just in case.

Maybe a bit more extreme than you'd need, but that's how I'd do it. And I have two writing hats, and three writing jackets, so I must be right...