Wednesday, April 25, 2007

To Swear Or Not To Swear?

Faith is coming together nicely but I'm having a bit of trouble deciding how much swearing is acceptable in a script.

As the script is set in the back streets of London, among the prostitutes and crack addicts, you have to accept there is going to be a few swear words in it. What I don't want to do is write so many it becomes almost farcical. I know SEXY BEAST is a film with a high swear count and that worked, but could I get away with a large count as a new writer? Would production companies avoid a script with lots of swearing in it?

I would appreciate your thoughts on this matter.


Robin Kelly said...

Although there's nothing wrong with swearing and it's used a lot in real life, I avoid too much swearing in my scripts as it can be distracting and alienating. I'm looking for realism in my scripts rather than real-life.

I know people who swear every other word but I tend to save it in scripts for when someone's angry or upset, when nothing but swearing will do. It also ensures you're using the power of those words more effectively. Someone who doesn't normally swear who starts swearing will make you sit up and take notice.

But it's down to character as well, someone might say "See You Next Tuesday", someone might say "the c-word" and someone else would be quite happy saying the actual word in it's original meaning or only as an insult. It depends on their background.

Near by said...

Yes swearing ought to be 'seamless' and completely in tune with the character & mood of the script.
The best written 'cusses' tend to be eloquent, even poetic - methinks.

Robin Kelly said...

Yeah, Far, David Mamet is the screenwriter/playwright most often cited as a good example of that eloquent seamless thing.

Lucy V said...

I swear loads in real life, but generally only when absolutely neccessary in scripts - like arguments etc - but agree with Robin and Far Away: seamless is best. Too much swearing does piss the Reader off (hah). A script I read recently had the C word in every scene, no kidding, often for no reason, whereas I got an INCREDIBLY profane script through a couple of months ago but the swearing was built INTO the character, thus there was a specific reason and it therfore worked.

BTW, your requested article is up on my blog Dom.

Anonymous said...

my current script opens with a heavy curse laden scene, but it is an abusive argument to set the main character and her lifestyle. It did make me pause while writing it, but I am leaving it in because it feels natural to me. Censoring myself of compromising because I think I will offend someone just ain't gonna cut it.. let them hand me a script note after a meeting "tone down the cursing"

Lianne said...

I think Sexy Beast is a good template to follow - the character Don swears a lot and it is used to mark him out as an unstable, unhinged character. It's also very funny. But I don't really remember any of the other characters in that film swearing much.

I've read scripts where all the characters swear all the time and while this may well be true in real life, it's just boring and redundant in a script.

Dan said...

Sorry Dom, off topic but can you update my link when you get a sec to:

The old one is shagged. Cheers!