July 18, 2012

Need to Improve Your Dialogue? Try 'Listen To A Movie'

Do you sometimes find the dialogue in your script isn't popping? Is it difficult to find the right cadence for your characters? Screenwriters always need to remember that film is a visual medium, but great dialogue is what audiences will remember from a movie that they can directly link back to a script. Let's face it: great dialogue is what readers remember about a screenplay, too. If you want to focus your attention specifically on a film's dialogue to help your own writing, why not just listen to a movie instead of watching it?

[Note: This post was edited on July 19 to reflect the astute comments of the NFS community that the original post came across as condoning piracy, something that NFS does not support nor condone. My apologies to the NFS community specifically and filmmaking community at large for this error in judgment - CB.]

Listen To A Movie provides MP3 audio files of several movies (and even DVD commentaries). While this sounds like a good idea initially for writers to focus on dialogue with visuals distracting from the words, posting a film's soundtrack to the Internet for others to use is essentially a form of piracy. Disclaimer: I haven't actually tried to listen to a movie via Listen To A Movie. I discovered it via another screenwriting blog and thought I would repost here.

So, how can aspiring screenwriters take advantage of a good idea without running afoul of piracy laws? First, buy a copy of the movie on DVD, Blu-ray or digital download. That would be a good start to support the filmmakers and producers who made the movie and the distributors who made the disc or digital copy for you to enjoy.

Now you could certainly sit in a room, play the movie on a screen, turn your back to it and desperately try not to watch it. Difficult, but theoretically doable. An eye-mask would be a better choice to keep you from peeking.

What if you could make an MP3 audio file of a movie from your own legally purchased copy for your own private use (without distributing it to the public via the Internet or other means)? Another disclaimer: I've also never personally done this or tried this. This may fall under fair use, but I'm not an attorney, so you may want to consult one first. I'm sure this is possible because Listen To A Movie exists, but the copy protection on DVDs, Blu-rays and digital download would dissuade many from doing so. The eye-mask is still probably your best bet.

As screenwriters, we spend so much time concerned about how our screenplays will look on the screen, but we also need to understand how they will sound. However you decide to listen to a movie, this can be a valuable exercise for screenwriters to understand the nuances of dialogue, music, sound effects and pacing.

[via Go Into The Story]

Your Comment

15 Comments

Thanks Chris, This was a great find and I will make awesome Cd's to listen in my car.

July 18, 2012

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Gman

I wish I knew that when I used to drive 150km per day.

July 18, 2012

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Marcus

Brilliant! I looked for something like this a few years back - what a great resource.

July 18, 2012

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I used to make my own CDs and mp3s of my movies (even cassette tapes) when I had long commutes and it does make a difference as you depend on your ears to pick up things you may not if you had the visuals accompaning it.

July 18, 2012

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Darren

This won't be around for long once the studios get wind of it.

July 18, 2012

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Unless I'm missing something here - isn't this just a site pirating the soundtracks of movies?

July 18, 2012

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Jeremy, thank you for your comment. You raise an excellent and valid point. Listen To A Movie certainly doesn't claim to have the right to the audio tracks of these films, and NFS shouldn't promote it as such, so my apologies there.

Listen To A Movie does seem to encourage users to support the film by providing links to Amazon (where the film can be purchased) and Netflix (where subscribers can access the film). Nevertheless, it still does not mean Listen To A Movie has licensed the audio tracks for distribution on the Internet.

As an aspiring screenwriter, I often find myself in a quandary in a similar situation when searching for screenplays to existing films. It is my understanding that screenwriters usually retain the publishing rights to their screenplays under WGA contracts even after studios acquire the rights to the screenplay to turn it into a film. This means screenwriters can turn around and sell the publishing rights, thereby earning revenue. And yet, many (if not most) screenplays to produced films can be found across the Internet. In fact, during awards seasons, several studios post .pdf files of screenplays for their award contenders, so in theory, those screenplays are available through a sanctioned channel (assuming the studios have already cleared this with the writers). I've even heard established screenwriters recommend to aspiring screenwriters to seek out specific screenplays online to help them learn the craft. Perhaps it's a way of paying it forward.

As for this specific example, perhaps the best way for an aspiring writer to use Listen To A Movie is to purchase a copy of a film to which they want to listen to support the filmmakers and studios who produced it and the distributors who make the film available to the public. Will that actually happen? That's up to the specific user. But if we want to break into the industry in the future, we better support the industry with our wallets in the present to make sure the industry survives.

I'd welcome further comments and discussions on this topic.

July 19, 2012

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

While a great source of soundtracks. I do remember that there's actually a specific mention of this in most FBI-warning-equivalents in front of most movies. I'll try to use as many as possible, but when sites like these pop up on more legit blogs, the less legit site tends to become short-lived.

By the way. I cannot try them out yet. Are they processed to just get the center-channel or are they just simply a rip of the 2.0 downmix?

July 19, 2012

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I think that by posting a link this site you are in fact supporting piracy.

July 19, 2012

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Keith

Keith,

I think you and Jeremy are right. I have edited the post substantially to reflect this. Thank you for helping me refocus the blog post.

July 19, 2012

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

In car listening - portable DVD player on the back seat. Home listening, don't turn the TV on (assuming you put the sound through an amp). It's a great learning process - as is watching films with the sound turned off.

July 19, 2012

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I have such a huge problem with this. One hand, it's about movie dialogue for a movie, as in:

" Your dialogue sounds too much like a movie -- real people don't talk like that"

Or...

" Your dialogue needs to sound more like a real movie. Audiences don't pay to
listen to normal sounding people...they're just too boring"

I can watch so many great movies over and over again and hear different dialogue all
the way through, and if the IMAGES hold up, as in a powerful and tight plot structure
above all else -- since we're talking about cinematic storytelling...and not writing a play,
then I'm cool as a ticket paying audience member.

What a lot of beginning screenwriters don't always hear...is that many, many Readers
are simply hired and paid to say , "no" to just about every script floating across their desk.
No matter how great that dialogue may be.

Billy Wilder's and Diamond's scripts are loaded with great dialogue that goes back
and forth between VERY NORMAL sounding dialogue and hard to forget movie talk.

BATMAN BEGINS...and THE DARK KNIGHT have main and minor characters sounding
like very normal people in extreme circumstances...where a lot of times they're
saying EXACTLY how they feel. They ARE NOT talking around anything.

I agree with John LeB...turn the volume down...watch the movie...and see if it holds up
first and foremost as an image-driven story.

Study filmmaking and screenwriting that way, yes, even above reading great screenplays with great
screenplay dialogue -- whatever that is.

You can always go back to riffing on Sorkin and Tarantino, if that's who you choose to study.
I choose to read and study different movies; different genres; foreign; and read a lot of different
types of stories and write and rewrite.

I also choose to direct-write my own indies and go right to the audience via VOD.
Let them decide what they want and like and are willing to buy.

You know the deal...write on, right on.

July 19, 2012

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MARK11

The idea is not bad ; i did a editing comment in a documentary and it's was very difficult to edit...
What i did i shot down the editor screen and edit on the time line only the dialog so this is also possible
but i came up with 2 or 3 cut done where visually i will not cut normally because i do not have an off space but it's work.
Remember EL MARIACHI the Robert Rodrigez first film, why this movie it's good because the actor are not perfect ( like in real life ) and for the viewer it's was more easy to get in.

July 19, 2012

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Pierre Samuel Rioux

What if you could make an MP3 audio file of a movie from your own legally purchased copy for your own private use (without distributing it to the public via the Internet or other means)?

This is certainly possible. I used to rip commentary tracks for listening while walking in the pre soundtrack era.

I doubt there are any legal ramifications to this - there certainly aren't any moral or ethical problems with copying the soundtrack of a DVD you bought yourself to your own computer/iPod.

July 20, 2012

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Would you calm the f*** down with your piracy laws?! It seems to me like a great idea for improving your dialogue.

July 20, 2012

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Cosmin Gurau