I found that looking at the opening scene of Up and then reading the screenplay was a really interesting class, especially considering that we were told to try to write the script ourselves beforehand. What I found was that the writers of Up were experts in using words concisely and appropriately, and that there was much to learn about refining writing so that it says what it needs to and not what it doesn’t.
When writing my own version of the script, I tried to recount as many details as I could and simply type them out in the proper order and format. What I should have been thinking about was how important each individual detail was. For example, it probably doesn’t matter what’s at the top of the hill that they walk up, or what time of day it is, but it does matter that Ellie goes up in front of Carl the first time. So instead of spending time discussing precisely what’s going on in the background, I should be focusing only on what informs the characters – of course, this isn’t always appropriate, but considering that the aim of this sequence is to create a clear narrative and convey as much as possible about the characters in a short amount of time, it seems more important to write more about the characters.
Take, for example –
Carl carries her past a "SOLD" sign. It's the same house where they met as kids.
This section gives only the essential information – Carl is carrying Ellie, they have bought a home, and it’s where they met. My version of this short clip described the house, and the expressions on the faces of Carl and Ellie. Funny enough, I was too busy describing these details to worry about the fact that there was a sold sign and the house belonged to them. I think that it’s probably semi-instinctual, and comes from a long time writing, this sense of knowing what needs to be omitted and what needs to be written. I feel it would also be easier to do with a story you know better. To me, recounting a scene I’ve watched is just that – a recounting. I’d like to try writing my own sequence, similar to that, and see if I was still worrying too much about the relatively insignificant details. I think that I would at least improve.
Another point, which we touched on in class, is how the writers are able to convey such knowledge of characters and the tone of the scene with just a few carefully chosen words. Ellie’s family ‘erupting like wild frontiersman’ and Carl sensing that he’s ‘lucky to be with her’ are both phrases that are dripping with the tone of their respective scenes. The animators brought them into motion, of course, but even reading these lines, the sense derived is still similar. I found reading this script incredibly worthwhile and I think it will assist me greatly in terms of writing my own pieces.