I'm finally starting my script for Shaun The Sheep. This stage will only be about three or four pages long - there's no dialogue, so it's really just description at this stage. Later this month I'll be attending a Writer's Day at Aardman, where all the scripts will be looked at together, and writers and producers will work together to flesh out the stories with background jokes, storyboard some of the sequences and so on. In the meantime, I need to look over Aardman's notes on the one-page outline I sent them before Christmas.
Favourite note so far:
"There are practical problems in re-dressing various members of the flock as Ninjas."
Sight gags in scripts have always intrigued me; the appeal in practice is that they're blink and you'll miss 'em, but surely they must require a lot of description in script, which blunts the comedy for the reader... how do you make sight gags funny in a script?
Good question. I try to write them as simply as possible, leaving the joke to the reader. After all, if someone's reading a script (rather than seeing the final product) they're already visualising the action in their head. You certainly don't want to over-explain it.
From the 'Rejected Sketches' file, here's a thematically-appropriate example. It doesn't really matter if the viewer doesn't see the stuff on the flipchart at the end, but a bonus if they can:
INT. BOARDROOM – DAY
Various smartly-suited people sitting round a table. MAN 1 is standing before a flip chart, pointing at a rather dull looking map with a few red pins.
…looking to get these shops to ISO 9000 standard by next month. So you can see why we’re looking for real ‘out of the box’ thinking on this one. We’re open to any-
One of the seated Men raises his hand.
Ninjas can do it. Ninjas can do anything.
The other seated business people murmur and nod amongst themselves.
Especially if they have katanas.
Is that a kind of horse?
No, it’s a sword. They fold the steel hundreds of times in the forging process, rendering the blade almost unbreakable.
Well that sounds good to me. All in favour of-
Actually, I know you’ll shoot me down on this one, but I think pirates-
They all moan – clearly this isn’t the first time MAN 3 has mentioned pirates.
No, hear me out – if you look at the map, you’ll see a number of waterfront properties in the southern region…
They all look at the map, and start muttering amongst themselves – clearly the idea has some merit.
MAN 1 stares at them all, then at the map, then back at them again. Finally:
So you’re thinking a mixed portfolio? Pirates and ninjas?
(concerned) Mmm, what if they fight?
(excited) Ooh, who’d win?
Ah, now actually, we have some studies on that…
He turns over the flipchart. On the next page are two stickmen drawings, labelled ‘ninja’ and ‘pirate’ respectively. A piechart is beneath them, with various arrows coming off it, linked to boxes labelled with things like ‘cutlass vs katana’, ‘pirates versus ninjas (ninjae?)’ and ‘The Blowdart: an appraisal’.
They all applaud respectfully.
(to self) I like meetings.