Describe A Busy City Street Essay Contest


Carefree times on Virgo Street in the Philippines


1st place $50

By Mary Pace, Marshall HS

Virgo Street, located in a small town in the southern part of the Philippine Islands, is the street that means the most to me. Every day, as I would wake, I could vividly hear the birds chirping, the thick bushes and leaves ruffling as the wild wind passed gracefully through the greenest trees I had ever seen. By then, the whole town’s awake—every house acting alarmed by the clocks ticking, and the clitter clatter of glasses, heavy metal spoons and forks creating a harmonized melody as everyone would madly rush to go to where they needed to: work, gossip ears and perhaps even summer school.

I, on the other hand, would run to my friends’ houses and bang on their gates, summoning them to come and play with the rest of us. We would all bring a unique piece of entertainment that we would share: a tall blue mountain bike, a pink Barbie bike, a rusty clanking metal bike, a football, soccer ball, basketball … you name it. We would all run to our one and only Virgo Street, which is the street in front of our houses, our turf, and have the most fun any kid could ever imagine. Some of us, mostly the boys, would climb on the thick brown raspy branches. We even made a mini swing that would swing us so high we could almost touch the sky. Sometimes my girlfriends and I would make time capsules and bury them in the empty brown lots on the sides of the street, then create colorful maps to locate them someday. We would also bring books like Little Red Riding Hood or Tom Sawyer. But when we were kids, we didn’t know how to read, so we made up stories to the drawings in the books.

Sometimes, when I was lonely, I would climb a tree or ride our little swing and soothing relaxation and calmness would sweep over me. When I was a kid, knowing that every summer I could freely run around the street that I knew by heart, was enough to give me the feeling of security, the feeling of being warmly welcomed, the feeling of being home. For most of my younger years my world existed only in Virgo Street. There wasn’t a need to dream and imagine farther.

So many things happened for the first time in my life that I could never forget them. Like when I had my first fight with Hanzel, my closest friend, because I didn’t let her ride our swing. I felt like it was the end of the world when she didn’t talk to me for days. When I had my first crush on the next-door neighbor when I was 12. And when I was the first person to almost accurately draw the view of our street, which my friends put in a time capsule and buried in the street somewhere. Too many adventurous memories suppressed because I had been too young to care, but these memories I’ve written are ones that I can never forget. I will keep and cherish them forever.

Little did I know the summer I was 13 would be the last summer I’d ever spend on Virgo Street. My mother announced that we were moving to a place called California USA, for good, forever. My heart was devastated, mostly because my friend Dominique still hadn’t give me back my Goosebumps book collection, but also because I had no idea of a world outside Virgo Street. I was like the people from the past, who didn’t know that there was a round, spherical world despite the deception of its vast flatness, and I was afraid to take a step, to move forward, because I might fall. For the first 13 years of my life, Virgo Street and its tropical land filled with adorable white flowers, thorny red roses, pink chrysanthemums and the brownest and greenest soil was the only land that existed to me. And leaving this, my childhood, my innocence, my street, was more than I could bear.

Now Virgo Street is only a remnant of the past, a fragment of my memory. Yet I am still deeply honored to have lived there. I was once part of a beautiful country and I’m thankful for it.



My twisting curvy road


2nd place $30

By Aimee Erlich, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies

My hands are up and I am screaming at the top of my lungs. My eyes stare in utter bliss at the road in front of me, watching it twist and bend with personality. I am strapped in tight, but I still get tossed around as if I am caught in a strong current, letting it take me where it wants with no resistance. I have become one with the road. I am filled with excitement as my adrenaline level heightens and my heart rate quickens. My brother is sitting next to me in the back of our red and white minivan while my mom drives us down this long and winding road. Every one of us is laughing uncontrollably in unison, in unity. Valley Vista Boulevard in Sherman Oaks can have that effect on people.

The street is shaded by its massive willow and snowy white birch trees. Not much sunlight can peak through the canopy of green, yellow, white and brown. The curb of the street and lusciously green lawns of the neighbors are covered with an abundance of diverse species of flowers. They help disguise the ugliness of Valley Vista, with its dank, grey shade and cracked asphalt. But still, the history that I have with this street makes its beauty shine bright. I did not learn how to ride a bike on this street, I do not even live close to it. All I know of Valley Vista is the feel of our tires on the gravel as we drive this empty road and the spirit of elation inside of our car as we conquer this roller coaster.

As we make that final bend, I look back and wish that I could take just one more ride before we leave this amusement park, but I know that is out of the question because, well, … gas is expensive. Even though the ride has ended, the street remains, the bond remains, the memory remains. Valley Vista is waiting. It longs for our laughter once again.



This street is for the birds


3rd place $20

By Desiree Jacoby, Birmingham HS (Van Nuys)

Peacocks are indigenous to India. However, there are peacocks in Arcadia walking around. Now I don’t know about you, but just the thought of a street, Coronado Drive, having peacocks running around it makes me love it already.

This street reminds me of a utopia because it’s beautiful and peaceful. All the lawns are cut short and perfect. There are white picket fences around most of the houses. Around every house there are flowers, planted in just the right way to fit each house. Then there are the gorgeous blue peacocks walking around. But hey, I guess it’s a regular thing to see them and it’s not strange to the residents.

Every other weekend when I go to my dad’s house (my parents are divorced), I beg him to go down “Peacock Street” because it’s on the way to his house anyway. He automatically knows what I am talking about. When we go down Coronado, I feel like a secret agent! We slow down and pop our heads out of the car windows. We might as well have binoculars. We look for the peacocks and we stop if we see any. My dad does this whistle and I look at him and say, “No, you have to do the bird call.” Then I do this crazy bird call, like CUCAWW!!! CUCAWW!!!

As we are doing our secret-agent moves around the peacocks, we take a bunch of photos. Then after that mission is over, we stroll around the street. I wish I could live on that street. It is so beautiful that I look forward to going down it when I head to my dad’s. The trees are so lush and green. I also love animals, so the peacocks add more love.
This street is special to me because of its memories and how it somehow manages to become a brand new world each time I venture through it.



Next essay contest—How has violence affected you?

Unfortunately, there is violence around us. Some of us see racial tensions leading to fights at school. Some of us have gangs in our neighborhoods. Maybe you see tagging crews fighting over turf. We want to know how living with violence has affected you. Do you feel safe on the streets? What do you do to try to stay safe? Whether you’re a victim of a crime or witness it, violence has a tremendous impact. How does it make you feel? What is your experience with violence in your community and how have you dealt with it?
Write an essay to L.A. Youth and tell us about it.

Essays should be a page or more. Include your name, school, age and telephone number with your essay. The staff of L.A. Youth will read the entries and pick three winners. Your name will be withheld if you request it. The first-place winner will receive $50. The second-place winner will get $30 and the third-place winner will receive $20. Winning essays will be printed in our November-December issue and put on our website at layouth.com.



MAIL YOUR ESSAYS TO:

L.A. Youth 
5967 W. 3rd St. Ste. 301
Los Angeles CA 90036

DEADLINE: Friday, Oct. 17, 2008

Often screenwriters are so busy grappling with the dynamics of their story, what their protagonist wants, what pages their act breaks are falling on, etc. they forget to address the most immediate indicator of talent — writing style.

Great screenplay scene description, however, immediately communicates to your reader that your writing is at a certain level. That you haven’t just woken up one day and thought “I’m going to write a script and sell it for one million dollars!” 

From the very first sentence, a reader is able to place where a writer is in terms of ability. So what you need to do is show right away that you’re someone who’s studied the craft and knows how to write first class scene description.

But before we get started with the amateur vs. pro screenwriters’ writing styles…

Just What Makes Great Screenplay Scene Description? 

One of the main aspects of great script description is its ability to put clear images in the reader’s mind of exactly what the writer wants them to see.

Clear, interesting, precise, vivid images help the reader fall deeper into the heart of the story. It draws them in by piquing their interest and making them feel they are part of a unique world — an interesting, rich and visually arresting world.

Why risk telling your story using a bland, uninspired writing style and boring your reader, when you could put a little more effort in, keep them entertained and involved in your story?

In fact, there’s so much competition out there, you don’t really have a choice. Many production companies have two recommendation boxes at the end of every coverage report — one for the script and the other for the writer.

By this they mean execution and style. So, even if your story isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders, but possesses a rocking writing style, you could still get hired to do re-write assignments.

So, let’s get started with comparing some examples of amateur and pro screenplay scene descriptions.

Screenplay Scene Description: Amateur vs. Pro

Seeing average and excellent example of scene descriptions in a script, side by side can really help writers see the difference between them, and where they’re going wrong. We thought we’d kick off with an example from one of our favorite films…

WHIPLASH

VERSION #1: AMATEUR SCREENPLAY SCENE DESCRIPTION  

First up, here’s how a newbie writer might set up this scene in Whiplash in which Andrew gets a cymbal thrown at his head by psychotic teacher, Fletcher.

VERSION #2: PRO SCREENPLAY SCENE DESCRIPTION

Let’s take a look at what Damien Chazelle wrote:

What’s the main difference between these two descriptions of the same scene? The first just feels lazy, like not much thought has been put into it. The writer is not overly concerned about creating emotion on the page and making us feel what Andrew’s feeling.

The second, on the other hand, goes to great length to put us in Andrew’s head space and takes its time building up the mood and tension before Fletcher enters the scene.

In Chazelle’s version, Andrew walks in, slowly. Eyes the DRUMS. This brings to our attention straight away just how nervous Andrew is, without stating it explicitly. It’s all there in the choice of words. We can see him eye the drums and know exactly what he’s thinking.

Similarly, the choice of the word “throne” reinforces the idea that drumming is everything to Andrew — a precious commodity that he must conquer or die trying, just like kings of old.

Some so-called screenwriting gurus will tell you never to use camera angles, and while it’s true you shouldn’t overuse them, a judicious line like “WE MOVE IN CLOSER ON HIM” can really help give the impression that we’re watching a movie. It puts in our mind how the camera moves slowly toward him, accentuating the tension, which can only be a good thing.

SIDEWAYS


VERSION #1: AMATEUR SCREENPLAY SCENE DESCRIPTION

A less skilled writer would start the following scene in which Miles and Jack eat breakfast in a diner near the beginning of their trip, something like this:

VERSION #2: PRO SCREENPLAY SCENE DESCRIPTION

Instead, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor started the scene like this:

Notice how strong an image the first line about the two plates of floating food is, and how it draws your attention straight away to the object of Jack’s lust. Zeroing in on specifics in your description of a scene can be a great way of kicking it off. It’s a very cinematic technique which gives the impression of watching the film.

Next, Jack and Miles are described as “disheveled and unshaven” — phrases that immediately give the reader a great little thumbnail sketch of the state they’re in from the previous night.

Likewise, the waitress is described as “young and innocently sexy.” The word “Innocently” accentuating her youth, rather than just saying she’s “sexy.” Always try to include these kind of short character sketches in your screenplay’s scene description.

Finally always try to avoid clichés. The phrase “eyes widen” is one that appears in 90% of spec scripts. Not only that but it doesn’t quite bring to mind Jack’s lust in the way “leers” does.

THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

VERSION #1: AMATEUR SCREENPLAY SCENE DESCRIPTION

Again, we’re going to write an “uninspired” version of the screenplay scene description, followed by the actual description in the screenplay. A less skilled writer might open the following scene like this:

VERSION #2: PRO SCREENPLAY SCENE DESCRIPTION

Instead, Sofia Coppola wrote the scene like this:

As in the Sideways example, in this piece of script scene description, Coppola “directs” the viewer with her sentences.

The description starts with “The neighborhood boys are gathered around PAUL BALDINO.”

This implies a WIDE SHOT of the boys listening to Paul. Then, we focus on Paul himself with his thumbnail character sketch. Then there’s a CLOSE UP of his pinky ring catching the sunlight as he talks. Finally, we are back on the boys as they continue to listen.

Also, notice her choice of words. The line “Paul, who at 14, is a junior version of his gangster father, with dark pit-bull circles under his eyes, and wide hips,” brilliantly sums up his character in an instant.

With the allusion to his “gangster father” we know exactly where this kid’s coming from. And notice Coppola’s choice of words when describing the boys. “Gathered” suggests attentiveness, and in the final line, with the word “intensely” we can practically see their faces full of concentration.

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We hope this has been helpful and that it has inspired your own screenplay scene description. And remember: one of THE best ways to improve your screenplay scene description is to simply read screenplays. As many as you can.

We have a post here of 50 Of The Best Scripts To Download And Read In Every Genre which contain these scripts and many more for you to get started.

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