I'm going to admit something here. I have had a heck of time getting our latest screenplay out of the gate. This isn't an isolated incident, staring at the blank page is always one of the hardest parts of the job. But this has been different. We're a few pages in, understand the characters, know how they talk and know the scenes that need to be written. It just doesn't seem to be carrying the right rhythm. It was only in the last few days (Okay, last night at 2am) that I put my finger on the problem. It all has to do with the "rules". To explain, allow me to indulge in a story.
Back in my other life as a federal law enforcement officer, I was certified as a Distinguished Expert Marksman. It was really cool, I got a ribbon to wear on my uniform and everything. I know this seems like I'm starting out with a humble brag, but bear with me, there is a point to it. You see, when I went to the range to qualify, the instructors pretty much left me alone. There were only so many of them and they seemed to want to focus on the officers who looked like they were about to shoot their foot off. So I would just go off in the corner, shoot my 150 score and everything was copacetic. Well, I guess I should say "most instructors." There's always that one instructor who doesn't feel like they have done their job unless they have found something to fix. So if it aint broken, break it so you can fix it.
One particular day, an instructor decided that he did not like the fact that I was "staging my trigger". That's where you pull the slack out of the trigger (you can feel a natural break point) and then it's just a quick flick to fire your shot. In the instructor's opinion, it's one long pull or nothing at all, and if I continued to stage he was going to fail me. So I did what I was told and shot a 137 out of 150. Needless to say, I was pissed. I told him to never change my style one minute before an official qualification again. In fact, never give me advice again. I then went back to staging and shot my 150 (You get two rounds of qualifications, highest score is the one of record).
I bring this up because I have been struggling with the "rule" of not capitalizing action words. I read too many advice columns from producers who said they hate it, so I thought I would give it a try. Long story short, it seemed bland and sterile and I could not get into a rhythm. Then I went and looked at some produced screenplays and saw that they were doing it. To be fair, they were being very selective with their capitalizations and not hitting you in the face with them, but they were still doing it. So I was at a crossroads. Producers were saying not to do it, and they're the ones with the money. On the other hand, pros were obviously getting paid money for screenplays that did it. So... what the hell?
That's why I tell the story of that day on the range. We have been very successful with previous scripts. Those scripts had capitalized action words. Why were we trying to "fix" that? Our job, as writers, is to tell the best story we possibly can. If your screenplays are at their best with some capitalized action words, then that's how you should write it. If it's the best thing ever, I can't think of many producers who would say, "I love this. It's too bad they capitalized a few of those words." Don't pull a government. Don't break something so you can fix it.