Posts Tagged ‘screenwriting’

The Scorsese Rule, screenwriting version!

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

If you’re looking to write a script or make a low budget film – there are several rules you have to follow. It’s a bit of a shame when considering film as an art form overall. Why should one follow certain rules as a result when expressing creative freedom?  Well if you’re looking to make money and sell the script, you’re doing it for someone other than yourself. Its work. Its someone else’s rules.

Let’s look at it from a screen-writing side first.

1) Length. If you have this amazing idea and it’s a 3 hour epic of 180 pages (assuming the rough page to minute 1:1 ratio that people use), it could be the most profound thing ever. However, if you are not a big name that’s established in the industry or related to one, it will never get looked it. Too much of a risk, too intimidating for those readers perhaps.

martin-scorsese-1

2) Direction. Unless you plan on being the director too and funding the thing (in which case, why are you even reading this, were looking at you Mr. Scorsese) don’t be too keen on writing about how it should be shot unless it is 100% vital to that scene overall. Describe the background short and sweet and to the point. Be sparse with close-ups at best.

3) Dialogue. Yep, no long speeches here except maybe near the end. Make every bit of dialogue count. You know those moments where a random scene pops up in your head and the dialogue sounds great and you can’t wait to write that down for your new script? Well good luck finding a place for it to fit. Maybe spare it for another idea? Sure. Most of the time you won’t ever use it.

taxi-drive-directed-by-scorsese-but-not-written-though

4) Character hooks

They need hooks. They need a style of dialogue, a style of movement and a quick but unique way of visualizing them. Sure, your goal is to let the actor/actress run with this, but it’s up to you to establish that. If you can switch out names in your script and no one notices, you’ve done that big mistake where all your characters seem a blur.

And…. How are your characters different? Whether positive or negative. Why did we just spend the last two hours watching them? Yes many movies now have that open ending which screams “sequel”. This is painful for one. Also this is for big budget films often based on things like comic books or previous hits. But you will need to set an level of connection from start to finish with each character. Known often as “character arc“.

three-act

5) The Three Act Structure.Yes that’s the image above, courtesy of rule in screenwriting for rookies. And veterans. Even Scorsese, sometimes – though unlike you, he can do this.

And what’s the climax?  Good vs. Bad, sounds so cliché, but that’s how it goes. What’s the incident that gets things going early on? Raise the conflict within the first few pages. Not the story about it, not the background fluff, what is this truly about?

5b) More importantly. Page 1.Yes, I’m going to end with the start. Page one has to have a hook. Yep, right away. Capture the reader on page one. You hear about how people decide within 10 pages? That was likely written 10 years ago. 1. Page 1. Get straight to key dialogue and scenes that tell the story. Yes, it’s not ideal, yes its why there’s a trend of movies that flow like that; and yes you might not want to do this -well after you make it big, you can do whatever you want.  Or just write it out anyway.  Cause you’re in it truly for yourself, right?  If so, then you truly are an artist.

As for Scorsese, not sure why the pun was intended.  Some of his movies are my all time favorites. Some not so much. But it seemed fitting to call some of these elements the Scorsese rule. Cause he can do 3 hour movies if he wants. I certainly can’t.  Directing version (which perhaps is more fitting) to come soon.

Four Stages To Writing A Screenplay

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

So while it wasn’t done in a day, thats mainly because time is a hot commodity. Add up the hour here and hour there and there you go, though I have no idea what the exact number is.

I finished writing a screenplay today – and felt like it went through a four stage process, so I thought I’d share it.

Of course this is assuming you have some idea for a screenplay, key characters, etc, as I can’t really help much if you dont have the default.

1) Spreadsheet – Outlined the full story by scene and kept it top level, so I could see when to connect chracters, mix scenes around with ease and also see what pace I had things going. Just a top level line or two of who and what was taking place, little detail, no real dialogue unless I felt something absolutely had to be referred to in the scene. This made the story line very flexible and rearrange.

2) Rough Draft it up – Once I was about 95% sure with the structure of the story, I wrote up a rough draft in traditional screenplay format, though with a bit of a shortcut thanks to an App that works ok for rough drafting and convenient for the next stage, even if inadvertently. But by now I already had a good idea on what I wanted to write, characters, etc, and so it was written up quite quickly.

3) Fixings with decorations and hooks – Not only did I need to fix up spacing and format issues, but this read through inspired me to push comedic hooks within the dialogue (such as defining character lines to make them stand out from other characters). And by this point it became a storyline that occupied the rare moment of drifting blended with inspiration. So this is when the story got cleaned up, checked up and some decorations added, particularly in scene detail such as character reaction, movement and dialogue hooks to make sure there wasn’t too much down time or bland scenes that had no reason to be there.

4) Final polish – Then over to Justin for a final read through and feedback, and after taking my eyes away from this script for a week or so (as I’ll be kicking off the next storyline spreadsheet), then I’ll return for a final read through or act through if I’m lucky to have the right people around and thats’ that. It will never be perfect, but thats when its time to get it registered and run with it.

Almost there, waiting for #4. But starting #1 on the next story.

Hope that helps put ideas and writing into perspective from a scheduling task list point of view. Once thats in place, will try and keep posting when possible to look at what we do with the idea. It’s a 90 minute comedy in this case, so its easy going and I’m not too attached to it, which is an advantage. I’m aware the story can always be improved, and an idea is never 100%, but also that this is good enough that I dont need to waste time nitpicking.

Scripts Pro for iPad Review

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

One of the rare moments where I get a chance to really work on screenplays is whilst traveling. And a couple weeks back I had a pair of long flights to endure. However, I’m not one to take a laptop, let alone on a plane where there’s hardly any room to move. But at the same time, the iPad adds an option of portability. It’s not too small to type on, and while I know people can type on an iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc, its not something I would want to do for too long, let along for several pages.

And while I’m not much of an iLife person anyway (don’t have an iPhone, and even the iPad isn’t mine technically), I am impressed with the range of apps that the iPad has, especially when it comes to music and film apps, where there is not only an abundant selection but some gems that I couldn’t even imagine say, 10 years ago. Either way, I have tested out a few screenwriting apps over the recent months, particularly on travels like the one noted here.  As a result, I figure it might be worth starting to review them, now that I’ve used them for a while.  Another reason I want to go through a bunch, is so I can see what I can improve on when developing a screenwriting app of my own (though considering how little time I have, this may take a while)!

Scripts Pro is a popular app and its gained traction over the years (its also gained cost, from 4.99 to 6.99 to 12.99 which is pushing it a fair bit for this market but still a bit cheaper than some of the other stuff out there). It’s got some great positives to it, but also some painful negatives.

Lets’ get the negatives out of the way first though.  Exporting/importing is PAINFUL! And never correct. I imported a script from a custom formatted Word document I made too, still no luck. Same goes when I try to bring it back. Scripts Pro claims to be able to export back to Word. Technically it does do this, but expect formatting, spacing and tabs to be awry and expect odd characters.  In fact you might as well save your export until you’re done, and then use the opportunity to fix up the formatting as a chance to review and revise/finalize your script. But being able to easily take this back and forth between PC and iPad? Not happening, unless perhaps you ante up for the likes of Final Draft.

Within the use of the app itself, it has a range of character glitches actually. And putting apostrophes within text seems to create interesting outcomes like how ‘ becomes a italic i sort of character? Another issue is that as a writer, I like to hit “save” and “Save as” a lot, in order to feel reassured perhaps, or keep track of major variations. However, you can’t do that here.  And its very scary.  I get this screen a lot.

I also cannot change the name of my file in regards to how it appears on the menu, and sometimes a second version of the file appears in the menu screen.  Despite this, and getting the scary crash screen above on all variations at times, use a far from logical method keep trying again and the file will open to where you last left it – despite never selecting “save” and the file name selected no longer matching the name of the file name shown once opened!

While there is a backspace and an undo button, there is no “find” option a la CTRL+F to find that word/reference, while the delete button goes one way (the latter is not Scripts Pro’s fault though). This means instead of getting your cursor in and hitting delete to “forward delete” and backspace to deleted back, you can only do the latter.  Perhaps this is just me, but I often delete forward and backward depending on my flow, and with a touch screen like the iPad and a program that often preselects by word, you might not always get the cursor on the right letter of the word. So the lack of forward deletes on iPad itself drives me crazy, but I do wish some apps would account for it.  I understand that point is mainly my gripe, though from searching around, I’m not the only one. Again, thats more a dig at iOS devices overall rather than this app. But one dig at this app that it could have done something about – is that you cannot highlight a letter within the word midway if you want to spell it a certain way yourself. So you have to respell the whole word anyway!

That said, on to the positives. It’s good for burning through a draft. Character name auto-fills, you can move to any scene via one click, formatting in place for the display version at least (and actually it does an ok job exporting to PDF, though no cover page – despite places saying this was fixed). Auto-correct is generally decent at remembering what you’ve edited prior, so you dont have to keep forcing a word that’s not in its dictionary, such as a location or slang.

On the tab when you bring up the keyboard you can easily change the text from dialogue to action to scene heading, etc and it will adopt a relevant format for you. I like how it highlights the scene headings on the iPad screen and also allows you to move to any scene at any time.  If you don’t like a characters name later on, you can easily change it via the character menu (though a find and replace in Word does this better, as it finds it within the dialogue, action, etc, too).

Overall, that is the benefit of this app, convenience. Without apps like this, writing a screenplay while traveling would be tough to pull off.  Just don’t rely on it to be your final piece of work, and since you can’t “save” it, make use of the option to email it to yourself or upload to Dropbox after any major changes. However, you will be able to breeze through it. I churned out about 20 pages via my outline, during perhaps 3 or so hours of a flight (despite spending the first hour reformatting my import too), and when you’re on a roll using this app, it becomes good to have.  Though my iPad typing might need work, and I developed wrist aches from it, so its probably only useful for bits and pieces when on the go.  And don’t bother reformatting the exported version on MS Word until you are doing a final run through.

It’s a good app overall, and I’m making use of it, but there is room for improvement (particularly in compatibility and a CTRL+F element beyond scene headings). Price is realistic, considering how much of a rip off some screenwriting programs can be, when all some of them are is a custom formatted Word Doc with various Macros. For those that want to translate this into a rating, overall I give it an 8 out of 10 (less if you plan on working on it back and forth, more if its just for quick writeups on the go).

Timesaver note: When exporting/opening in Word, it will look pretty hard to fix up. In Word, do a Align Center, and Align Left, and all the weird spacing at the start of each line / between lines will go away. You still have some tidying up to do and may want to do some traditional Word doc tab settings…. but not nearly as much as before. Worked as a great 2nd round read-through though, which I’ll write about soon.

How To Write A Screenplay in One Day

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

So, one thing I’ve been working on with the three screenplays currently in progress is efficiency. Outlining, writing when you are in a good flow, a good state of mind is key. Some days I am full of ideas and hooks that come from every direction. Some days I am useless. However what used to happen is when I was on the wave of creativitiy, I’d start writing, and a few scenes and pages later, it might fade or the time may have passed and I’ve got to leave/go/sleep/work/eat/acknowledge others. And while I’d be happy that I fit in a couple of hours and got some ideas down, I wish I could get more value for that.

I’ve already gone on about how outlining a screenplay is so important and the element of modern convenience is useful too, in an age and time where we seem to have a lot of the former but none of the latter. As I am still a long way away from developing an iOS app for screenwriting, let alone testing out the competition – I am still concentrating on what I’d want it to do in the first place. And I found an odd candidate for doing this. Microsoft Excel! I hate Excel, as what it stands for is something that eats up a fair bit of my work day, but at the same time, I see myself use it in more and more non-work scenarios.

The other day I had a couple hours to spare. And this was rare. So I knew I needed to make the most of it. One of my recent screenplay ideas was scribbled on a piece of paper. This is the first tip on how to write a screenplay in one day HAVE AN IDEA IN THE FIRST PLACE. So anyone expecting some magical trick here is out of luck. You need to know what you’re going to write about, how it will start, what sort of story it is, and how it will end.

But lets say you have an idea and you know how it will flow, how it will start, end and some main character elements. Open MS Excel. Create a spreadsheet with the following columns in the first row. Scene number, Outline, Location, Characters, Estimated Time, Notes, Hook Relation. Don’t worry, this isn’t advanced Excel 101, just some basic ways you can use it to your advantage.

So in this chart, we show how writing is a business and an art.

The “scene number” explains itself, the first one is 1, and so on. Outline is basically a summary of what the scene is, what’s the message, who’s in, and maybe a snippet of dialogue or how the vibe of that scene is overall. Then for Location we are looking at the traditional Location line, such as “EXT. PARK – NIGHT” for a outdoor scene in the park at night time.

“Characters” – this is where you list the main characters of the scene, so you can track who is involved where. Estimated time is a column formatted as a number where you indicate how many seconds you think the scene might take if you imagine it. No need to be too specific, think 15 for quick transitions, 30 for visual layouts, 45 for regular scenes, 60 for longer scenarios, 90 for large scale transitions with scenery/dialogue/interaction – use your judgement. Set yourself a total number of seconds as a target and put this as an equation on the sheet if need be. I do something like =SUM(E4:E150)/60
Where I total up the time estimates and divide by 60 to see an automatic update on how long into the plot I am.

“Notes” are more for you, if you have an idea of what should be in the scene or what should be referenced, put it here. Last but not least “Hook relation”. Every scene has to mean something in the plot. And sometimes its hard to keep track of a scene you wrote in page 7 when you are up to page 77. So desginate a hook note if its something you want to parlay into the script later – so as you build your plot, you can reconnect the hook into a loop, and thus layer your plot lines accordingly.

When you are in the flow, this is a great way to get your ideas moving and when you have a 2-3 hours with the creativity flowing, I was able to get close to 40 minutes of the story in place, as well as loose ideas for later scenes, open hooks that I need to close and how the ending will work out. I figure if someone gave me a whole day for this or a couple more 3 hour sessions, I’d be done with the outline. Then when I have less time and less creative flow, I can write out according to the outline.

Moving back to the spreadsheet though, there are other ways it can help you with establishing the outline and thus making the write up much smoother. Remember when I mentioned to make each column a different element, such as location? Highlight that top row and in the top menu of Excel (in the home menu tab on Excel 2007 at least) go to “Editing” and select “sort filter” and then “Filter”. Little arrows will go next to each of your column headers. Click on it and you can sort each column by location, character, scene number, etc. The filter option allows the rest of the columns to follow suit when shuffling up the spreadsheet. This way you can see which characters are getting more usage, which locations you have overused, etc. And to reset it back to “Scene order” just order by the first column of “scene number” and we’ll be back to the order of the scenes. I didn’t even really need to use this till after I had 30+ scenes in the spreadsheet, but its useful if you have a full length layout and need to polish up some aspects and/or make sure your plot hooks are closed up before doing your final write up.

Then from that, doing the final write up in proper screenplay format – well, its going to be faster than you’ve ever written up a screenplay before. And you’ll be able to freshly reference the excel sheet (which perhaps you have printed as reference for when you write the full version) in a way that you’ll remember each little bit about the plot, and make it more layered and cohesive overall. Was able to write up 20 pages from it in a 2 or 3 hours, so given a long day, it could be done. However, you will probably need to give it another final look at a later day, and read through, act it out accordingly (if you’re lucky enough to have a co-writer, that is one huge benefit). So its more like outline day 1, write up day 2, review day 3 and you’ll be pretty exhausted, but it can be done, and if you have that great idea, you dont want to let it fade. I’ve heard of books that say how to write a screenplay in 10 days. This method will at least reduce that.

Disclaimer: In reality, these days are spread out. Most people are only lucky enough to have an hour here and there to spare (as is the case with me doing insane hours at work, trying to have a life and not annoying the wife). So when saying a day or two, I mean two sets of 8-10 hours. If you have full 12+ hours to spare every day, well…. make the most of it! And obviously the question of a screenplay being “done” is another discussion.

Note: Some people don’t have Excel nor are willing to pay for it. However, Google Docs or Open office offer similar programs for free. I haven’t used them in a while, but for the basic spreadsheet layout, I assume these would suffice too.

The Right Way To Write A Screenplay

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Over the years I’ve had many an idea for a screenplay (often while intoxicated though). And I start it eager to plow through what I think is an awesome scene here and there, profound or hilarious or sometimes a combo of the two dialogue wise, a cool character mix and a story that has that right level of everything. I’ll burn through the first 10 or so pages that night and think, damn, this will be the shit. And then it fades out. Suddenly the script of many dreams has reached a dead end, or it goes off on a tangent that makes no sense. You try to keep going with it, catching occassional inspiration and rewrite motivations – to the point where the story was nothing like your initial idea. Not too long later, the story becomes another half script casualty. You’ve lost the plot, the scene transition is non-existent, its missing the hook and you have no idea how it was supposed to end anyway.

Yeah, I’ll admit, I’ve written a fair few screenplays where I either had no idea what the ending would be, or completely lost my way there. I just had a great idea and ran with it, and then one day wondered where the hell I was running to. And I know other people that have done this too over the years. In fact, not too long ago I thought thats how they all did it.

Now I know that this is also why people have unfinished screenplays. So here’s my advice, what I’ve learned (told you this blog would take you through the learnings too after all….). If you plan on writing a screenplay based on an idea one day and start writing dialogue, scenes, etc…. you are in trouble. It will usually fade out. Not always, as I’ve definately finished a few this way…. but the odds are against you.

Nowadays I have much less free time on my hands, and so sitting down and writing up loads of scenes is something that I rarely am able to do. However, I still manage to get some ideas every now and then, and scribble them down like old times. Instead of writing out a script, it made sense to just outline the scenes for now. Make this easier to convert into a full length, figure out what the plot is in the first place, figure out how it will end, get an idea of the structure overall before digging deep into character specifics like dialogue quirks. Then, when I have some time, yet not feeling too creative, I can churn through scenes quite fast and develop the properly structured screenplay. An outline takes much less time and allows you to get the most from your creative flow as well – those moments where you just have inspiration and ideas a plenty.

because we still print them out?

Either way, this is what I’m experimenting on a current screenplay, and it is working well. Very efficient time-wise too. Hopefully it will be converted relatively fast, and due to the outline (which was done very quickly), easy to keep track of what and where regarding plot and characters. It’s interesting to be able to write this way and I feel more confident with building the story idea while the creative juices are flowing – then finalizing and tweaking as I lay it out as a full length. It all makes sense. It’s also odd that they don’t really tell you to do this when you learn about screenwriting. But they should.

And perhaps to some slight disappointment (as its not some first time discovery that will revolutionize screenwriting, just something I feel like I was late to learn on), its also referred to by various other people. Such as this one at http://www.writersstore.com/outlining-your-script-or-story/ – quote: “writing a long, complex piece, such as a novel or screenplay from an outline will make the entire process easier, less angst-ridden, and — except for those of you with masochistic tendencies — far more pleasurable and satisfying. And, as with the Great Ones, your finished story will be better.”

And there are various tools to help you manage your outline a bit better when you have that idea.

So yes, I’m sold on outlines, not just its convinced me that the next one I write will require less “rewrite time”. However I still have ideas that will make this faster and even more efficient when translating thoughts and ideas to screenplays. I’ll save that for a later post though. Time to write up the current outline for now….. after all, its not going to write itself up, yet.

What To Do With That Screenplay You Wrote – Stage 3

Friday, January 4th, 2013

At this point you should be well into a couple other pieces and the title should be about what to do with those “Screenplays” you have written. Friends have perhaps glanced through it, and one or two might even like it. This is the hard part now. Get it out there some more…. to strangers.

I don’t really foray much into forums, as they can be more chat than actual insight, but there are some with decent communities overall. I used to like http://www.zoetrope.com to some extent, but the well has really dried out there, and hardly anyone uses it anymore in comparison to 5 or so years ago.

Still, it was there that I learned a lot about screenwriting, by reading other people’s screenplays. And I read some pretty bad ones, from users complaining about the types of reviews that they got. This perhaps is not wise to do, but it works out well. For the most part the insight was appreciated, and it was there that I was able to refine my own craft and learn what not to do. At the same time, I hunted out some good ones, or promised to exchange reviews if they were serious. The reviews you get fall into three categories though – very very useful insight that you couldn’t pay for, nit picking about the littlest things, or they didn’t read it and made bad assumptions. Category 1 happens, sometimes.

Perhaps this is because it’s always easier to improve someone else’s screenplay than your own, because you have some sort of ties to your own. There are loads of other forums and networks where one can work on their craft, such as http://labs.triggerstreet.com/ – which I used a few years back, but have decided to give another go. It seems to be much more active than Zoetrope these days, so we’ll likely test the waters here again in the coming week or two with Alphabet Soup.

Subscribe to the newsletters from https://www.withoutabox.com and http://www.moviebytes.com/ – they’ll tell you what’s going on out there, and what festivals are happening, where to enter short films, screenplays, etc, and how other people felt about the contests (in MovieBytes’ case, and they’ve been around for a long time).

That’s right, Screenplay contests. There’s going to be a point in time, where you’ll have to set foot in these. But which ones are legit? Read around. Some are more obvious than others, and some cater to certain niches, so take time to do some research on each – especially when most of them are not free.

Here are some of the more well known ones (which can also mean more competitive), that will get your name out there.

Nicholl Fellowship – http://www.oscars.org/awards/nicholl/index.html (average of 6-7,000 entries per year)
Page Awards – http://pageawards.com/
TrackingB – http://www.trackingb.com/
Final Draft – http://www.finaldraft.com/products/big-break/
Sundance – http://www.sundance.org/programs/screenwriters-lab/
Script Pipeline – http://www.scriptpipeline.com/
BlueCat – http://www.bluecatscreenplay.com/
Writers on the Storm – http://writerstorm.com/
Cinestory – http://www.cinestory.org/
Zoetrope – http://www.zoetrope.com

They can also be local festivals such as:
London Independent (UK) – http://www.londonindependent.org/
Richmond Film Fest (VA/NC area) http://themixshorts.com/
Gotham (NY) – http://www.gsiff.com/

In fact its useful to find some ones near you and thus be able to attend them should you be considered. Sooooooo….. start scoping them out and see how you fare. But only do so until you’ve polished up your work and gotten free feedback from the likes of people you know and free member places like Trigger Street and Zoetrope – along with seeing what’s out there. Yep, part of getting your screenplay out there is putting in some work beyond writing up your magical idea. That’s what they kept telling us at least! And yes, we have entered some of the ones listed above.

Next part to come soon…… thanks for all the feedback so far.

What To Do With That Screenplay You Wrote – Stage 2

Monday, December 10th, 2012

So you’ve got a great screenplay, its well written (or so you tell yourself), you know about formatting and not driving the script on loads of dialogue that go on for pages and yet nothing happens in the background (always visualize!) – and using the right words to explain scenes thus flowing the story on at a good pace.

You’ve even made sure you covered your own back and sent yourself a copy, registered it with the WGA West or East, copyrighted it or some equivalent. You perhaps even read this piece we did last week.

What next then? Well, get it out there… but in most cases you will probably want to tread lightly and have mentioned it to friends, colleagues and/or family. And they’ll be happy for you and perhaps even want a copy of it, which you are happy to send them. Go ahead. And here’s what you should expect from this. NOTHING. Unless all your friends are screenwriters too.

So yes, expect nothing. And I mean that in the nicest way possible, take whatever you get as a bonus. This is not a knock or assumption on your friends, family, etc, this is just the truth. Why?

– They are likely not all screenwriters (which is probably a good thing).

– As much as they’d love to read your idea, the screenplay will require them to devote a fair bit of time that they likely do not have. So even if they have some screenwriting knowledge, you’d also better make sure that they have time too.

– They are biased (because they care) and likely not to give you the critique you want to get. And if they have critique they may be reluctant to give it you. The exceptions are if that “someone you know” is (A) in the industry, (B) aspiring to do similar things and is on your level, or probably a bit of (C) an asshole.

– (B) is a bit of work because often, what you write is very close and personal to you. I used to review work for other people back in the days. They were strangers, but often you had to really explain things in detail to combat their initial feeling of being offended (I’ll get to the reviewing thing in Chapter 3). Long story short, you have to let it get out there and people are going to have their opinions.

– If not A or B: the critique may be of no use and have nothing to do with the story, because they are not screenwriters, and likely have no idea how things like formatting and plot lines are supposed to work.

Does this mean that you shouldn’t send it to people you know? No. Send it, definitely. Just don’t expect this to be the magical trick to get your idea sold. You have a long way to go.

I sent it to some friends, a couple of them have connections or are in the industry. Perhaps they’ll pass it on. If they do, awesome, if not, you can’t really push them on it (other than a casual couple reminders perhaps). A couple of them are those who’s opinions I value greatly and I know that they have some knowledge about how things work with scripts and movies, etc. Are they professionals, no… but they are amateurs like us at this point, who have done a bit of work before, even if at a hobbyist level.

And so this is stage two. Just get it out there to people you know and trust first. If something comes out of it, consider yourself lucky. At the least maybe you can start a chain or two and get a contact or two. And this leads onto the next part, meeting strangers and putting out for strangers (the script that is…). Which is a lot easier now, than say 15 years ago.

What To Do With That Screenplay You Wrote – Stage 1

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Sure, it’s not the first screenplay we’ve written, but at the same time, we’re not experts. We haven’t quit our jobs and do this for a living…..yet. So why should we tell you how to get a screenplay out there? Well, someone has to. And trust me, some of the advice will be good, because we’re testing it out for you.

Here we tell you what we did. What we did right, and what we did wrong. What feedback we accumulated, what we learned and then denied admitting we learned.

Lets assume you wrote a screenplay first though. Because putting one together is a different matter, and that’s not what this post (or series of posts) is about. There’s plenty of material out there about how to convert that great story idea you had while intoxicated at 3am one night to a properly formatted piece that isn’t just a shit load of dialogue you thought sounded cool or carried a message you needed to say. . . . . . . . >>>>>>> Fast forward a bit. It’s done, great job.

Store Screenplays at The National Archives, or wherever no one is looking.

Register it. Do you need to? Maybe not, after all, it might just sit in the storage box or hard drive for years to come. Someone might find it decades from now and think its a rare screenplay that would make a great idea because by then movies are a dead art. Or who knows, things might work out sooner than that. You never know. But why not? It’s cheap and easy to register your script with the WGA, and it gives you some proof. Plus contests and companies often require you to list the registration number when submitting to them anyway.

And while you’re at it, email yourself a copy of it, and snail mail a copy of it via registered mail / certified mail, whatever gives exact proof of when you did it (though this is not going to win you a case by itself, it will help you prove your authorship). And you’re convinced its a good story, right? So then do all of the above. If not, you might as well throw it out and start again anyway.

So for the WGA part, go to: http://www.wgawregistry.org/webrss/ or if on the east coast – https://www.wgaeast.org/

What does it get you. Peace of mind perhaps. If you want to feel safer, visit http://www.copyright.gov or your local equivalent. Here’s a place that talks about the pros/cons of each – http://www.writersstore.com/wgaw-registration-vs-copyright-registration/

Does this matter. Only a little. Chances are it won’t happen, and if it does, you’ll need to be ready to do a lot of work, get a lawyer, etc. But the more you do, the more evidence you have. So get on with it. And now that’s done, we can start to dive in. Next chapter coming soon.

Small Town Stars

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

I guess the secret is out, The Havenots is not the first screenplay any of us here have written. However, getting back into the swing of things helped me dig in the crates and skim through many screenplay’s past sitting in the hard drive (yes, as much as the image one would like to conjure as a writer is that of one surrounded by reams of paper, its also not the 1900’s anymore either). Many of these attempts to write what one random night was a great idea (while intoxicated probably), perhaps never quite made it, got abandoned 50 pages in, or never got that rewrite.

Some of them might be worth a revision now.  I dug up a screenplay I wrote not too long ago called Small Town Stars and found a past logline/synopsis and even notes from a couple of contests that were entered with it. The screenplay managed to make the quarterfinals where it was entered which was not bad for something I felt needed a bit more polishing, but wanted to get feedback on. It certainly isn’t as polished as the Havenots, but definately worth opening the file and making some edits.  And seeing it in the files sort of reminded me of The Havenots, as its a very middle of anywhere city plot where futures look far from bright.

The plot focuses on a couple of students who dream of making movies one day, but all they see are the grim stories within their own town. But they start to lose track of what’s fictional and whats real?  Surrounded by dead end life in a dead beat middle American town, two teenagers (Ferdinand and Charlie) use their love for film as a ticket for their escape.  But with scars from the past and the town they are in, sometimes it is hard to escape.  Golden opportunities in life become downward spirals, as Ferdinand’s life becomes connected to incidents that happened a generation prior.

With knowledge starting to build of what is going on in the movie scenes, Ferdinand becomes a grown man behind the lens, but also realizes he has no way out.  As a result, there’s only one way to go from here. If he can’t beat them, join them. Sort of a dark thriller/drama perhaps.

The Havenots

Friday, November 9th, 2012

We recently finished a full length screenplay called “The Havenots”. It took a fair bit of feedback and rewrites to get the flow how we wanted, but feel that its a good mix of current events, drams and dark (very dark) comedy. As we speak, it is being sent over to various contacts and entered in the odd competition here and there.

Here is an outline of the screenplay: Michael Rappaport III is one of the most prominent businessmen in the world who capitalizes on the misfortunes of others as if it were nothing more than a game in which the rules can be tweaked if need be. He has everything he could want, all within reach, yet also has nothing, losing track of why this was all being done in the first place.

Shiloh is a discontent young woman who has given up on the idea of “making something” out of her life. Forced to work two jobs (one of them at Michael Rappaport’s firm) to dig herself out of college debt and living expenses, Shiloh’s life has become a monotonous chore that she simply carries out. Day after day, she fades out further as life flies by her eyes.

But when she loses both of her jobs in the same day, she finds herself at a crossroads: does she continue to live the empty life she’s been living or does she awaken from her apathetic doldrums to seize control over her life? And what does that “control” even consist of?

Stephen is a homeless war vet who drifts from place to place, hiding from his past and surviving the present. On a chance encounter on the train, he sees Shiloh and follows her home. Once they realize that they have a shared past and contempt for the powers that suppress them, they team up against Rappaport to show them that it takes more than money to hide from the disappointments and shortcomings life has to offer.

In all cases, whatever you have, want, need, when you lose track of life, you truly lose it. This screenplay focuses on the lives of these three people – from different yet similar walks of life and how they cross each others paths in today’s world.

Contact Us if you would like any additional info or a copy of the screenplay (registered under WGA).