Tuesday, 29 January 2008

You have to know the rules, before you can break the rules...

I just thought. One of the reasons i started writing this blog (apart from trying to motivate my lazy ass into doing some work, and maybe having a written account of my progress for my uni tutors) was that i've found it so hard to find anything about the writing process on the internet anywhere. So, maybe if i cover a little bit about how i've got to where i've got (which, as you'll discover, isn't very fucking far) it might actually help someone....if anyone actually reads this thing. Which i doubt very much. Anyhow.....

Yeah, like anything else i do, before i get to the meat, i procrastinate. In cases such as this, my procrastination might actually be fairly helpful, because i went out and bought just about every book on screenwriting i could find. It's funny, my girlfriend always takes the piss out of me for reading around subjects, because i think she's come to realise that i sometimes do more 'reading' than 'doing'....which might be true.

The books i've found the most useful have been

Screenplay by Syd Field
The Screenwriter's Workbook, again by Syd Field
Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger

Now, i've read other books on screenwriting, and although some have had useful tips in them, i feel that generally, they've not been worth the money.

Also, i read Story, by Robert McKee, and found it utterly pretentious. Now i know, it's meant to be pretty much close to The Bible for screenwriters, but i just couldn't read the fucking thing. He really goes on about 'story' in the most abstract sense (and having a degree in philosophy, i'm farily used to the abstract), which i didn't find useful to me in any practical sense whatsoever. But then again, he's a guru, and i've written fuck all, so what do you know!

As well, i just want to give a mention to How Not To Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flinn, which having read it, is going to be worth its weight in gold when i come to polish up the damn thing...

So, ok. I pretty much followed Syd Field's three act structure, which breaks down something like this


All the acts also have specific things which should happen in them, for example in ACT 1 the first 10 pages should set up all the main characters, and the dramatic drive of the script, then about 20-25 pages in should be the first plot point, which spins the story around into the second act.

I won't go into it in major detail, as Syd does a far better job than me in his books.

Once i knew pretty much what would happen in my story in terms of beginning, middle and end, i tried to make it fit into his paradigm- making sure all the plot points happen roughly where he suggests, etc. Don't get me wrong, this took quite a lot of fiddling about. At times it felt like a kid trying to hammer a square peg into a round hole. You'd be suprised what a difference it makes if you make a certain plot point the main turning point of an act, rather than another plot point.

I know there's a certain amount of arguments about imposing such a rigid structure on a screenplay, and you can argue that many of your favourite films don't fit into it, but i felt like it offered me a certain amount of help, this being my first feature-length script. I guess it's the old cliche of 'you have to learn the rules before you can break the rules'...

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Scott and The Sopranos

Ok, so i'm going to try and get more writing done tonight, which isn't always as easy as it should be after a day of wage-slaving.

The thing i was saying about The Sopranos last time has got me thinking about how impressive their writing is in terms of character. In that programme the characters are so multi-dimensional and well-rounded; no character is entirely bad, or good- they each come from their own unique viewpoint, and have their own easily indentifiable dramatic needs. Each character is truely believable in the sense that their actions are entirely justified by what you've seen, and come to realise about their personalities.

So, i guess i'm hoping to have a little bit of that rub off on me and my writing (Jesus, and maybe some of their Emmys, and a bundle of cash too, while i'm at it!). Because, i think what has happened with me is that i'm thinking of my writing too much in terms of a robotical paint-by-numbers kind of approach.

You see, i've read so many of those Screenwriting books that at the moment i'm thinking in terms of, "Well, this has to happen by page ten, and this has to foreshadow that" that maybe i'm losing something of the freedom and art of writing. Hmm, it's just a thought anyway, and one of many, many things i'll have to clean up in the re-writes.

Also, one thing i'm hoping to do is have a definate theme running through the screenplay (Jesus, i'd better, or how the hell am i going to write a thesis on it?!?)

Before i first started writing this, i saw a really awesome documentary on Captain Scott (Scott of the Antarctic). It was one of those cheesey moments that makes a chap darn glad he's English. Believe you me, that doesn't happen too often. Basically it got me thinking about duty in the face of unassailable odds, and composure in the face of certain death. I must admit, i became a bit obsessed with the whole Scott of the Antarctic idea, and even suggested to my girlfriend that if we ever had kids we could name them either Titus (after Oats) or Falcon (after Scott)....heh heh, so maybe that's a bit too far. So i've instead resigned myself to naiming my screenplay characters after them instead.

A few weeks later i ran into my old philosophy professor (who may just be the single coolest person in the world, by the way) and chatted about my screenplay ideas, and he suggested i read Albert Camu's 'The Plague', which i had to ashamedly admit i had never heard of (maybe they were just handing out philosophy degrees at my University). So, hopefully with that in mind, i'll be able to nail down the tone of this writing...

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Much Ado About F*ck All

Wow, ok, so it seems like it's months since i set up this blog, and last wrote anything.

Ok, so updates.....

Well, not fucking much apparently.

I've finished the research of my script, which took quite a while. Then i took a little more faffing over things by writing a four-page outline of the main points of the plot.

Then broke this outline down in terms of the individual scenes i'd need on those little index cards, which is pretty handy.

So, now i'm writing the first draft script of the project.

And this is where things are slowing down significantly.....

I can't believe how slowly i'm writing, it's like i sit down at my desk to get started, and i can't bare to sit there writing for more than twenty minutes or so, and then i get this unbelievible desire to just get up and do something, anything much less productive. At the moment, this is coming in the form of The Sopranos. You see, i'd never seen it, and people kept going on about how amazing it is/was. So, now it's finally finished, i decided i should give it a go. Which is just like me, i might add, i never seem to be involved in current trends, and only really pay attention to things when they're dead and gone. I don't know what that says about me, but, anyhow.

So, i'm about halfway through the first act now, just after the first inciting-incident. All i really want though is to be done with the first draft though, and be able to start making everything better.

I'm sure that the first draft is going to be pretty terrible, i'm prepared for that. But it's the old 'blank page' cliche at the mo that's really slowing me down. That, and the fact that i seem to be struggling with the tone, and finding my own voice- i'm really in two minds as to whether to go the more high brow, cerebral route, or dumb it down to be more of a traditional genre movie. Decisions, decisions.

Anyhow, hopefully i'll have more to report in the way of progress next time....