I'm turning into a Giant
Started working on a rewrite. Been outlining today, even wrote the opening page. Going for a completely different first act. Hopefully this will set everything up for the payoffs in the third act.
Will have to wait and see.
Okay, I'm 11 pages in.
Going for around 95 pages. Roughly an 1 hour 35 minutes give or take.
Find the time to write
Becoming good at something takes time, persistence and a lot of hard work. The ability to put together a story in screenplay form is no exception, of course there are those that pick up things more easily than others and are able to do this with no problem. Those lucky, gifted few among us.
Mostly everyone has to put in the time, effort and hard work to possibly see the fruits of their labor. A little luck goes a long way too, the right place, the right time.
Finding time to do this especially if you’re holding down a full time job, family, bills to pay makes it that more of a challenge. If you really want it, these factors and forces will push you to work that much harder. If you don’t, you’ll give up the ghost and fall by the wayside.
Whether you set aside time to write once a week or every day, you must build a routine for yourself. Perhaps you write one hour a week, perhaps it’s a couple of hours a day or even one scene a day. Make sure that you write, and write consistently.
Make a schedule for yourself.
An hour or two before you go to work in the mornings.
Try and write before the kids come home.
Late night, early morning writing after the family has gone to bed.
Make a schedule and stick to it. And you’ll see your writing take shape and you’ll have something to show for it. That all important first draft. Then crack on with the next one.
N.B. Make sure this is your time as well. No distractions.
And don't make up excuses as to why you should stop. A lot of the time you'll try and walk away, don't, stay focused and write.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Get busy livin' or get busy dyin'.
Making headway with editing this. The page count will definitely be a lot lower in this draft.
I have two, maybe three more screenplays to work on and then it will be a case of rereading and proofreading them. And getting them ready for the end of the year.
Then I can crack on with deciding which new scripts I want to start work on. Loglines, beatsheets, outlines etc. Need to have four good ideas and loglines to work with.
Toy Story - Pixar Animation
Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow
Final Draft 1995
This is a well written screenplay with a great setup. We are introduced to Woody's world from the very first page. From the reader's point of view we can see that Woody is Andy's favorite toy just from how he interacts with him. He also has him incharge of all the other toys. He's the sheriff.
The first five pages hook the reader. Woody is introduced on page 2 and the toys come alive by page 5. Hook the reader/audience as soon as possible.
Woody discusses the move and how he doesn't want any toys left behind on page 10.
A little foreshadowing on Woody's part.
I don't want any toys
We find out that it's Andy's birthday on page 11 and that he has a birthday party.
There's quite a bit of foreshadowing just to make sure that the reader/audience understand what will be at stake. Get the audience thinking about what might happen.
Pg 11 – The first mention of Andy's birthday.
Just to make sure the audience understands that Woody is Andy's favorite toy. Rex's dialogue.
He's been Andy's favorite
I'm not worried.
You shouldn't be worried.
Pg 12 – A bit of foreshadowing on Woody's part. Rex is worried about being replaced and Woody tells him no one's getting replaced.
Hey, listen, no one's
Pg 19 – Woody is still sure there's nothing to worry about.
Pg 21- First sign of trouble for Woody. He's flung off the bed.
Pg 23 – Woody still doesn't think there's anything to worry about until he sees Buzz Lightyear. We're introduced to the futuristic toy, Buzz Lightyear. The name says it all.
Pg 30 – This is when Woody's world changes. When Buzz jumps off the bed, bounces on the rubber ball and appears to fly. He's the new guy in town and Woody gets left in the shadows.
Pg 43- It could be argued that the start of Act 2 starts here when Buzz gets accidentally knocked out the window. And the other toys accuse Woody of doing it on purpose.
I personally think Act 2 starts on Pg 47 when Andy takes Woody with him to Pizza Planet and Buzz jumps onto the rear fender of the van. They're heading into a new world.
Pg 50- Things don't look good for Woody and Buzz when they get left behind at the gas station.
They might have to work together to get back home? This is when the fun starts.
Pgs 77-79- A low point for Buzz when he sees the commercial on television and realizes that he's just a toy.
Pg 122- Buzz flies, so he can fly? Perhaps.
This isn't flying. It's falling
I was a little bit worried when I saw the actual page count, considering the actual running time of the movie is around 77 minutes. As this is an animation you need good action lines to paint a colorful world and put across to the reader the visuals involved.
The animation department needs something to work from.
But this was a completely different read to UP. The action lines in that were written with brevity.
This is stated as the Final Draft which by no means makes it the actual shooting draft. And even shooting drafts go through rewrites while a movie is being shot.
The screenplay does differ in parts to the actual movie. Certain scenes that are written aren't actually in the final movie.
But this doesn't detract from being a great read. Again, much can be learned as to how to write and structure a movie whether animated or not for a family audience just by reading this one screenplay.
It has some very memorable scenes like the one where Buzz finds himself trapped in the crane game with the Green Squeeze Toy Aliens.
Who's in charge here?
All the aliens point upward.
Classic. Pure genius.
Read it. Watch it and read it again.
To MFA or not to MFA
This is a tough one.
Being creative and wanting to write comes from within. If you have desire, passion and a need to tell stories, you will regardless of whether you have a Screenwriting MFA or not.
I applied to do a Masters in Screenwriting and was offered a place on the course much to my satisfaction.
After careful consideration I declined the offer.
The only real benefits of doing an MFA (Masters) in my opinion are the connections you might make within the industry while doing the course. But that's a lot of money to be splashing out in the hope of making a connection. And there are only a handful of universities in the world that might get you connected to the right people.
What counts is the drive to write and tell stories. To write and keep writing. Writing a screenplay is something you can learn without going to university. Being able to write a story with memorable characters and great dialogue. Writing a story that people will enjoy is the hard part.
If you are considering doing an M.F.A. Consider the following.
Who will be teaching you?
Do they work within the industry?
Do they have any credits?
Have they optioned their own work?
Has any of their work been produced?
What connections do they have?
Can they and will they introduce you to people they know? That's if they know anyone themselves.
There is little or no point spending lots of money to do a course if the person who's teaching you is trying to break into the industry themselves.
If you love movies, reading and telling stories. My advice would be to get a few books on how to construct a screenplay rather than splash out thousands on an MFA.
More questions you should ask yourself.
How long's the course?
Part time or Full time?
Will you work during the course?
Can you afford it?
How long have you been writing for already?
There are only a handful of universities in the world that offer MFA's that are regarded highly in the industry. And even then, you won't be guaranteed anything unless you have stories that people want.
It's all in the writing. Not the qualifications you hold.
Currently working on Kissed.
Trying to get the page count down to 105-110 pages and doing some restructuring of scenes.
Up - Pixar Animation Studios
Screenplay - Bob Peterson (screenplay) and Pete Docter (screenplay)
When it comes to structure, these guys have it down to a tee.
If you are looking for inspiration and how a screenplay should be written with brevity and clarity. You should look no further than a screenplay written for Pixar. And this one is no exception.
And you'll understand why the movie turned out so well.
It's a very simple story expertly put together.
This all happens within the first 14 pages of the screenplay with just enough action lines for the animation department to work with. Brevity.
There are two very important turning points for Carl.
She sends him in a new direction. They get married and grow old together.
Carl and Ellie never got a chance to achieve their dreams of going to Paradise Falls together.
A great setup.
The main story revolves around Carl's unfulfilled need of adventure. His desire to travel to Paradise Falls for Ellie and himself.
The secondary story is that he never got a chance to have children with Ellie.
This is where the character of Russell plays a huge role and his introduction on page 17. This is the son Carl never had. This is when their friendship starts.
Russell actually mirrors a young Carl.
This all works because it's all been setup in the previous pages.
When it comes to structure these guys know what they're doing.
A lot happens in those first 14 pages.
We get introduced to Charles Muntz, his airship, his love of dogs and his passion for catching the bird. We see him get ostracized from the Explorer's Society. They don't believe him, they think he fabricated the skeleton of the bird. At this stage, we don't know it. But this sets up the situation Carl and Russell will find themselves in later.
What's also important is that Carl idolizes Muntz, this guy's his hero.
On page 4, Carl is playing with his blue balloon, balloons will play a big part in the story to come.
Carl meets Ellie on page 6. These kids have lots in common. They both have dreams of going on adventures.
On page 8, Ellie shows Carl her adventure book. 'My Adventure Book'. She trusts him.
Ellie talks to carl about going to Paradise Falls on page 9. This will be their goal. This is what they want to do together.
However things don't go according to plan, on page 12 they suffer mishaps. The car tire, in hospital, tree smashing through roof. Plans are put on hold.
Carl and Ellie aren't getting any younger either. Time is running out.
When Carl does decide that they should go for it, he's run out of time. Ellie falls ill and winds up in hospital. Some good visuals here. Well, it's just the one visual with the blue balloon when he visits her.
After his altercation with the construction worker and his appearance at the courthouse. Carl debates as to what he should do next. Ellie's adventure book. The Adventure Shrine. The Painting of their house next to Paradise Falls.
What will his life be like if he goes to the retirement home?
What's he got to lose?
He knows what he has to do.
Carl's adventure starts on page 24. The balloons rise above the house. This is the main story in the movie. The goal he had as a young boy, the dream he and Ellie had but never achieved. He's going to Paradise Falls.
This adventure he's going on is enforced on page 25 with his dialogue.
'We're on our way Ellie.'
The subplot happens not long after this on page 26 when Carl is startled to find Russell outside his front door. I say subplot, but this is the start of Carl's and Russell's friendship as they bond over the duration of the movie.
Ellie and Carl were unable to have children so Russell in some way is filling a gap in Carl's life. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.
We get introduced to Kevin the bird on page 41. This is one of the subplots.
Dug the dog on page 46.
We reach the midpoint on page 60.
Things aren't looking good for Carl and Russell. Alpha and the other dogs are leading them somewhere. But where? You could say this is a false defeat. They don't know it, but they're on their way to meet Charles Muntz.
Carl's childhood hero. The man he looked up to and idolized as a young boy. What could go wrong?
Everything goes smoothly when Carl and Russell meet Muntz. Carl can't believe how lucky he is. Especially when they get to go aboard the airship. And things do go smoothly until Russell puts his foot in it and mentions Kevin on page 68 after he notices the skeleton of the bird. This is when their situation takes a turn for the worst.
Things look bleak for Carl and Russell. On page 72 Kevin is bitten and on page 73 we find out how seriously the injury is.
On page 76 Kevin is caught and Muntz throws a lit lantern into Carl's house and causes a fire. Very much the low point of the film.
Some goods moments concerning the dimise of the bad guys.
Muntz falls but you don't actually see him die.
When the planes explode, the dogs don't die, they escape with parachutes.
Avoiding deaths in family movies like this is a must. Especially in animation.
You don't want to alienate your audience.
Lots of nice touches at the end.
Carl showing up and pinning Ellie's Grape Soda Pin on Russell.
The two of them on the curb counting the cars. Again these were set up at the start of the story.
Set Ups and Pay Offs.
The audience is more likely to go with things if they are set up early on.
And finally, having the house on top of Paradise falls at the end.
I recommend reading this screenplay. Then watch the movie and then read through the screenplay again. Much can be learned from this one script alone.
A great learning tool for screenwriters.
Santa's Wish List
Just been going through this and editing it. Can't believe how many format and spelling mistakes I've found in it.
Bad spelling and grammar can take a reader out of a story.
Do your best to proofread any work you do. If possible get friends or colleagues to read through it. Although this can be tremendously difficult.
Work in progress.
I was watching the news the other day. And funnily enough some writers were being interviewed about the benefits of using the internet. How as a writer you need to sell yourself and your work.
The writers in question were discussing self publishing on the internet.
I have actually visited a very good site if you are a novelist and are considering self publishing. Go here.
As a screenwriter, the self publishing doesn’t really play a part. It’s more about how you come across, how seriously you take yourself as a writer and how you market and package yourself.
Having a website and showcasing your work is a necessary part in this endeavour.
That’s why I’ve created this website.
It’s still in the beta stages. Hopefully any kinks will be tweaked along the way.
Thanks for reading.
So it begins.
Welcome to Russell’s website. A storyteller who enjoys writing screenplays for movies. Even though the process is hard. It keeps his imagination working overtime.
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