Everyone has to start somewhere.
I can remember that first screenplay I wrote. It was some kind of superhero mash up, it felt like a good idea at the time. If I'm honest, it had a good kernel of an idea at the heart of it, but it just wasn't very good.
Actually, it was pretty atrocious, now that I think about it.
I knew nothing about screenwriting and what exactly it involved or how hard it really is when I wrote it. Looking back, I can honestly say that I'm glad I did write it, if it hadn't been for that first attempt. This writer would never have discovered screenwriting.
I'm currently typing a screenplay that a wrote two-three years ago into Final Draft. As I've been typing this thing and reading it. I've come to realize that it's absolutely terrible. It has a good idea at the heart of it, but the execution of this thing is somewhat lacking to put it politely. It's basically a big pile of steaming horse manure.
Things just happen to the characters for the sake of moving the story forward. It's just bad and if I was giving notes on this thing, I'd be tearing it a new one. The fact that I entered this thing into contests is just ridiculous, not only did it put a dent in my wallet, but I can honestly feel the pain that the reader must've endured while reading this travesty of nonsensical nonsense.
What's become apparent as I've been typing this thing, is that a lot of writers come up with some pretty cool ideas, but it's the execution of the story that inevitably lets them down. If you have an idea for something, sit down with it, let it percolate and grow in your subconscious for a while. And hopefully while it's stewing away in your head, you'll come up with more ideas that will help you turn it into an interesting and entertaining story.
That someone will hopefully enjoy reading.
Don't rush in there and start writing straight away.
There is no sure fire way of writing a screenplay, everyone is different, but the above will certainly help in the creative process.
Once all this is done.
Then you can knock out that first draft as quickly as possible.
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector.
Don't talk about being a screenwriter. Sit your ass in the chair, and even if it takes you ten years -- or nine years, like it took me -- to start working as a professional, develop and hone your skills. Don't think that the first thing you're gonna write is gonna sell for a million dollars, 'cause I got news for you: It ain't.
When you're trying to figure out and crack that story --
ASK YOURSELF --
WHAT IF THIS HAPPENS?
“You can’t just say, ‘Well, I’m not really inspired by an idea yet, so I’m just gonna hang out and see what hits me. Maybe I’ll write a scene and see where it takes me.’”
“I don’t know any writers, who are successful, who approach writing that way at all. You have to approach writing like it’s a full-time job.”
Tales from the Script
One of the things I see a lot of in amateur screenplays, and in my own writing, if I'm honest, and it's a big thing, is a lack of character goals. There aren't any goals for the main character or characters to achieve. This leads to a story without any defined and clear direction. And generally the scenes that play out within the context of that story tend to meander and not actually go anywhere.
Giving the main character a goal to achieve will help structure the story that you want to tell, it will help drive the story forward and give it a sense of direction.
Character flaws and goals can generally be broken down into two categories.
Firstly, there's the INTERNAL struggle that the character is going through.
The internal struggle that the main character is going through usually revolves around some kind of personality trait. This personality trait is the character's flaw, it's their achille's heel that's stopping them from moving forward in their life.
This character flaw could be caused by a whole number of things.
This major event (something bad happened to them) caused them to take on this negative personality trait. They're finding it difficult to get over what happened to them. They might not even be aware of this personality trait (flaw) that they have until it's pointed out to them or something happens (usually something bad) to them that brings it to their attention.
This is their INTERNAL struggle.
This internal struggle that manifests itself in the main character as a flaw could take the form of any number of personality traits.
There are so many to choose from. The list is endless.
Go to character flaws
Over the course of a story, the main character learns to overcome this negative aspect of their personality and hopefully by the end of the story they will be the opposite of how they were at the beginning. If they were irresponsible at the start, they have now learned to become responsible. If they were selfish, they have now learned to be more giving by the end of the story. They have learned something about themselves, their personality has arced over the course of the story. They may not even be aware that they have changed.
But as the reader/audience member, we have seen this change occur.
Secondly, there's the EXTERNAL struggles that characters find themselves in which are usually much easier to see.
Generally, and this is just my own point of view. Dependent on the genre, certain films require that characters are flawed, otherwise those movies just aren't going to work. These are usually character driven pieces, and certainly not your tent-pole summer blockbusters. Generally in these types of movies I just want to be entertained, as long as the story makes sense and the characters don't behave in a stupid manner.
When it comes to a character driven story, I want to see a lot of depth to characters. This is when I want to see characters change over the course of a movie, and the more characters that have some kind of character arc, the better. This is when I want to feel something and possibly even relate to the characters and their struggles in some way. I want to feel their pain and anguish that they go through over the course of the story. This is when I want to be emotionally invested in the characters and the story and situations they find themselves in. And of course, I still want to be entertained with a story that makes sense.
Make sure there are obstacles that get in the way of your characters achieving their goals. Hopefully this will create conflict for your character(s) to overcome.
This is just my take on how I approach my writing.
Movies to check out:
There are loads more.
Nobody sets out to fuck up your movie. It’s not like the director or the stars wake up in the morning and say, “Let’s screw up this scene. How can I really cause Bill Goldman pain?” It’s just that they’re terrified. I wrote a line once that caught on out there in Hollywood: “Nobody knows anything.” And they don’t. If we knew what we were doing, every movie would be wonderful. If actors knew what they were doing, every performance would be just swell. It’s a crapshoot. It just is. There’s no answer. I wish there were.
That's a big question. And a big ask.
Who could do the Star Wars universe and the mythology that surrounds it real justice?
Now that the big man himself, George Lucas has passed on the mantle.
I grew up for the most part on the original trilogy. They're the films that got me into movies in the first place. They set a benchmark for others to follow. There are few films that can rival them.
This would be a role with great privilege, but it comes with a lot of responsibility to take on as well.
Because, if you get it wrong. You'll be in a whole heap of trouble.
Whoever Disney decide to get on board for these projects. They will need to do some thorough research into what the writer/writers can bring to the table.
Picking someone just because they happen to be the writer who's in with the crowd in my mind would be the wrong way to go.
They must know the Star Wars universe inside out and they must have passion. Real passion to want to make it work on all levels. A fly by night approach isn't going to cut it. The writer/writers will need to show that they care and want to do justice to what's gone before.
The five writers who I think should be considered for the role:
There are possibly a few others that could be brought to the table.
But as a writer who gets offered this role. You're going to need to show that you really care and are in love with the source material. Old and new. And there's a lot of Star Wars material out there. Lots and lots of source material, new and old to work from.
Disney have their work cut out and they are going to have to take this into consideration when they interview writers for these projects.
I certainly don't envy the decision makers.
I forgot about Peter Jackson. Although he is busy with The Hobbit. But he'd do a great job with story and directing. A very passionate film maker.
May the Force be with you.
"The film industry is about saying 'no' to people, and inherently you cannot take 'no' for an answer."
A few notes I made during the session with Simon Beaufoy at the London Screenwriters' Festival 2012.
Sometimes it's good to write what you know.
It can be equally as good to write about what you don't know.
In order to have a clear vision of the world you want to create. You need to do the RESEARCH.
No need to add specific music to a screenplay.
Being able to take notes and understand problem areas within a screenplay.
BE OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS!
Keep REFINING & TIGHTENING YOUR WORK.
Layer your scenes -- Make them rich.
What do I need my CHARACTERS to do within the context of the STORY?
What would they do in the situation and circumstances they find themselves in?
Character ACTIONS & CHOICES must be believable.
TRUST YOUR VOICE and the IDEAS in your HEAD.
Notes taken from Luke Ryan's session at London Screenwriters' Festival 2012
Most Important Things
Know and understand who you're pitching and querying to.
Writers earn a living by writing.
As a writer you should be easy to work with.
And have excellent ideas for projects.
PURPOSE OF PITCH
To make the person you're pitching to say:
"I have to READ/BUY that!"
Using as few words as possible.
CONFLICT most important component of STORY.
CONCEPT and PREMISE
Concept = BIG IDEA
Premise = The way into the BIG IDEA.
Ideally the story needs to be:
A Good logline:
Captures the most interesting ideas in the story within one or two sentences.
Gives us a clear idea of character, tone and stakes.
Two vital parts
The BUT and the MUST.
GIVES US A
A (CHARACTER) sets out to (ACHIEVE A GOAL), but (RUNS INTO AN UNEXPECTED & SOMETIMES IRONIC OBSTACLE) and must (GROW IN A WAY TO TRIUMPH OR FACE CERTAIN DOOM).
Is this something other people want to see?
Is this something I can write the hell out of?
ALWAYS REMEMBER TO WORK THE ASSISTANTS
Find out who writes like/similar to you?
Actually do a proper letter rather than email.
A few notes I took from Kate Leys' session.
The central character must want something. They have a goal to achieve.
What are the stakes? They must be important to the main character.
Conflict -- As the story progresses, make things worse for the protagonist.
Take them out of their comfort zone.
How does the ending play out? Make sure it's an emotional ending and satisfying to the audience. Chances are the audience will remember the ending if it's good.
What's the central idea that holds the story together?
Who's story is this?
What do they want?
Why can't they have it?
What do they need in order to understand?
What does the protagonist get at the end that they did not have at the start?
10 things that can go wrong while writing a story.
I was thinking of all the shows on TV that I've enjoyed watching over the last 17 years or so over the weekend.
I'm sure there are others that I've forgotten.
So it was nice to see two new series pop up on the small screen over the last two years.
It's not often you get two shows coming along at once on TV that are good. That have a good cast, good production values and are well written with characters that you can go on a journey with. In my opinion, TV is a lot different to movies.
I really want to see a lot of character development with good story lines and good production values. All too often I'll start watching a series on TV, only to be disappointed by the lack of character development. With very poor production values. No effort put into the show at all.
In regard to character development in a movie. Again this depends on the genre of the movie. Not every movie needs strong character development, but it does need to be entertaining, and logical to some degree. But I'm going off on a tangent.
I decided to treat myself over the weekend to the entire series of Game of Thrones (2011). I'd been hearing a lot of good things about it. And I have to say, that's one heck of series. I'm unfamiliar with the source material so I can't comment on how closely the TV series follows it.
But as far as entertainment goes, it certainly scores a 10/10. In a way it reminded me of the first series of ROME, except this has the fantasy element in it which I'm partial to. Nothing like a bit of sorcery. But that side of it doesn't come into play until the second series. And I'm hoping this aspect will play strong in future series. I know there are five novels written so far by George R. R. Martin. So there's plenty of material to dig into and work from, which I'm looking forward to.
The other series that I've been following is The Walking Dead based on the black and white comics created by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore (who was later replaced by Charlie Adlard).
I know some will say that the second series sucked because it was set in one location and that not much happened, but I think this was because of budget constraints etc. You can only do what the budget allows.
In my opinion both shows are pretty damn good. Good cast, great writing and good production values.
Hopefully in time and with no future cuts to budgets, both these shows will progress and grow even bigger.
They both have a wealth of source material to work from, only time will tell.
As far as the list above.
I wish they'd bring back:
Going off on a tangent here.
But it would also be great to see these two shows revived at some point:
Two favorites of mine.
Mustn't forget Downton Abbey. Great cast. Well written. Great production values.
There's no magic formula for writing a great script.
Nobody knows anything.
A nice little article to read over at Go Into The Story on how to deepen your understanding of the craft of screenwriting.
I read a minimum one screenplay a week. And try and watch as many movies as I can. Old and new.
If you can.
Also read as much as you can.
You never know where that next idea might come from.
Keep feeding that imagination you have with as much information as possible.
Don't forget to write ideas down as well. Get yourself a little black book.
Writing is hard.
Put your ass in the chair and write!
Great podcast (53) at Nerdist Writer's Panel here.
Does this have anything to do with screenwriting?
Probably not. Or does it?
These are doing the rounds on the internet.
Putting aside the failures of this particular film. And its predecessor.
Why was Robin so old?
Why was he almost the same height as Batman?
Why? Why? Why?
This is rather entertaining.
There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne.
You and your friends better batten down
the hatches, because when it hits, you're
all gonna wonder how you ever thought
you could live so large and leave so little
for the rest of us.
You sound like you're looking forward to it.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
A few minor changes will be happening to the site over the coming weeks/months. Nothing major.
External Goals (Plot)
- Do they defeat the bad guys?
- Save the world?
- Win the girl?
Internal Goals (Theme)
- Do characters change?
- How do they change?
- Do they grow as the story progresses?
- Not all characters need to change.
- What's the theme? Is there a theme?
“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.”
― Ernest Hemingway
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)
_"If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."
- Toni Morrison
_“The first draft of anything is shit.”
― Ernest Hemingway
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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