A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what`s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.
Do not be told something is impossible. There is always a way.
But having a rough idea as to how your story starts, progresses and ends will certainly help when it comes to putting words on the page. This roadmap can be any length, long, short, fat or thin. And as detailed as you want it.
Throw in some dialogue for good measure. Get some of those characters interacting and talking to each other. Pick a scene, and get writing.
There's no single way to write a screenplay, but the more work you do beforehand will certainly help when it comes to the actual writing.
La La Land – A musical! After seeing how much buzz this is generating, I thought it wise to take a look. And it didn't disappoint. From the opening dance number to the final scenes, this is a must see for all those budding writers, actors, and performing arts students out there. Keep at it, and who knows. It just takes one yes. With believable onscreen chemistry, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone put on refreshing performances as two wannabees trying to make it. Not sure if they've done this kind of thing before, but if they haven't, it's good seeing them stretch their wings and doing something different. Ryan Gosling has come a long way since his fresh-faced appearance in that Hercules: Legendary Journeys episode. Excellent! Where's the screenplay?
A Monster Calls – A bullied kid. A dying mother. A huge talking tree. And you have a recipe for a very imaginative tale. While there's nothing new in the main story, it's how it's told and presented that makes this stand out. Based on the novel of the same name, this is definitely worth watching. With solid performances all round. Very creative and original. Very Good.
Hacksaw Ridge – It's been a while since we've had a good war movie. And this definitely fits the bill. What makes this stand out from the crowd is how the story unfolds on screen, and that's down to the writers. They didn't do a quick character introduction and throw us into the action as soon as possible. We're given plenty of time to get to know what makes them tick and why they think and behave the way they do. With superb performances all round, and some pretty intense scenes, this is one to watch. And it's directed by Mel Gibson! Excellent!
Jackie – A docu-drama of sorts. A movie that follows Jackie Kennedy after the assassination of President John F Kennedy. Natalie Portman (Leon), really gets into character as Jackie Kennedy. Giving one of her best performances to date. Only real gripe is the soundtrack. It's very good, but a little overwhelming at times. Often drowning out the dialogue. Not sure if this is to reflect the turmoil and distress that her character is going through. It just seems overkill at times. Other than that. Very Good!
LION – One heck of a story. One heck of a journey. Adapted from the book 'A Long Way Home' by Saroo Brierley. This tells the story of Saroo, who finds himself hundreds and hundreds of miles from home, and the arduous and dangerous journey that he finds himself on. A thought provoking story that sends you on an emotional roller-coaster of a ride. A movie that expertly handles so many themes on so many levels. Extremely well written and directed. With some outstanding performances. Excellent!
Moonlight – From a storytelling point of view, you really can't fault this in any way. The subject matter and themes are handled in such a caring, thoughtful and poignant way, you can't help but feel for the main character's journey through this story. The script, direction, and performances put this on a level rarely achieved when dealing with material of this nature. Expertly handled in every way. Most Excellent!
Hidden Figures – A feel good movie. It gives off good vibes from the very beginning. Everything gels. From the great performances to how the story unfolds. And that's down to the writing. The direction. The performances. Especially the dialogue. Everything comes together and delivers. And it has a superb cast. Excellent!
John Wick: Chapter 2 - Did they need to make this? Probably not. Do they need to make another one? They do now. Is this as good as the first one, not quite. But he does use a pencil, or was it a pen. Which makes it all worth while. And he does have a well behaved dog in this one. Hopefully they'll find a fresh angle for the third one. Introduce more characters from the hotel. Maybe a possible love interest. Or someone he cares about. And we'll have another winner. Very Good.
Spider-Man: Homecoming - It's only been three years since the last one. Does this one bring anything new to the table? Sure does. Sony working with Marvel. That's what's been needed. Having Spider-Man brought into the Marvel Universe brings a whole new dynamic to the world he exists in. Lots of potential avenues and roads to travel along. Something 2oth Century Fox should consider doing when rebooting The Fantastic Four. Spoiler! Glad that Michael Keaton was kept in the loop. Hopefully we'll get to see a lot more of him in future storylines. Capturing villains is so much better, than killing them off. Very Good!
Beauty & The Beast - It's been a while since I watched the animated version, but this appears to follow it pretty closely. This is definitely one the whole family can enjoy, without worrying about any dark or scary parts. Hopefully, Disney will continue this trend, and consider doing some of the less successful animated movies of the past. Very Good.
Time to set some new writing goals.
Setting up the situation these characters find themselves in.
Protagonist vs. Antagonist.
What and who is stopping them from achieving these goals?
Carol - You could place Cate Blanchett in just about any era, and she'd fit right in. And this is no exception. From the opening scene, right through to the end, the themes and characters are handled exceptionally well. From a writing point of view, if you want to see what subtext is, check out the opening scene. It's all in the hands. A good start to the year. Excellent.
The Hateful Eight – Slow-burn. Dialogue heavy. This is by no means an action film. After being a little disappointed with Inglourious Basterds, and a little unsatisfied with how Django Unchained ended, I was a little hesitant to watch this. But my fears were laid to rest pretty early on. Everything comes together in this. Visuals. The story and how it unfolds around the characters. And the dialogue. Let's talk dialogue. When it comes to dialogue, Quentin Tarantino is about as good as you'll get. It's just so damn good, and flows so naturally. Samuel Jackson's in particular. Then there's the score by Ennio Morricone. There's a track in it that sounded really familiar, and when the credits started rolling, I was right about what other movie it was from. An old, but really great horror movie. This gets the thumbs up, and is reminiscent of Tarantino's earlier work. Excellent!
Creed – Nostalgic. That's the word I was trying to think of while watching this. Nostalgic. If you grew up watching the original movies, especially the first, second and fourth one, then you'll like this one. It'll bring back a few good memories. This feels like a Rocky movie. Especially when that familiar theme music starts playing. Not only does this encompass everything that made those originals memorable, it brings something new and fresh to the table. And it's great seeing Sly take on a fatherly, mentor role. Great performances all round. Really enjoyed this. Excellent!
Joy - Going into this story, I knew absolutely nothing about Joy Mangano. A story about a woman who invents a user-friendly mop, amongst other things. Wasn't sure about this at first, but it's always worth watching Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro performing together. They did an outstanding job in Silver Linings Playbook (2012). Very Good.
The Revenant – Not entirely sure where to start. But the words, gritty, dirty and relentless do a good job. From the opening scene, right through to the end, this doesn't hold back. Don't want to spoil anything, but the scene with the bear is mind blowing. Never seen anything like it before. The camera work, music, how the story develops. Leonardo Decaprio's character is really put through the ringer. What an awesome story. Excellent!
Room – I went into this blind, not knowing anything about the story or what it entailed. SPOILER: Things started coming together when I glimpsed the keypad lock on the door, and when the man came back and mentioned that he didn't know the age of the kid. Then there was the kid's long hair. My mind started putting various scenarios together, and came up with the right one. I figured things were amiss. Really liked how the story focused purely on the mother and son's relationship, and pretty much left behind the man. Extremely well written. Informative and entertaining. Excellent!
Spotlight – Snowball effect. From the moment this this story is broken by the Spotlight Team , it just gets bigger and bigger.
Interesting. Informative. Entertaining. This must have been one heck of a story to research and write. A tough subject matter handled exceptionally well. With great performances all round. Excellent!
The Big Short – On paper, this looked like it would be really, really boring. Who knew? They sure did! Whoa! Based on the movie, the screenplay and writing behind this must be phenomenal. And I have the screenplay. Just need to read it. It's based on the book, but writing something like this takes some talent. Then there's how it unfolds on the screen, and how the writers explain everything to the audience. Creatively done. Informative, Interesting, and Entertaining. Awesome! Thoroughly enjoyed watching this. Bespoke tranche opportunity! Excellent!
Brooklyn – Wholesome. A nice wholesome period piece, based on the novel by Colm Toibin . Really well written (Nick Hornby), with an outstanding performance from Saoirse Ronan. SPOILER: From a writing point of view, look at how Ronan's character changes through the story. Look at how she's the opposite of what she was at the start. Good character development. Very enjoyable, and well worth a watch. Excellent!
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – SPOILER ALERT: There'll be a couple or more. Let's start with the issues. What I call 'cringe-worthy' moments. The story details that have left quite a few people befuddled, confused, and lost for words. STRUCTURE. How the story unfolds. I'd say this is the biggy. The one that left viewers somewhat confused. Especially those pesky film critics. Film critics are bottom-feeders. If they knew anything about story, they'd be doing it, rather than being paid to write some puff-piece review. Did we need to see Bruce as a kid? Or the Batcave? Or see his parents get shot at the start? Probably not. Covering well-trodden ground. SCENES. Some scenes seemed superfluous, not needed, or darn right confusing. Like when Bruce receives the message from the Flash, and the dream sequence of the world in the future. This would have been better served in a standalone Batman movie. Or near the end when Lois and Superman decide to have a heart-to-heart while there's a crazy monster running around. A kiss is all that's needed. Too much CGI possibly, but it is based on comic book characters, or what seemed like poorly done CGI. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. An odd choice. Hopefully he'll lose the geeky-kid persona, and become a far more intimidating character in future outings. Lex Luthor is best portrayed in the D.C. animated movies. There might be a few more gripes, but those are the ones that stand out. Putting all that aside, I thought it was GREAT. Really enjoyed it. Ben Affleck does an outstanding job, and his costume is spot on. The Batmobile, Batwing, look fantastic. I was hoping they'd keep Zod in the loop somehow, but that looks pretty impossible now. Unless of course someone has his DNA, and a blood sample somewhere. Hopefully, Warner Brothers won't cancel their future plans of this universe. But they should reconsider doing a Justice League movie at this time, and possibly concentrate on introducing other characters (Cyborg, Flash, Martian Manhunter, Hawkman etc) by doing a few standalone movies. Batman! Wonder-Woman! Even Superman! First. Looking forward to Suicide Squad (2016). Very Good!
Deadpool – Was in two minds about watching this. Finally got around to seeing it, before it leaves the big-screen. Mainly because of the lead actor. Having said that, the role is perfect for Ryan Reynolds's character and personality. As far as roles go, this one suits him down to the ground. Fits him like a glove. That's down to the writing, and the direction the story takes. There's a lot to like here. The set-pieces are great, and spot on. And the breaking of the fourth-wall. Having a character addressing the audience. Talking directly at us. Personally, this is a great touch. It's not taking itself too seriously. Which seems to be the trend for comic book based stories at the moment. Injecting a little light-relief into this genre won't go amiss. The one thing that was nice to see, was the addition of two other characters. Collosus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Not only did Collosus look like he's supposed to, but he actually speaks with a Russian accent. Looking forward to the sequels, and crossovers, and X-Men: Apocalypse. Very enjoyable. Excellent!
The Witch - Superb soundtrack! When it comes to creating atmosphere, getting the music right for a movie, or TV show is paramount. The soundtrack here really fits this movie. As for the movie, this is great. Especially the ending. That's quite an ending. Spooky! Atmospheric! This isn't a straight horror movie with blood and guts, but it definitely keeps you glued to the screen. Make sure to watch it with the lights off. Very Good!
Midnight Special – Starman! That's where the story seemed to be going. Alien needs to get back to its home planet, while government agencies chase after it for various reasons. In fact, had it been written slightly differently, probably could have been a sequel to Starman very easily, especially in the closing scenes when all's revealed. This very much stands out from the norm, much like Looper (2012). Very Good!
Zootopia – Creative! Extremely visual! An animated movie for the whole family. Don't want to spoil anything, but Disney have scored a home run with this one. And it's easy to see why it's doing so well with the masses. The animation is spot on. The story unfolds at a steady pace. The characters are superb. There's so much to like here. No spoilers here, but the inclusion of sloths in the story is one of the highlights. Their facial expressions – priceless. Those scenes alone will raise a lot of laughs, and have you smiling ear-to-ear. Very enjoyable! Excellent!
Captain America: Civil War - Black Panther! Ant-Man! Spider-Man! With so many characters, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was an Avengers movie, but it's definitely not. A number of key players are missing from this. Don't want to spoil anything, but it was nice to see Ant-Man, and the return of Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) as a love interest. Not sure where future storylines are heading, but keeping her in the loop definitely adds another dynamic to Captain America's character. Looking forward to future installments. Hopefully, Marvel will keep up the good work delving into this expanding universe. Excellent!
The Jungle Book - You might have thought the tiger in Life of Pi (2012) was good, but you haven't seen anything, until you've seen the animals in this. Written by Justin Marks, and directed by Jon Favreau, this does the source material proud. Based on the stories written by Rudyard Kipling, and inspired by Disney's 1967 animated film. A classic in itself. While a little dark in some scenes, this is a must see for the whole family. A story about a kid (Mowgli) that's raised and brought up in a wolf pack. If you know Disney's 1967 version, then you'll definitely get a kick out of it when the singing starts. Excellent!
Finding Dory – A sequel of sorts to Finding Nemo (2003). A much beloved children's story from those creatives at Pixar Animation Studios. While the story doesn't break any new grounds, it's definitely one for the whole family. Kids will love it. Dealing with all sorts of worthwhile themes. Some great animation is on show, especially the introduction of Hank the octopus. Good fun-filled family entertainment. Excellent! As much as I like seeing these sequels, it's time for some new and fresh ideas. Get to work, Pixar.
Suicide Squad – So many reservations before going to see this. Especially with all the negative reviews. Was tempted to leave it alone until the DVD came out. But, the temptation to see it on the big-screen was too great. As someone who writes, and knows first hand how hard it it is to put together a script, this proved a pleasant surprise. Heck of a lot of characters to juggle. Indeed, the character introductions at the start do take some time. And the main story does take a while to kick-off. Personally, I would have dropped them into the chaos straight away, and possibly had a flashback or two detailing some of the main characters' history. A few other things left a discomforting taste. Like Killer Croc's appearance. He's a little underwhelming. Should be way taller, bigger and more crocodilia in appearance. The Joker's look. An acquired taste I think. The promise of seeing Clancy Brown in the trailer, only to have him vanish in the actual movie. What happened? Then there's the music. While some of the songs are killer, I know, I have the CD. They really don't fit in with what's happening on screen. A proper score reflecting the visuals would be far better. And some of the CGI, visuals and cinematography are a little questionable. Then there's the ending. Why not show Batman getting his hands on the file with the Metahuman information? Putting those issues aside, Margot Robbie is ace as Harley Quinn. She nails it. Enjoyed it. Not as much as I was hoping. Forget about what film critics say. If they knew anything about story, they'd be writing scripts and getting movies made. Instead, they get paid to write silly, talentless reviews. The bottom-feeders of the industry. Go see it. Make up your own minds. Very Good.
The Shallows - Even though Bruce is looking a little weathered these days, he will always be the definitive shark when it comes to a film involving these man-eating fish. With that said, this is a good and entertaining romp involving an extremely large fish, that has a taste for a swimmer or two. The effects are pretty cool, and they do a good job with the shark. Blake Lively, the main protagonist of the story puts on a fine performance as the unlucky surfer who has to figure out a way of getting back to shore, after finding herself stranded on an outcrop of rock two hundred yards away. Will she or won't she make it? While the ending is a little far-fetched, possibly, this is worth seeing. If you're considering writing a piece with a limited amount of characters, you should definitely check it out for some pointers. Very Good.
The Neon Demon - Amazon Studios! How content is being delivered is changing. This is one of the most bizarre movies I've seen lately. Even though the ending completely threw me. It seems to be extremely symbolic in some kind of weird way. The modeling industry seems to be quite a cutthroat business based on how this portrays it. I enjoyed it due to its unique and totally absurd approach. Definitely not for everyone. Quite artsy and very surreal. If the script is out there somewhere, it's definitely worth a read. Very Good.
The Conjuring 2 - Is this on the same level as the first one? It's close, but not quite there. Probably due to the source material being a little limiting. While it will keep you on the edge of your seat, it's just not as riveting a story as the first one. Will they close out the franchise with a third, let's hope so? The two main actors have good chemistry and work well together. Very Good.
Doctor Strange - Marvel seem to be on a winning streak at the moment. Well done to the writers and company who put this together. While you can argue that the story is by the numbers, it's a fun ride all the way to the end. Benedict Cumberbatch would make a great Doctor Who. Just thought I'd throw that out there. Hopefully, Marvel will continue bringing lesser known characters into the limelight. They have a large universe to plunder. Looking forward to the forthcoming projects on the slate. Very Good!
The Secret Life of Pets - Really funny! Definitely one for the kids, and family. Would make a great TV series. Coming up with original takes on things is hard. Animation is good, and will keep younger audiences glued to the screen. And from a merchandising point of view, lots to play with. Especially when it comes to stuffed toys. Will there be a sequel? Let's hope so. Very Good!
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - Definitely one for the kids that grew up with the original Harry Potter movies. While this has some lighthearted moments, it's darker in tone. Eddie Redmayne puts on a good performance as the caring, but bumbling Newt. There's quite a lot to take in, as this new world is setup, but a second viewing should help. Effects-laden with a lot of creativity on show. Very good.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story or Star Wars: Rogue One or Star Wars: Episode 3.5 – Did we need this? Probably not. As we already know what follows. But should you go and see it? Absolutley. While it's a little darker in tone than the originals, this looks, sounds and feels like a Star Wars movie. It does its very best to take you back into the original Star Wars universe. X-Wings, TIE fighters, Star Destroyers, and so on. I hate to say it, but even more so than Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Hopefully, Disney and Lucasfilm will continue creating content of this standard. This certainly sets a benchmark. Whether they agree or not, there's a lot of material out there, which they can use. From the originals, to novels, to comics, and so on. A huge universe to plunder. Excellent!
If you’ve got craft, you got game. If you got game, you can write your way in and out of anything. Writing is the best gig in the whole business, as far as I’m concerned. It’s the only job where you don’t have to wait for someone to tell you what to do. You just sit down and make s**t up.
Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium!
Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!
Rewriting isn't just about dialogue; it's the order of the scenes, how you finish a scene, how you get into a scene.
You become a great writer by writing lots and lots of stories, not by rewriting the same story over and over again.
It wasn’t until about the fifth draft of ‘sixth sense’ that I really began to figure it out. It was then that I realized he’s dead. It took me five more drafts to execute it right.
Currently, I'm working on my third rewrite of the year. At the start of the year, I made it a goal to rework three previous scripts, rather than start any new projects. This was my goal for a twelve-month period. As it stands, I seem to be on target, although getting this third concept to actually work is a lot trickier than I first envisioned. The concept and idea are there, but the actual execution of the story sucked somewhat in previous versions. Great idea! But this story is boring, slow, repetitive, and not much is really happening. Hence, the rewrite. But I'm going off on a tangent.
From experience, setting yourself realistic writing goals is a must. Otherwise, you end up putting way too much pressure on yourself, and not putting enough time, energy and thought into any one project. Writing a million screenplays in a year will not help you in any way, shape or form if they all suck!
As for which project or projects you should consider working on after putting aside that current draft of the one you've just finished.
Again, this is personal.
Have you made a list?
Do you have a folder on your laptop containing five possible ideas and projects that you're considering working on at some point?
Out of those five, which of them have you visualized scenes, characters, an actual narrative for?
How many notes have you made for each of those ideas?
I have a list of four projects.
Out of those projects, the two that I really want to write have by far the most notes. As I write this, I can see the opening scenes or sequence of scenes as the main characters are introduced in one of them. These opening scenes have been playing out in my imagination for quite some time. The same can be said of the other one. As for the third project, that's going to be a rewrite.
Cutting a long story short.
Which story or stories do you feel the most passionate about?
If they're continually playing out in your head, eating away at you, nagging your subconscious, then you probably need to get that first draft down on paper.
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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