Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Writing the script

Once you have an idea of a story, the preparation for writing the script is so important. I'm just like every other film maker, wanting to hurry up and get to set, get filming, get creative, MAKE SOMETHING.

But we've all seen those films that look amazing, but are crap. The idea may have even been a great one, but it didn't work, or it wasn't structured properly and left you feeling flat at the end (if you finished watching it)

I don't want that to happen to me, so I'm preparing. How do you prepare? Researching your subject matter, and then there's the craft of actually writing a script, making the film etc etc.

I've always been a big reader, I was always reading when I was a kid (my grandmother used to babysit me with the TV, and then my parents thought I was watching too much, so they gave me a book. Best thing they could have done!) Reading Biggles was the genesis for my Spitfire doco.

So books on the process of writing a script, books on the process of making a film, and books on the subject of your film idea are the best way to go.

I don't know if this happens to anyone else but reading through those books, I wish I could just graft the knowledge of creating an amazing script and film into my head and just go do it. We've all heard about 'that guy' who sold a script before he was 25 and now writes/directs multi million dollar films.

Bastard. Hate 'that guy'. For me, I work full time as a Camera Op and Editor for a TV Network, so I'm constantly working in a visual medium to train my filmic eye and story telling ability. Plus the life experience is sometimes extreme, but that's experience for you.

I come home after work and I flip through my script writing books, keeping the principles of good screenwriting and film making in my head as much as I can. Now I have to write my script. The most important part of the movie, get that right first.

For "Redeemed" I wrote a 13 page outline of my idea, it began like -

'Redeemed is the story of "X", an Australian SAS soldier...'

And no, he didn't have a name at that point. And I wrote the outline like 'he gets wounded in 'XX' country, he ends up in hospital, his father takes him back to the country, they haven't spoken in years' and build the story from there. 13 pages of A4 paper of story. A rough outline, basically getting the idea out, who the bad guys are, who is his ex fiance etc etc.

It will change, I know it will. As I write the script, I will think if fresh ideas that will elicit more emotion and write them in. I am not bound to this outline, it is not set in stone, I can vary away from it and I may even change it dramatically!

Now on one of my TV commercial jobs, here in Australia, I met an Actor by the name of Frankie Oatway, a Brit from East End London. The accent is straight out of every Guy Ritchie/Matthew Vaughn gangster film.

My eyes light up and we get chatting, he wants to be in the film industry and I want to make films, blah blah blah, am I working on anything? Well actually...

HOLD ON You say! I haven't actually written anything tangible and I'm already talking about casting an actor. Alarm bells going off? Well yes, but it's all 'what if, maybe' and 'one day' at this point, your general 'film biz' chat. So he says he'd like to have a look at my treatment/outline.

Now as any beginning film maker/scriptwriter you get a sudden case of 'Gollum'...."My precious script idea" etc etc and you do have to be careful, so you can register your treatments/outlines and drafts at your writers guild, it affords you a modicum of protection, but at some point, you will have to show your idea to someone other than your missus or mum.

So I showed him the treatment after taking the neccessary precautions and he loved it, thought it was a great idea. And then he had some ideas that could help flesh out one of the characters. Turns out Frankie was a british paratrooper in his youth.

Now even before I've started writing the actual script, I'm thinking ahead to how to get the thing funded, or attract attention to it. Making a trailer for a non-existant film is one way. And Frankie is up for acting in the 'funding' trailer.

But for now, I'm redrafting the treatment/outline with new ideas, characters, situations, settings.

Suddenly Frankie has some good news, he's been cast in two of Australia's premier gangland TV shows of Australia. He appears in 'Gangs of Oz' and 'Underbelly' and the press ask him 'What else are you working on?'

"Well, I'm working with Australian Producer Simon Van Der Spoel on his debut feature film 'Redeemed' among other things"

That's a lot of incentive to write a first draft. And so I did. Took me 3 months in and around work, late nights, some early mornings (I'm not a morning person at all)

But I finished a 1st draft...what to do with it. Well I registered it with the writers guild of America West. Why? Why not the Australian writers guild?

The American writers guild doesn't care if you are a member or not or what country you're in, it's $20US to register something with them. The Australian writers guild requires you to be a member before you can register anything. Ok so how much does it cost to become a member here in OZ?

Due to my broadcast doco "Spitfire Guardians" which was an 1hr duration, and I wrote it, that qualifies me for full membership.Over $400AUS. Before I can register my script.

Being an independent film maker, saving money is a priority. American writers guild won that round. Australian writers guild must not be very business oriented, since their competition is undercutting them by hundreds of dollars. (my opinion)

So now I have a registered 1st draft. It needs to be read. It needs to be shredded by professionals, and I must not have an ego on this as I'm starting out, it may be my baby, but it needs to grow up and so do I.

I hired an American script reader that I found via twitter and was highly reccommended by people I trust. Michael J Lee, author of the screenwriting foxhole blog http://screenwritingfoxhole.blogspot.com offers a very affordable reading service which I took, and got back 11 pages of notes. WELL WORTH THE MONEY.

Especially when there are other services out there that cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Independent film maker = careful with money.

So now, I'm rewriting and rewriting and reworking and researching...I'll keep you posted how I go.

1 comment:

King is a Fink said...

What an exciting start to your blog! Love the pictures as well as your obvious passion for your project. You've made a great decision bringing Michael Lee in on your project. He's top notch.

Your prospective lead actor also seems like a gem. He looks very familiar to me, but, more importantly, he believes in (and is already promoting) your project.

We wish you all the luck in the world and can't wait to hear more about the next step for Redeemed!