Friday, May 31, 2013

Writing a screenplay in one week: Day One

About two years ago, I had my first screenplay optioned. You can read about it here

That script ended up not going anywhere after the option ran out, although there's been some interest lately from the same producers who optioned it originally.

About a month ago, the same producers again, were looking for two genre scripts. Both of which in genres I hadn't written in before. They were putting together a slate of films to finance and sell. This isn't box office stuff. This is sell the foreign rights. Sell the netflix rights. Sell the foreign TV rights. Sell the redbox rights kinda stuff.

But they are movies nonetheless and they need to be written.

So two months ago, my brother and I started on one of them. Nothing truly fleshed out just some ideas in a word document. Fleshed out main characters and the general idea and write it as a synopsis.

And then we didn't hear anything.

Originally we were tasked with completing this screenplay in one months time. If you've written a screenplay before, getting to the first draft in one month isn't that hard. You have 30 days. If you can write 4 pages a day you can get to 120 which is 10 pages too long anyway. I can usually crank out a first draft, a rough first draft within two weeks. My record was five days.

So anyway back to waiting. When we didn't hear anything one way or the other we stopped. We didn't write anything in script format and basically forgot about it. Once we finally did hear something we learned they were waiting on something.

This industry is chock full of waiting. You'll wait probably more than you'll write.

So flash forward from them until today and we were asked if we had written it. No, we have not.

"How long will it take?"

Well I suppose I can get you a rough draft in about a week.

And so begins Day One of writing a Valentine's Day themed screenplay in one weeks time.

I use Movie Magic Screenwriter. I actually hate Final Draft. I bought it a year ago and used it twice.

I don't find writing to be inherently "hard".  I find getting started to be "hard". Once I actually get rolling I can crank out pages pretty quickly. It's getting started that takes me forever.

So I sat down at the infamous blank cursor, typed FADE IN: and sat there for about 20 minutes. Then I went to HBOGO and watched two episodes of Generation Kill.

Then I went and read our synopsis a bit more and noticed we had two characters whose name started with an "M" and quickly changed that.

Recently I read a script where there were 5 characters whose name began with an "S". Doesn't really matter once the movie is actually filmed, but when trying to read it - it's a pain in the ass. So don't do that.

So after hours of procrastination I started writing and got about six pages and two scenes done really quickly. I knew they would need to be cleaned up but you gotta get them down on paper. Until you actually have a draft, the script doesn't exist. It's still just an idea and no one buys that - they buy pages or PDFs basically.

So after those initial six pages I got stuck again. I wrote the slug-line for the next scene.


And stuck again, I was. I knew what this scene was supposed to do, but just couldn't write it. Back to Generation Kill on HBO GO. I watched the Combat Jack episode and soon realized that while I kinda hated this show the first time I saw it - it's actually really fucking good.

This scene alone is worth watching. 

Reminiscent of the Mickey Mouse scene from Full Metal Jacket.

And just like that I'm procrastinating again.

I eventually just had to get up from the computer, shower and refocus my efforts. I read that Aaron Sorkin would take five showers a day while writing The Social Network. It was his metaphorical way of "ripping out the page" from the typewriter.

I finally sat back down and wrote another five pages in about thirty minutes.

10 pages written on Day One.

About 90 more pages to go. I sent off the 10 pages to my brother knowing full well he was going to rip it apart but like I said until we have pages to rip apart, we have nothing.