Screenplay

How to Make A Movie: Write

As I mentioned in the past posts, I’m making a movie with my friend Caroline! So far I’ve talked about how important it is to be committed and have the right attitude. The next step was all about the work.

Once Caroline and I decided on the story, an idea she had about what we do for the people we love, we sat down with index cards. Each card represented a concept that we wanted to address in our film. We brainstormed each of these concepts, filling the index cards with notes. For homework, we decided to each write a version of the story and send it to each other.

From there, we came up with a script we liked. We then asked some of our actor friends to do a reading for us to hear how it sounded. It was amazing to hear our words read with so much emotion. The actors, who are trained to understand character, were so helpful in pointing out inconsistencies and weak spots. A huge thanks to Laura Hankin, Katrina Medoff and Ashley Harrell for their time and expertise. Sorry about the blurry pictures below:

After that reading, we decided that we wanted to try a different approach to the story because a lot of it took place in a car and we thought that would be too difficult to film/boring to watch. We tried out thirteen different versions without a car. We decided on a version we liked, and then the next day we decided we didn’t like it. At that point, it was starting to get overwhelming. It was looking like we’d never agree on a final script

Over a fantastic dinner of pizza and wine, Caroline and I realized that every version we wrote was really good and that we both had high standards for the project. The truth was, we could go out and film any of the scripts we wrote and make a  beautiful film. This realization was a huge relief. It meant that we weren’t stuck, we were still climbing.

We both agreed that this was the only stage where we could play around with the movie as much as we wanted to. Fortunately, Caroline and I are both great with letting go of our writing for the sake of trying something new. This approach can be scary, deleting pages that you love, but it leads to fresh ideas.

After that dinner, we tried out six very different ideas. We settled on one that incorporated a lot of the different ideas we had while remaining simple. Then we sent that version back and forth, fine-tuning it.

Finally, we sent it out to people we trust to get their feedback. The response was incredible. While we got some minor notes to make things clearer, overall everyone loved it!

Now that we are busy finding the cast and crew, we still tweak the script every few days. All in all, for a ten-minute film, we probably wrote close to 200 pages of script. What we have no is excellent and I’m excited to turn it into a film!

If you are working on your first movie, remember that the writing is the cheapest stage. This is the time to experiment and make the leanest, strongest, most compelling story. During filming, if something isn’t working right with the story, you waste hours with the actors and crew. That’s thousands of dollars in equipment and hourly wages. Spending an hour or even a day to fix something while it’s on your computer will save thousands of dollars.

Next up, more on the challenges of making a film, how to come up with the money, and location scouting!

Why did I start this blog?

recommitment-monthI have a confession to make. I haven’t been writing much lately. Actually I haven’t worked on my novel since March when I received disheartening news from the agent I thought I would be working with. After four months of correspondence, my hopes were dashed with this brief email:

I’m sorry to say that I’m going to have to step aside, despite my admiration for your work.  The past few weeks have been extraordinarily busy, and I have not been able to get back to your manuscript.  In any event, I cannot imagine you’ll have any trouble finding an agent to handle this—what I’ve read is quite wonderful.

OK, I know that this is overall positive, but that doesn’t make it any easier to face the fact that I have to start the long submission process all over again. But more over the writer inside me was broken and depressed by the rejection – writers have very sensitive egos. I couldn’t even look at my story.

But today, cooler heads prevailed, and I decided to open the document and read through parts of it. And guess what?!? It’s f’ing amazing! I needed a little break from it to realize what a great story I wrote. So now, before you all, I newly recommit to getting my novel published.

I am also making a promise to you virtual friends that I will write the second draft of my screenplay and enter it into a film contest by August 30. By the way, this is the feedbackI received after I entered my first draft into a film festival contest:

Your script made it through to some of the last rounds and saw many extra readings. The overall level of craft was remarkable, and made for some stiff competition.This screenplay’s concept is tremendous. And this script brought a dense and complex story alive. In the end, however–we had to pass. We found this to be a very promising screenplay. Thanks again for the honor of reading your work! And please keep writing.

I started this blog to hold myself accountable. I realized that once I state something publically I much more likely to do. So please send me lots of good vibes and encouragement. This summer it’s ON!

Success Is in Your Hands

I spent all of Saturday indoors taking an intensive screenwriters course with  Gotham’s Writers’ Workshop. Besides for the great advice on style and form, the teacher, Doug Katz, had a great tip: Don’t let the measure of your success fall into other people’s hands.

He asked us how would we know if we have a successful screenplay. Everyone started to call out their answers:

People will you pay you a lot of money for it.

An A-list actor will want to be in it.

You’ll win an Oscar.

He shook his head at all of these responses. “You can’t control how much money you’re going to make, or who’s going to want to be in your movie, or if someone gives it an Oscar,” he said. “You can have the greatest script of all time, but you might not meet any of those measures of success. All you can control is if you’re a good writer and you continue to get better. So why not make that your measure of success?”

So much of what we think of success is wrapped in other people’s opinions of us. I see this every day on the subway with women carrying around $10,000 purses. They’re hoping that the label on the purse will make everyone think that they are successful, but they don’t know what I’m thinking. I could be thinking it’s a knock-off, or I might not even notice the label. I could be noticing some toilet paper stuck to her shoe instead. Try as you may, you can’t control what people think of you, so if you want to be successful do the work that makes you feel successful.

p.s. I highly recommend Gotham Writers’ Workshop.