Screenwriting

How to Make a Movie: Location location location

Last week, Caroline and I visited Long Beach, NY as a possible site for our short film. This was such an exciting part of the filmmaking process. After finishing the script, it was so much fun to imagine the characters we created in a real space.

Please enjoy our recap of the location, and ignore my awkward joke:

We spent several hours walking around the beach, pinpointing specific angles we liked and possible settings for different shots. It was a great way for us to talk about how we envisioned the movie.

We still have a few more locations to scout, but progress is being made! More to come on our first production meeting, and the audition process.

In the meantime, please like our official facebook page, and follow our new twitter acount for the film. We’ve been blown away by how supportive and encouraging everyone has been so far. Every like, comment and follow goes a long way in making this crazy dream feel more attainable.

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!

How Beyoncé saved my blog

In writing this blog, I forced myself to do a lot of crazy things I would never have done without a sense of public accountability. I told the world, or at least my few followers, that I was going to figure out a career path that satisfied my (he)art and (so)ul. Through the heso project, I started a company to make baby products, I became a personal consultant in Central Park, and I tried my hand at public relations. It took a few years and a few misguided attempts, but I learned that what I love most is creating writing communities.

In the last two years, I developed Writers Work, a supportive community for emerging and established authors. I’ve been hosting conferences, retreats and readings through this organization, and while it’s extremely exhausting, It’s equally rewarding. On a personal level, the creative communities I’ve established have helped challenge and develop my  writing. I’ve even gotten into screenwriting, which I will be posting about shortly.

Interestingly enough, the more followed my heso project, the less I was writing about it on this blog. Here were my two reasons: One, the day-to-day minutiae of following your dreams can be really boring and involves a whole lot of patience. I didn’t think you guys would want to read a post about me sending a follow-up email to someone I met at a party and waiting a month for a response. Two, I don’t have a lot of extra free time. For gosh sakes, I’m writing  a novel and two screenplays, I’m constantly planning and marketing my conferences, and I take on freelance work to pay the bills.

Of course these two excuses are nonsense. What’s the point of figuring out your dream job, if you don’t know how to follow through with it? I’ve learned so much in the last tow years and it’s greedy not to share it 🙂 In my future posts, I’m going to go into more detail of what I’m doing but also keep it broad enough so that you can relate to it even if you’re not a writer.

And as for the time excuse, I love this little piece of advice:

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Thank you, Beyonce, for reminding me to use my time wisely.

Stay tuned for a  behind the scenes look at how I put together a writer’s retreat and how I’m collaborating on a film!

FROM WEST VIRGINIA TO SANTA FE (PART 2)

Directly after getting back from West Virginia, I stopped at my apartment to say hi to my kitties and then boarded a flight to Santa Fe.

I arrived in Santa Fe with one mission in mind, to work with my great friend on her wonderful screenplay.

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Friends that write together stay together!

I remember when I started this blog I had trouble with the career advice: “figure out how to get paid doing what you love to do.” As I was writing on the porch of my friend’s stunning Santa Fe house, overlooking the mountains and breathing in the juniper-scented air, I thought, ok I figured it out.

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Soaking up some sun while coming up with ideas.

Jetlag was working in my favor, so I got to see the stunning sunrises almost every day. Here are some of my favorites:

But don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all work:

After this summer, I feel like I took huge leaps towards the writing career I want. Sorry to still be so secretive about the details, but I hope to be able to talk more about soon!

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.