screenwriting

Breaking Down

I had a phone call today with the Director of Special Events at Grace College, my alma mater, which owns a hotel I’m hoping to use to shoot my first feature this year.

He wants to meet with me next week to go over my proposed schedule with a view to seeing whether he can accommodate me. He wants to see it in detail, by room, because he frequently rents the space piecemeal, so he needs to know exactly which days I need which rooms.

Thing is … I don’t have a schedule.

See, the whole movie takes place in this location. I figured I would lock the location first, then make the schedule for how I use the location. Silly me; that’s not how things work.

So I have to do a script breakdown this week. For any non-entertainment-biz visitors, this is a document that tells you all the different resources you need to produce a particular script—props, locations, talent, costumes, etc.—and which days you need those things.

I’ve never done one of these. So that’s fun.

They have software to do this for you. And I love software. So I downloaded Celtx, which is a free scriptwriting/pre-production software application. I’ve never used it to write because I was lucky enough to start screenwriting when I could still use a student discount to purchase Final Draft, but Final Draft doesn’t do all the same things.

So here goes. I hope I don’t butcher it horribly.

P.S. I feel like I’ve finally come up with a good title for this script, so I’m going to share it here, and it is: Murder! A Love Story. I hope you like it.

Post-Holidays

As I rather expected, progress on all my endeavors slowed to virtually zero over the holidays. What with all the family activities and lack of sleep, I didn’t have much energy at work for anything but watching Family Guy on Netflix and using toothpicks to prop up my eyelids.

But I’m back this week, devouring feminist books and possibly starting to make notes about my next script. I just finished Promiscuities by Naomi Wolf, a book I’m convinced every parent of a female child in Northern America should read. It provided much raw fuel for the process of developing a story based around female sexuality, so I’m excited to butcher the topic as only a half-educated American male can.

Not that it matters to anyone but me and my wife, but I’m also super-psyched to finally be on what will (theoretically) be my regular schedule at work—four nights on and three off, a straight-up third-shift schedule all the way through the week—no more of this switching back and forth between day and night. I’m definitely getting to the age where regular sleep matters to my ability to think.

Research

The other day I went along with a friend to do some Christmas shopping (his, not mine), and we stopped at Half Price Books. I bought two books for eight bucks. So great.

One is The Chalice and the Blade, which from what I can tell by the synopsis is about male-female sexual dynamics throughout history. The other is Promiscuities, which follows the sexual coming of age of several young women across the world.

If you know me personally but don’t talk to me much about my writing career you might find this pretty odd, but it makes sense for two reasons. One is that I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing over here on the subject of female sexuality, and I’m starting to reach the limits of my ignorance.

But more importantly, since I’ve found that what I primarily write is romantic comedy, I, a man, need to learn a lot more about women fast. So I’m pretty excited about all this women’s studies reading I have coming at me.

In Which I Return to Blogging But Don't Talk Much About Screenwiting

If you’re ever trying to use the OS X Terminal to delete invisible files from a hidden folder that pretends the files aren’t even there, and you become convinced that it would be a good idea to type the following command:

rm -rv *

DON’T DO IT. You will spend the next 10 hours sitting at that computer running Data Recovery Software and hoping you don’t have to tell the guy who hired you to edit his documentary that you lost most of the footage through sheer stupidity.

This is a perfect segue into mentioning that I moved to LA six months ago and am scraping by a living in the film business through a combination of Production Assistant and Editing work.

I could go on about it, but that would be BO-RING.

I’m editing two feature movies right now—the one where I just lost all the footage (and that is now supplying me with the free time to write this post), and another one.

The Other One is a film shot by this Art Director I know. She said to me one day (truncated version of hybrid email/face-to-face conversation follows):

ART DIRECTOR: Hey, I made this short film. Wanna edit it for free? *
RYAN: Sure! What’s up with it?
ART DIRECTOR: It’s a half-hour drama about a woman who yells at a homeless lady and then feels bad about it, so she goes on a journey to find homeless lady and give her back something she dropped.
RYAN: Sounds EXCITING! I’m in.
ART DIRECTOR: OK.** Here’s the script. Don’t mind that it’s 45 pages long; that’s just because I’m not good at formatting a script.
RYAN: Cool. I’ll get right to it.

Almost needless to say at this point, her movie is not going to be 45 minutes long. It’s going to be more like 60 minutes long. Because while she was correct about her lack of formatting expertise, she was wrong in her assumption that this would make her movie SHORTER than the page count of the script.

So I called her back a couple days later and said: “Uhmmm … I’ve done eight pages worth of script and have 25 minutes worth of movie. I think this is going to be a feature.”

The awesome part of this story (to me), is that this lady actually shot a feature film, BUT DIDN’T REALIZE IT. She thought it was going to be 25-30 minutes. ACTUALLY AN HOUR. Awesome.

So now I’m editing a feature. And another feature.

If I can recover all this footage I deleted.


*Syntactical challenge: This sentence contains two word pairings that are difficult to pronounce. See if you can figure out which ones!
**Spelling note: I hate it when people spell the word: “OK.” But I recently learned that this is actually correct. The people who spell it “okay” are wrong. So now I’m trying to force myself to do it right, however painful.


Best. Vacation. Ever.

My vacation is hours from ending, but I have actually accomplished what I set out to do.

Firstly, I finished rewrites on the rom-com and sent it to an agent, as noted below.

Secondly, I banged out the last 86 pages of the book adaptation I started some time ago.

Finally, and most recently, I chopped a fairly ruthless 15 pages out of that script to get it under the 120-page marker.

Now it goes out to my trusted readers (and some new readers, hurray!). If they have major quarrels with it, there may be rewrites. Otherwise, or whenever the rewrites are done, I will have three quite solid feature scripts to toss at the semi-curious or, failing that, the merely unwary, once I move to LA.

Or whenever I might happen to meet them.

I can now focus my energies on getting my stupid house into shape to rent and trying to land a job in the movie business, however menial.

If only I had more vacation ….

... Even the Small Victories



I make my return with the preceding image. This is the copy of my rom-com that I just finished sending to a talent agency, one of three that requested it.

Celebrate even the small victories.

I took vacation this week to spend every day working on writerly things. Broadly, this means writing, although I did spend the last three hours proofreading, making copies, hole punching, and visiting the post office.

The rest of the week I’ll be working on my book adaptation. This is a change of plans, as I had been planning on writing the script for a movie to be shot on a nonexistent budget here in my own town.

But (here follows the other Big News) the wife and I are moving to LA, so now the plan is to finish this adaptation quickly so I have three truly solid scripts to flog around town.

Wish me luck.

Ah, Truisms.

I’m really starting to realize the validity of the idea that you should only write what you’re passionate about.

Plunk me down in the middle of a draft, two months into writing (since I have the discipline of a kitten), and I won’t have the faintest idea what the career implications of this project are.

I won’t remember why I started this stupid script. I won’t be able to think straight about whether I could use it to whip up any interest from an agent. Or a producer. Or anyone who matters.

The only thing I’ll be able to tell you is whether I’m enjoying what I’m doing. So it better be something I enjoy, or most of the motivation goes straight out the window.

There is the odd exception. Like that rom-com that I kept working on (and will continue to work on later) simply because it was such a beautiful, golden, commercial idea (with a correspondingly golden title) that I couldn’t justify not finishing it. But ordinarily, I’m going to have to be really stoked about what I’m doing, or despair quickly sets it.

Which is why this book adaptation is so great. In addition to being easy to write, as I’ve mentioned over and over and over, it’s just the kind of story I really like. It’s a movie I would race to the theater to see: dark, compelling, and full of veiled metaphysical ponderings.

My only regret about writing it is that I won’t be able to take any credit if it turns out to be great. All that credit will have to go straight to the author. *Sigh*

But if by some wild chance it got made, I would be so excited to see it. And that’s the kind of thing to write.

I Blame My Wife

Marriage kills your discipline. Well, that’s not true. It just gives you a million additional things to think about, so you never think about writing ever again. At least, not enough to do any.

So I blame my wife. :) *

But actually, I do have 23 pages of the Nightmare book adaptation done. It’s going quite well, when it’s going. I loves me my adaptation. It’s like Michaelangelo and sculpting: I just cut away anything that isn’t the movie.

In other news, David gave me some notes on my rom-com, so once I’m done with the adaptation, I have somewhere else to go. I’m not going there yet, because I’m still a little sick of that script, but eventually I will have to give it some final attention.

And finally, I have made my first dollar as a screenwriter. Really. $1.00.

I’ve had a short script on inktip.com for almost a year now, and after many other dead-end inquiries, these guys finally liked it enough to at least plan to produce it. There’s no money in shorts, so they were only willing to part with a dollar for it.

But I don’t care. It’s a production credit (hopefully). And it’s at least a tiny bit of validation. Writers need validation.

I’ve also noticed that adding an option (albeit a free one) to my profile on Inktip actually results in more hits for my other scripts. Thus, a “halo effect,” if you will.

That’s right: Shorts are the iPod of screenwriting, baby.

I’m such a geek.

Anyway, things are moving, if a little slowly. And also, despite my above complaint, marriage is great.

And yes, Greg, I know I’m supposed to do that 10-item list for which you tagged me. But you can’t jump back into blogging after a two-month-long absence with something like that. You just can’t.

* It’s okay. She knows I love her.