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INT. - BEDROOM - VERY EARLY MORNING

 

I've always liked writing and used to write a lot of short story's when I was a kid. I used to read them out to the class; one of them turned into a fantasy novella called A Whales Graveyard, and when I got older I threw it out! I'm so angry with myself for that. But what I didn't know how to do is structure my story's and I also didn't know if I could finish one. (All my ideas and writing went unfinished prior to 2009).

About 2008 I came to a kind of mid life crises which I might still be going through; but I came to the realisation that my life had become stagnant, both with my relationships and with my so called career. I've been working for a company as a camera operator for too long but knew I didn't seem to have enough skills to break away and do camera's for other companies.  Not for lack of trying. This made me depressed; I was alone, single and felt like I hadn't achieved anything in my life with my creativity.  

 

So finally two things happened that made me think I could get myself out of my slump:

1. My work colleague and friend wrote a screenplay and got a flight to L.A to meet Forest Whittaker to talk about optioning the script. She got herself an agent and then directed a short film based loosely around it. The film was good and I couldn't believe that with enough persistence and a good, marketable story, you could possibly actually get somewhere.

2.  A friend I used to chat with while both at different film schools, made a successful feature film. He's now a very successful Director in L.A. I realised I'd sat on my bum too long when he got that film made. I tried to think what is it that I've always been told I'm good at and it was writing.

 

So I made a decision to write a screenplay. I wanted to do something where I had more control of my creativity and which had the slim possibility of actually being produced the way I wrote it. ;) I wanted to see if I could finish a story I'd started and I wanted to see if I had the chops. I refused to start anything however, until I'd read a few things on how to write a screenplay.

 

My advice to you if you're serious about wanting to get anything written down is to read a couple of books on structure.  A new scriptwriter should learn the basic three act structure. There are other structures to work by but I believe the three act structure is the building block you should use to start with. If you think you can just write without thinking about structure then feel free to have a go.  All I know is that when I tried that (as an experiment to see if I was a genius at natural story telling), my screenplay ended up at 130 pages with too many scenes. They were all entertaining scenes but they pushed the structure way out. I spent the next 4 months trying to figure out how to fix it and I'm still trying. So follow the three act structure and then you can work on different less tedious problems than restructuring.

This book has been like a bible for me:

Syd Field : The Screenwriter's Workbook.

It's very useful and very motivational. He basically says; you will hear a voice in your head telling you to stop writing because the story is crap, the characters are bland, it's not going anywhere and people will think this is boring. IGNORE THAT VOICE. Everyone will hear it while writing, especially their first script. When you hear it, flip a switch and say, "I will finish this script even if I don't think it's good, I will finish".  Then when you do actually finish it's such an accomplishment that you can't wait to go over it and rewrite it to make it better.

 

For formatting advice try this book:

Denny Martin Flinn: How Not To Write A Screenplay.

If you're writing for television try this for the UK Market:

William Smethhurst: How To Write For Television.

For inspiration, formatting and marketing tips:

Lydia and Joan Wilen: How To Sell Your Screenplay

And for legal advice and knowledge on contracts and how the "business" works try and get your hands on: Brooke A. Wharton: The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to) Guide to the Legal and Business Practices of Writing for the Entertainment Industry.

 

And: Julian Friedmann: How to Make Money Scriptwriting.

 

I also recommend an excellent blog and website I stumbled upon from a writer who shared his experiences of negotiating contracts: chipstreet.com And some great practical and inspirational advice from a owrking writer:

My Blank Page   

 

Next get yourself some good screenwriting software like Final Draft or FadeIn. Then once you think you're ready, just start typing.

 

I think what I do compared to many other writer's is just start writing the damn script. I don't write treatments unless asked. I write a basic plot outline and then I think of a compelling scene and think how do I get to that scene. I push myself forward, keeping the structural turning points in mind and try and get to the scene I had in mind. While writing, I think about other scenes that I want to include and make a note of them; then think how to include them in the story. Before you know it you have a basic plot around a basic structure.  

I always imagine the scene as something on the big screen; something in a film. I imagine exactly how the actors will talk and what happens and then think; "oh that's cool now how do I write it"?  Another thing I think helps is using the sequencing technique which I found I was subconsciously doing and it makes sense when you think of how films flow.

 

But anyway, what I'm trying to say is just start writing. Don't spend too much time on your treatments and long outlines... get the basics down and open up that page and start the script. Don't listen to that bad voice and push on through. All I can say is that if you don't start writing the script then you'll never know if you've got what it takes to finish it.    

 

Kristi :)                                                  

 

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