Er…they’re all “ready”. I think. I think I misheard that last part. I’m saying: I do not believe any of the Selected Ten have perished.
OK, let me talk about me for a second first, because honestly that’s my favorite thing to do:
When it came down to it, I’m actually glad I didn’t write a spec in the period of time the Selected Ten did. I know my next couple of specs backwards and forwards already, and they’re concepts, worlds and stories I’m intimately familiar with in one way or another. I feel like I would have blown through them quickly and not had much to offer publicly as a result.
But what ended up happening, as you know, is that I worked on a script that was commissioned from a pitch. And while I was (and still am) confident in my grasp on the story, the characters and the things I wanted to say within them (and where the comedy should come from, perhaps most importantly), it’s also been a (somewhat) frustrating challenge at times. The script involves locations and music and a whole SOCIETY, in essence, that need to be characters themselves in the film. And yeah, it’s a PG-13 studio comedy. This isn’t deep, important shit by any means – but there are elements that need to be respected and not be treated lazily. As such, this is the most research I’ve ever done for a script. And as I’m not a musically-inclined person, especially in a business sense, the behind-the-scenes machinations were tough to nail down and get comfortable with. At the end of the day, I personally NEED this movie to be authentic as much as possible. And when that authenticity isn’t originating from within me…I mean, shit, that’s tough.
So I’ve struggled. But it’s been a good struggle, a learning struggle, a struggle that I’d welcome with open arms any time I write from now on. And I bring this up not *just* because I like talking about myself – although, again, that’s most of the drive here – but because I think it made me appreciate even more that the Selected Ten were going through the same much of the time. And that made this project not only a relatable one as per myself to the Ten, but one in which the commiseration actually aided me as I wrote along. Was I guiding them…or were they guiding me?
(HOLY SHIT I’ve always wanted to type that and mean it and yes it feels just as good and as smarmy as I thought it would, and now I’m a Lifetime movie and I CANNOT BE STOPPED.)
And that’s what I want to thank the Selected Ten for the most – for the learning experience. In every facet, every single week, I learned something. And I empathized. And I sympathized. And I remembered. And goddamn, it was great.
When I first dreamt up this experiment, I thought I’d be thrilled if even seven out of ten finished a script and had the sack to upload it to the Black List. As it turned out, ALL TEN FUCKING OWNED IT. I am so proud. I am so unbelievably proud. And I can’t wait to read their scripts.
Luckily, I don’t have to. And neither do you. Because here are their final updates, complete with the loglines of their scripts and where you can find them on The Black List. Seek them out. I have a feeling there are some real gems in here.
To the Selected Ten: Way to go. Seriously. You absolutely destroyed this process – each in your own way – more completely and more professionally that I could have ever hoped. I’m honored to have helped in any small way to have ushered you through this process.
And so here are their last hurrahs, in their own words, unsubjected to my petty mewlings:
“Being part of the Six Week Spec challenge has been the best thing that’s happened to me since I took up screenwriting. It shook me out of the rut of procrastination I’ve been stuck in for a long time, and I’ve shown that I can write, in a short space of time, a real script with a real beginning, middle and end. I’m ready to get on with my next project, and I feel freshly-scrubbed and like a middle-aged slightly overweight eager Beaver.
I’ve also – and this feels just as important – been brought into contact with some really great new people, and the world seems to have opened up a bit wider.
Seeing my script up there on the Black List is a thrill, and whatever happens from here, the last six weeks have made me feel like I do actually have a place in the race.”
TOGETHER AS FOOLS
“When a game of soldiers goes horribly wrong, a cowardly dreamer has to fight to save the life of his friend – and what’s left of his reputation.”
“Wow, what a ride! First up, I want to thank Geoff for choosing me to be part of this. Seeing as this has all been done in conjunction with The Black List, here’s the (not paid for) evaluation of my #SixWeekSpec experience, enjoy.
Era: The beginning of… (urgh, gross)
Location: Twitter…lots of Twitter
Budget: Cheap. Very cheap.
Genre: Balls out funny.
Logline: An aspiring screenwriter gets selected to take part in a writing experiment, and proceeds to write something he thinks is hilarious.
Surprises: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting the other writers who were either selected or joining along at home. That’s been the best part of the whole experience, meeting all these great writers who are full of vim and vigour.
What I’ve learnt: I’m on the right track, but I’m not there yet. I’m totally cool with that. This is going to be a long haul, but I know I’ll get there eventually. I’ve learned I’m a good writer, and I know I will get better.
Prospects: In six weeks I’ve written a script that was better than my last. I’ve written a script that has promise, and that I’m excited to get back into. I’ve written a script I think others will enjoy, so click below and check it out.
That’s that then. I hope you’ve enjoyed the updates. Look out for a new draft of INTELLIGENCE -1 later this year. In the mean time, get in touch via Twitter (@Lou_Bennett).”
“Two desk bound intelligence analysts are thrown into a world of underground tabletop gaming, online shooters, and cosplay, as they try to avert a terrorist attack.”
“I was sure I wouldn’t get chosen to be a part of the six-week challenge. Wrong.
Then I was sure I’d never want anyone to read the result. Wrong again.
I’m kind of great at being wrong. (Maybe the best at it…I don’t know for sure. Even if I did, what’re the odds I’d be right?) But anyway, combine that with my other two super powers–having a high school education and making a so-so vegetarian lasagna–and how the fuck am I not a successful millionaire yet??
In all seriousness, I couldn’t be happier with this whole experience. And I can’t thank Geoff enough for including me.
I learned so much. Particularly that working to a deadline isn’t the narrow ledge I thought it would be. It was just scary enough to force me into some creative places. The same way pretending the floor is lava forces me into furniture jumps I would never attempt otherwise. Even my procrastination upped its game in the form of next-level housework.
No joke you guys–Martha Stewart could eat a dick off my light switch covers right now…
I also discovered the euphoria that comes when characters start bolting forward, unprompted. One second you’re digging your spurs in–the next it’s all you can do to hang on to the reigns. Not even Charlie Sheen drunk in a Taco Bell drive thru knows THAT kind of bliss.
Note to self: Congratulations. This is the kind of fundamental shit that happens when you give your characters actual motivations like you’re supposed to, you mozzarella-crammed duncepit.
See? Learning all the time. If that doesn’t fill you with enough confidence to invest yourself in 94 pages of my brain dribbles then…tough tits for me I guess. But I did it! I wrote a thing! It’s called NAILED IT and it’s on The Black List now and I’d love for everyone to read it even though (loony bin scream)!”
“A wannabe house flipper struggles to transform the ‘dump’ she bought at a foreclosure auction when the handyman she recruits has an ulterior motive and a secret–he’s the home’s previous owner.
“Okay, so, despite all the stress and self-doubt that’s occurred over the last six weeks, this has been the most AMAZING journey and I was very lucky to be a part of it. For the rest of my life, I get to say that the first ‘gig’ I got after college was getting to write an entire screenplay in six weeks with a bunch of really awesome writers from literally all over the globe. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Even for a gig that paid me in actual money.
When I first stumbled across this opportunity, I was a WILDLY insecure recent college grad with really no sense of direction. I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know anyone in the industry and I didn’t know anyone else who aspired to do this. And then BAM. This happened. And now I know all you guys.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a WILDLY insecure recent college grad. And I don’t know what’s going to happen after this. But I’m excited to find out.
After reading last week’s updates, it made me happy to find out that Geoff dubbed me the one who’s perhaps had the most invaluable experience here. (OKAY FINE YOU CAUGHT ME. I admit I had to think for a while what ‘invaluable’ actually meant. I kept double guessing myself and eventually just had to look it up for confirmation. Let’s all agree it’s a tricky fucking word.) But after understanding, I was so excited that this was a vibe I somehow gave off especially after being so whiny and full of self-doubt most of the time. Because this is EXACTLY what this experience has been for me. Let me count the ways…
1. This is the first time any creative writing of mine has had a deadline. I hated it. I still hate it. BUT I can go the rest of my life saying I wrote a 128 page screenplay (that was at one point 142 pages) in a month and a half. And on a more practical note, if I am one day blessed with the opportunity to write professionally, most if not all of my writing will have deadlines to meet. So I’ve (sorta) learned how to suck it up and just deal, because that’s life.
2. I set up my Twitter account a few weeks before the Six Week Spec started. I had, like, twenty followers. Maybe. Now I have almost 100, and pretty much ALL of them are writers I’ve been virtually connected to through this. Every time I need to be reminded that I’m not alone in this whole writing thing I can just hop on Twitter and there they all are. Having the same experiences I am. And it’s the coolest thing, really.
3. The past six weeks I spent more time on a computer than I ever did in college. It made me realize my vision’s gotten worse. So I got new glasses. I can see clearly now. The astigmatism’s gone. (Sorry.)
4. Speaking of computers, I’m writing my next script by hand. And then probably hiring someone to type it for me. It seems nuts, but one day I was so tired of staring at Microsoft Word that I said ‘fuck this shit’ and wrote out an entire scene by hand. I loved it. Something about writing manually made me more conscious and thoughtful of what I was saying. I was much more quick to realize if something was good or not. I feel like a grandma but whatever.
5. I really feel like I’ve learned to have more confidence in my writing. Which is nuts, because I rarely ever said anything nice about anything I wrote. But the boost in confidence is there somewhere. It obviously still needs a lot of work, but I think this opportunity has helped more than even I realize sometimes.
6-999. All the other ways this experience has been invaluable to me that I don’t have time to list because this update is due in 11 minutes.
1000. And last but not least… Geoff and the other Selected Ten. I don’t think I’m exaggerating at all when I say you are some of the coolest cats I’ve ever met. I know I haven’t actually met any of you, but just going through this process with you guys makes me feel like I don’t really have to meet you in person to know you. Because we all just did so much cool stuff together. (That being said, I still want to meet all of you. Anyone going to be in the Mexico, Missouri area anytime soon?!) Seriously, y’all are awesome. And some of you are so naturally, effortlessly funny I just want to puke and then throw in the towel I used to clean it up. And Geoff, thanks for thinking I deserved to be in their (and your) company. Seriously.
Anyways, my script is (at the moment) titled WHERE WE BEGAN. It follows two 20-something-year-old lifelong friends (Lena and Luke) who had a recent falling out as they travel to their hometown for a funeral together. Essentially, the road trip forces them to sort of come to terms with this friendship that’s felt forced upon them their entire lives (their parents were friends since before they were born). That’s a decent synopsis I guess. I’m honestly not brave enough to make it public on The Black List, but if anyone is interested in reading it, let me know on Twitter (@anirishwhiskey) or through email [dmcneil2(at)illinois(dot)edu]. I’m happy to send it to you guys.”
WHERE WE BEGAN
(Please contact Delaney directly if you’d like to read the script.)
“I’m still not at all happy with my script, but I looked in my writing directories for the shorts I have written and I usually do 9-12 full drafts before they go into production. So expecting that a first draft, that is 10 times as long, would be ready for the Black List is just ludicrous. I’m still looking forward to the feedback from the readers though. It’s going to be fascinating to see if we agree on its strengths and weaknesses, and on my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. I’m ready for it to be harsh. Everything I’ve done has blossomed under criticism. So bring it.As exhausting and terrifying as the whole process was I’ve emerged mostly invigorated. I’m no longer afraid. I have a drawer full of
feature ideas that I now know I can bring to life. Maybe clumsily and naively at first, but that’s OK. I have many writing years left in me.
@MysteryCr8tve said that it took over 15 years of solid writing to write something he wasn’t embarrassed by, and I found that strangely
Thanks to Geoff for taking a chance on a nerdy mum from the other side of the world. You’ve unleashed a feature screenwriting beast for which
the world is unlikely to thank you.My fellow writers: I’ve written mostly comedies in the past, and you guys make me feel like a hack. I’ve learned so much about punchy writing just from your updates and bios. Your scripts must be spectacular (yeah, give it up me). I feel like the worst house on the best street, but we all know that’s the smartest place to be. I can’t wait to see where you all go next. I’ll be watching you as best I can from darkest Tasmania, and when I make it to LA next year I’ll be trawling through your trash for discarded manuscripts. Guess that actually means breaking into your computers these days. Oooo, I can do that from here.”
(Claire has chosen to not make details of her script or the script itself public at this time.)
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what I learned during the past six weeks, and a lot of it is small stuff that just made the writing process easier: taking the time to outline, writing even when every word I can think of is stupid, re-outlining the whole thing after finishing a draft… blah, blah, blah. Also, to be honest, I realized when I was at about pg 120 that I hadn’t thought of the words “Three Act Structure” in weeks. And whatever I read from Save the Cat at the start of this experiment, I have since completely forgotten. I think what’s going to end up happening is that my own formula will appear as I continue to write. ‘Cause using someone else’s certainly doesn’t seem to work for me. The most important thing that I got from this thing is the reassurance that I actually like writing. It’s the thing for me. It feels like what I am supposed to wake up and do every day. I’ve never written so much in so little time, and the feeling of accomplishment is definitely worth the struggle it took to get there. Special shout out to Delaney who answered my panicky ‘IS THIS RLLY HARD FOR YOU TOO?’ emails with similar anxiety. It was nice to commiserate over the process.
I guess that was the awesome thing about this little experiment: we were all kind of overwhelmed, and anxious and freaking out about writing a script in six weeks, but we were in it together. Feeling like the world was ending, and then reading that someone else was having a similar crisis was hugely helpful. Especially for someone like me, who tends to retreat further and further from the outside world when I’m having writing problems.
**Also I’m amazed at how funny some peoples’ updates were (Jerren/ Jesse: Hi) in the middle of this process. By the time I sat down to write my update each week, the most creative thing I could come up with was something along the lines of: “Writting iz hAAard”.
THANK YOU Geoff, for letting be a part of this, and for checking in with me when my updates began to get shorter and more panicky. I really appreciate that you took the time to encourage and reach out to writers, even though you’re a busy guy and no one asked you to do this. That’s so cool.
Can’t wait to read everyone’s scripts!”
HOW TO SURVIVE IN SUBURBIA
“After her first novel crashes and burns, Meryl Oberst moves back home to write novel #2, but the only writing inspiration she can find is from the idiots who work with her at her new job in the book shop her parents own.”
“My entire household, spanning continents, breathed a sigh of relief when this project was done. My poor husband certainly did. He expressed profound relief and begged me not to take on anymore nutty deadlines. Don’t have the heart to tell him that if I’m ever successful, this will pretty much be everyday all day.My body and soul and heart have just exhaled. Feel profoundly tired. Tried to nap but just lay there thinking odd thoughts, listening to the humidifier, watched the light flickering.Nutty. Wow yes. It’s been nutty.People care. I can’t ever say that people don’t care about my writing ever again. People definitely care. And this is huge.
I started out this year pretty much wondering whether I should pack it in. I’d been through a few grueling rewrites on another project. A painful fourth draft, a comedy pass which should have been fun and was a little bit. Though preparing it felt like an enema.
And then I submitted to Sundance Labs. All through that process wondering whether it was really worth it. What’s the point? Should I give up this screenwriting malarkey? Go back to corporate communications? Wouldn’t be so bad would it? But it would be. Corporate communications almost killed me. But that was then. I’m older. I have more control over my emotions. God, I sound Vulcan.
In any event, I entered Sundance Labs. Tripped around the world to see my family who asked me predictably, “what I was doing with my life” I’m glad to know that it’s not just a ‘brown’ thing and it’s not just a ‘writer’ thing. Young people on the edge have been pushed over by elderly relatives all over the world.
Also uploaded my script to the Black List fully expecting a 2 or 3.
I came back. I’d gotten a 7 from the Black List. Not bad right?
And some weeks later, a lot of weeks later, as I was prepping another project, Sundance Labs wrote back.
Saying, ‘We’re pleased to inform you….’ I couldn’t tell you what the rest of the email said because my brain stopped working.
I think it took me a full 3 hours to become functional again. And about 17 calls to my husband who, of course, was in a low-signal area.
This was a big deal.
In a week, I rewrote the blasted script AGAIN. Lord knows I’ve never worked that hard on a script in my life. But I know now I’m capable of it Alhamdulillah.
And then somewhere in that week (yeah, in that very same week), Geoff selected me as one of the ten who will simply walk into Mordor. WTH?
Friends on Twitter broke it to me this time. My face just froze into that face from the Scream.
But I took a week or three to outline something I wasn’t planning on writing till oh, maybe next year or the year after. A crazy Egyptologist and alien two-hander story. Looking back, my feet up, a cup of tea here, I think I’m crazy. But I think it’s a good kind of crazy.
Yeah, I abandoned (for now) the project I had actually done some prep on and went with another project entirely. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And I actually think it was, thank God. Or at least I’m sticking to my guns now I’ve fired them.
So I outlined as best as I could. Which it turned wasn’t that good. But still I asked my characters a few questions, beated out the script, did some very preliminary research (I wouldn’t be surprised if I receive hate mail and bricks through my window from irate Egyptologists – no, it’s not that bad. I’m a drama queen) and wrote a first draft.
Fifty-six pages it was. It was really hard to write too. Because I knew as far as screenplays go, it was pretty bad. This much I knew.
But still even so, it was enormously helpful. I figured out the emotional arc in a lot of the scenes, though it still needed some significant cleaning up.
I guess I discovered that I love love love outlining. Especially after hearing how much work Damian put into his outline and feeling JEALOUS. Who would have thought an outline could make me feel jealous?
I went back through my script. I read it 3-4 times. Seeing that it was only 56 pages, that wasn’t that hard. But essentially I familiarized myself with the structure as it is.
I then went through and figured out what I’d learned about my characters from each scene. Okay, they are acting in a certain way. Why?
I wouldn’t let it go until I got an answer that seemed sincere.
I forced them to open up to me. Well, at least my main two characters. With the others, I have much work to do, especially the more significant supporting characters.
Once I figured I’d learned what I could from this iteration, I dove into the outline again. I fleshed it out. And added a first Act which I had omitted at the beginning, thinking the audience wouldn’t need it – they ALWAYS need a first act in sci-fi.
That added a good thirty pages to my total. And that page count continued to tick up as I wrote thereafter.
I found myself getting terrifically bored with my writing. There’s a few stock words and phrases I use. ‘Nonplussed’, ‘suddenly’, ‘scuttled’.
I like my ellipses too….
But still I wrote.
I’ve never done out and out philosophical discussions in a screenplay before. Sure, there’s philosophical battles being fought in the sub-text, but never in the text-text. This was a gamble. I wonder if it turned out any good. But I guess all art is a gamble.
I wonder also if anyone will care as much about my work as they have in the past few months. I sincerely hope so.
I hope I am worthy of such caring. And it’s my job I think in the coming months to really up my game, get better and learn from the greats.
This is my fourth script project (counting the first which was too embarrassingly bad to show anyone). Since it occurred in such a compressed time frame (8-9 weeks in total), all my normal reactions to the various stages of screenwriting came into sharp relief.
At first, it felt like going on a really big water-slide. Yeah, sure you might die. But you might also have the time of your life.
Then came the really hard part. Facing up to the fact that this thing has some kinks that’ll need sorting out. That’s disappointing but not necessarily bad. Mistakes can always be fixed as long as the script hasn’t been sent to Harvey Weinstein (I don’t think he’d be interested in my non-Oscar-winning-genre film anyway).
Tiredness sets in and the usual questions begin to present themselves. ‘What’s the point? Nobody cares. I’m the only person that cares about this silly story.’
My husband says he can set his watch by when in a project I start to ask those questions. He even parrotted them back to me.
Other more deep-rooted concerns also presented themselves later as tiredness really began to set in. I found myself caught up in the Islam wars between Maher and Affleck and Reza Aslan too. Flurries of articles on my Facebook and Twitter. Intellectual and not-so-intellectual responses. This is around the time I start to wonder whether I should pay attention to the world a little more. To politics. Whether I should give my community a hand.
But as I’ve read the arguments back and forth and back and forth – people have been talking about this since September 11th, since probably before the Internet as well. It’s just the Internet has made these conversations front and center in our lives i.e. Muslim lives.
I’ve decided something (though I might wake up tomorrow and change my mind). This politics crap is too complicated for me. There are much smarter people who can dissect these arguments up the wazoo and write brilliantly worded 2000-word features about them. Not me. Me, I write screenplays.
It frustrates me that however many articles have been and will be written, there’ll always be more demanded. But this is a fight that needs to be fought I guess. But not by me. I can’t do it. My rather gentle polite heart can’t take it.
How am I going to fight Islamophobia? Writing screenplays with Muslim characters being human. Even if nobody EVER reads them or cares. Even if nobody is ever interested in making them into a movie. I owe it to my progeny to try. This is terrifying to me but I think it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.
I’m going to be asking myself, ‘Do I have anything better to do?’ If the answer continues to be no, I will continue to screen-write. That sounds pretty simple.
And I’m going to be a nice person too. Yeah, this is my fight. This is my world. Being a decent person is simple. Smiling at your friends, feeding a hungry child, picking up somebody when they’re down – that’s what decent people do. Politics is not so simple.
Screenwriting is simple too really. Just write an effing good story (pardon my French). I’ll let the really smart people take care of the politics.
And well, all of that aside, I finished my screenplay. I’m dog tired now and it’s done.
I’m going to take a while. Rest. Read other people’s screenplays, especially of the Selected Ten. Review. Recuperate. Eat right. Exercise. Stay out of the sun. However long I need to take (but no longer than two weeks).
By then, I should have an idea whether this project has any momentum. I might choose then to use the last 2 months of the year, plus early next year to rewrite this script. Or something else.
My in-laws are down in December. Big life changes are on the horizon. I’m not going to lose my momentum but I don’t want to burn out either. We’ll see how this goes. As usual, as my husband says, cross that bridge when we come to it.”
THE GOD ROOM
“When a misfit Egyptologist is trapped inside a pyramid with an alien, she and the alien plot to ‘improve’ the world, not realizing the alien is in love with her and has less benign plans.”
“What a dizzying six week roller coaster ride this was.
It started off strong, like a majestic stallion stampeding across the New Mexico plains. Then that stallion crossed the border into Arizona and some obscure anti-horse laws lead to that horse being imprisoned for an awkward two weeks because, you know, Arizona. Then a heroic lawyer, played by RDJ, stood up against that tyranny, and our horse was free to gallop his tired ass all the way to Tijuana for some much deserved R and R.
I think I have my next spec all lined up.
Am I happy with what I created? Decently. Am I happy with what I created in only six weeks? Absolutely. No matter what this anonymous jury of evaluators over at the Black List say, it’ll all be under the context of having been done in six weeks, for better of for worse.
Best of all? This was a ton of fun. Nothing could rival the joy of writing a kickass scene and just feeling it. Printing off this script and feeling its weight, its depth, those beautiful, straight edges, the way the black text contrasts with the white paper, how soft it is…
In short, this challenge told me not only what I needed to hear, but thankfully what I wanted to hear. This is possible. And not only is it possible, but it’s fucking fun. And though there will always be swamps to slog through, at least those swamps are in my mind, and not literal, or infested with misquotes, crocs, and tarantulas.
To all you following around, thanks for reading. To my fellow challengers, congratulations, and to our patron saint Geoff, thank you.
If you’re an industry professional reading this, go download my script, NUMBER ONE FANS, on the Blacklist. Then go through my Facebook friend list and hire/promote all my friends. Also, as you can see, I have a great horse script in the works, so give me a call next.
Until next time, Internet!”
NUMBER ONE FANS
“When each of their highly-ranked teams lose in the first round of the playoffs, four extremely obsessive football fans band together to uncover a game-rigging conspiracy.”
“The last six weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. Six weeks ago, I was moving from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, looking for a job and a place to live. Since September 1, I have been living at home in Ojai, but I have been fortunate enough to become the Head Lacrosse Coach at Calabasas High School as well as Coach to 11 year-olds in the Los Angeles Mavericks Lacrosse program. Lacrosse has always been a passion of mine, but this is somewhat perfect for my writing schedule as I tend to do my best writing in the mornings.
The premise of my story was an idea that I had just come up with, days before I submitted my entry to the #SixWeekSpec challenge. I have a number of other spec script ideas (last count, 17 one pagers) but this one grabbed hold of me and just wouldn’t let go. The idea wasn’t revolutionary, but it was interesting: a teenager wants to do graffiti legally so he earns enough money to rent a dilapidated billboard and, thus, experiences the trials and tribulations of growing up from the billboard platform. Now I expanded on that concept, including some drama with a gang, a love interest, family dynamics, and racial issues into a feature length drama/thriller. Sounds kinda fun, right? I think so.
Historically speaking, a majority of my screenplays are action (description) heavy. I tend to have more scenes than pages in the screenplay. This is because I am a far more visual writer, often writing my scripts with the perspective of an editor. I may not be able to make the scenes I write on my own, but I can certainly envision them on a movie screen.
One issue that arises due to this descriptive approach is the proclivity to have my dialogue come up relatively thin across a number of different scenes. This is bad because the conversations tend to come out shallow and we find ourselves visiting the same locations over and over. In an attempt to curb this, I found myself consolidating multiple conversations into one scene’s dialogue. I convinced myself that it’s possible to talk about topics A, B, and C over the course of one meal, not just A or B. So, with longer, more in-depth scenes, I finally brought the scene count under the page count… only by a few though.
After the third draft of this script, I met with professional screenwriter John August. Without going too deeply into the plot of the screenplay itself, John did suggest that (because “The Billboard” is essentially it’s own character in this film and a setting in which I thought was unique) perhaps this film could fall into the genre of scripts that occur in a single location. I liked the idea… what if my main character was forced to stay on the billboard?
That was when I saved the entire script as a new screenplay and went through cutting and consolidating the script toward my main character climbing up to the billboard and staying up there for the second and third acts. At the end of that revision, I had cut nearly forty pages from my script. In an attempt to fill some of that in, I created scenes that helped build drama and move the story to the billboard’s platform, but with just a few days to go until the script was due, I decided it was too late for a full rewrite.
It was time to merge the stories. I trimmed off the excess scenes, streamlining our attention to on (and around) the billboard. I took the new scenes that I had written in the other draft and incorporated them into my latest version of the original script. It felt much more technical than creative. The draft that is uploaded to the Black List is the fourth draft of LOVE & KRYLON I completed in the six weeks allotted.
I can’t explain how much I enjoyed this challenge. I have to admit that I knew I would be successful in completing a feature length screenplay, but what I didn’t know was how much I was going to learn about myself and my writing process while doing it. I learned that I know the writing process that works best for me, from outlining the story on my iPhone to highlighting scene summaries in Final Draft and hand editing my scripts before scanning them. I learned that near the end of my writing process, I become more mercurial, scared that I wasted all that time by writing a story that goes nowhere. The fear is real in my process, but the more structure I give to my story before the FADE OUT, the less fearful I become while going back through it again.
I am eternally thankful for this opportunity for so many reasons. I have been working hard to prepare myself for success as a professional writer, and I believe this opportunity has allowed me to demonstrate that in a public venue. But perhaps more importantly, I became friends with a group of other aspiring writers, known as ‘The Selected Ten.’ We asked a lot of questions of each other, made a lot of jokes, (we haven’t met up for drinks yet but that’ll change), and in the end, we challenged the electrical-meat-mass inside our heads to write a film in 45 days…
…and we did.”
LOVE & KRYLON
“Teenage graffiti artist Ryder Fall takes his art to new heights when gang violence, law enforcement, love and Krylon threaten everything he lives for.”
JERREN & JESSE
“Ah. The ‘what we learned’ time has come. Honestly, there’s NO END to the shit that we learned on this. More than our combined years of schooling. More than growing up in the streets. Riff-raff, street rat, etc. (We did NOT learn to tone down our Disney’s Aladdin jokes). To avoid the emotional 65-page version we are tempted to unload, we’ll bullet point some of the more important lessons. We learned: – That deadlines are awesome. In the moment, that stress can be crippling, no doubt. But the fire it lit under us is hard to self-impose.– We can and will eat whatever amount of pizza is put in front of us.– We should not eat whatever amount of pizza is put in front of us because NAPS.
– The weekly updates from the other writers and the comments from Geoff were so affirming. It was nice to know there was someone else paying attention, frankly, and that there are other people out there to commiserate with. Unless that’s mad corny and you guys felt differently, in which case… *flash from a memory erasing device*.
– Intense appreciation of a good writing partner and pal. Six weeks ago, one of us would have strongly opposed using an Aladdin reference. But appreciating what the other brings to the writing should be done on a daily basis. Saying it out loud (or in an email or text) regularly is also essential. Livin’ that friendship liiiife.
– Jerren is a terribel speller (left that spelling of ‘terrible’ because PERFECT EXAMPLE) and Jesse’s great at proof-reading.
– Having only one (or two) VERY trusted readers is better than a plethora of only kinda-trusted ones. Look, not every group of pals shares the Ocean’s 11 chemistry. Find that one person that you want to impress, and if you do that, you know it’s up to your standards. For Jerren, it’s his fiancée Beth. For Jesse, it actually is Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and the rest of the Ocean’s gang.
During the writing, when the stress started to ramp up, we realized that we would look back really fondly on this whole thing. Not to be too precious, but it is amazing to us that this script now exists. It was an idea sitting in an email draft somewhere, not much more than some broad-stroke first impressions. Now it’s something we can read. We are very, very thankful to have been a part of this.
TO THE REST OF THE TEN: We know we said this in the non-public (gasp!) forum of email, but you guys are varied, interesting and amazing. Just rad as eff. It was sincerely humbling to write along with you guys.”
“When a retired vice cop becomes a high-school vice principal, it’s either the perfect job to put his violent past behind him or the perfect cover to work an elusive case.”
Now for the extra fun part: if YOU wrote a spec script along with the Selected Ten, I want to hear about it! Send a paragraph or two detailing your process/what you learned (the email, as always, an be found on my website) and the title and logline of your script. If you posted it to the Black List or there’s somewhere else on the Internet where it can be accessed, let me know. I’ll do an addendum to all this in a future post. WE’LL PIMP THAT SHIT OUT TO THE WORLD.
I’ll accept your emails until 31 October – that gives you a week.
(A MUST-READ NOTE: DO NOT SEND ME YOUR SCRIPT ITSELF. FOR ANY REASON. I will not read it. In fact, if you send your script, I will delete the email posthaste and you will not end up in the Update.)
To everyone who participated at home or just followed along as a learning experience…I can’t thank you enough for riding down this rambley road with us. It was a hell of a lot of fun to put on, and I hope you got as much out of it as I did.
And yes, I made up the word “rambley”.