Friday, March 09, 2007

Chronicles 41 - Output and Outlines

Well, it's been over 2 weeks since I've blogged so I guess I'm overdue. I've been pretty busy writing, hence the delay (beats me how some writers get the time to write extensive posts almost every day???)

I finished the 'scriptment' I was writing as part of a contracted assignment. Actually in the contract it talked about a 'treatment' but as I mentioned in the last post I always end up putting a lot of dialogue in my treatments so that the characters come to life more and I end up slipping in scene headings - in this case I went the whole way and included scene headings (e.g. INT. STREET - DAY) for every scene. I ended up writing a 35 page document in Word which is essentially a compressed version of the script, hence the term 'scriptment'. I then emailed it to the producer.

There's always that feeling of uncertainty after sending work out for feedback and since this was my first paid gig the uncertainty was even more heightened.

Will he like it? Is this what he had in mind? Will the notes be challenging i.e. tone, characters, believability or will they be easier i.e. structural, factual etc?

The brain ticks over...

I know I've written some great moments here, in fact I think I've, on the whole, pulled this off, some of it rocks and some of it I kind of get the feeling needs work but I can fix that... What if he comes back with completely different ideas? Oh man, I love some of these scenes, I think they work beautifully...I'm attached! No! I don't want to kill my children! I want to hug them and buy them toys and take them to McDonalds... I'm a genius... No, everyone thinks they're a genius... If I'm a genius then why don't I have any major credits?... I'm deluded... massively deluded...

BOING. In comes an email. This is it! No, it's spam, "Every time this one hits the media the stock climbs. Act fast!" Then more spam. The brain continues... this is taking too long, not good, it can only mean one thing - he's read it - hates it - doesn't get it - and he's busy writing a huge notes doc and it's going to be a sh*t load of work implementing the changes but this time I've got no choice - no way out - he's friggin' paying me!

BOING. It's him. Speed read... "very good" (relief) "well done" (more relief) ..."seamless" (phew) "works well visually" (more phew, no killing of children - for today at least) ...

3 or 4 emails full of notes follow but they're okay - structural and factual stuff mainly (it's a biog drama) so another wave of relief.

The next step is to move onto the script where I will no doubt go through the whole cycle again.

While I was waiting for notes and taking a little break on the assignment I received an email from the short film co-producer. He's arranged a private beach party at Cannes where about 1500 industry people will be attending and during the evening our short will be screened. Whoo Hoo!

The director has been working with an editor who had a few days to spare between big feature projects, one of them is a HUGE worldwide comedy hit, and according to the director he's done a brilliant job. I haven't seen it yet but the director and the producers are really happy with it and we're still at the rough cut stage but it's good enough to be submitted as a "work in progress" for the Cannes competition - submission deadline is March 20th.

So, since the short is both a teaser for and story thread within the planned feature the producer has asked me for a pitch/synopsis and character breakdowns. The thing is, there is no script! There's my stage play and there's a bunch of ideas I've written down in my journal - so - since the feature consists of about 5 inter-connected storylines I started outlining.

I started with my old friends the index cards and just wrote scenes or sometimes just ideas or questions on the cards. The trouble was that by the end of the day I had this huge stack of cards that would have been a real pain to organize so I went back to the Save The Cat Software which I'd bought about a month ago.

In my last post, I wrote that I couldn't get into the software but having decided that I didn't want my office floor covered in index cards I decided to give it another go.

The software worked quite well actually, it enabled me to create, map out AND colour code the scene cards on screen. In a script with 5 storylines this proved very useful.

It's good to see a map of the outline not only to get a feeling of how the stories interconnect but also how each story is distributed along the story line as well as the ratio between major and minor stories in terms of screen time. I know. This is beginning to sound like an engineering project rather than some follow-the-flow-man, artsy-fartsy, creative 'piece'.

Well, Goldman does say that screenwriting is more of a craft than an art and that it's all about structure, structure, structure.

Having said that there are successful screenwriters who don't (or say they don't) outline or in the case of Jim Uhle (Fight Club) who says, "I detest outlines".

To outline or not to outline that is the paraphrase. Guess it's a mute point as long as it leads to output. :-)

Ciao for now