Screenplay: The Frenzy – Always Start with an Exercise

Even when I’m in the middle of a screenplay I’m excited about, when I start out writing for the day, I still find myself procrastinating to the page. I have found that by far the best way to work on a screenplay each day is to start with warm-up exercises. It makes sense, right? It’s like stretching before running. It’s tough to just start working on the script where you left off. Warm-up exercises not only get your brain cells moving, they can inspire that next scene, help you discover something about your characters that you didn’t know before, and help you to find deeper meaning in your story. The most exciting thing about warm-up exercises is when they surprise you. When that AHA seems to come out of thin air. It’s magical....

Screenplay: The Frenzy – Preparing Part 2: The Outline!

Many screenwriters I know hate writing outlines (and loglines and summaries and treatments). I’ve approached each feature I’ve written in a different manner, trying to find the ultimate way of getting the story outlined. By far, the most successful technique I’ve found (the one that made the story flow from my fingers) was the “sequence” approach. I have my own adaptation of this that I call “Beats and Sequences.” I think each writer has to find what works for them. I studied the 3-act, the hero’s journey, Sid Field’s & Michael Hague’s approaches, which you can easily find on line. But I never connected with anything as much as the sequence approach, which is taught in the USC screenwriting program....

Screenplay: The Frenzy – Preparing for the Challenge

Wow, I noticed it’s been over a YEAR since I posted my last Screenplay: The Exercise entry. Guess I’ve been busy. And I’ve been working on the accidental novel launch, which is in two months. Woo-hoo! But now it’s time to dust off my DIY Screenplay Kit because April is SCRIPT FRENZY MONTH! What’s that? you ask. Why Script Frenzy is a writing event in which participants take on the challenge of writing 100 pages of scripted material during the month of April. Feature film, play, TV show, graphic novels all count for the challenge. People who know me know how much I love a good screenwriting challenge. A feature in 30 days? Piece of cake! (famous last words) I challenge you to finish in 21 days and spend the rest of the time editing....

Screenplay – more prewriting tippage (v)

You might have noticed that I’m a bit of a mutt (poi dog for those of you in Hawaii)… a spiritual mutt, a cultural mutt… I’m also a mutt in terms of my writing process. I’ve taken so many different workshops and read various books, but don’t espouse any one person’s philosophy or method. I collect the tools that work for me and put them in my toolbox. Every mentor and professional writer has a different method for pre-writing. The only constant is that they all prewrite. So far I’ve shared some pre-writing exercises I use and talked about loglines and dilemmas. Another exercise is simply talking your story out loud. One of my favourite books on screenwriting is Crafty Screenwriting by Alex Epstein.  Talking the...

Screenplay – the dilemma (iv)

One of the things I was agonizing about early on was that my current story lacked a solid dilemma.  In his book Writing a Great Movie, Jeff Kitchen defines dilemma as “two equally painful choices.” Two EQUALLY PAINFUL choices. Say you have to make the choice of losing your girlfriend or being fired from a job that you detest. Not much of a dilemma. They don’t hold equal emotional weight. But what if you had to choose between taking care of your wife as her Alzhiemers grows worse by the day or sending her to a care facility that allows no visiters for the first 30 days… and you’ve never been away from her in your 40 years of marriage? This happens to be one of the dilemmas in Away From Her. How can the husband not see his wife for 30...

Screenplay – laying it down (iii)

The first time I redid my kitchen floors I read the instructions on how to lay linoleum tiles and all the measuring of the room and penciling the lines to fit the tiles into just sounded like too much work to me. I thought, hell, I’ll just lay them out. They’re square; it will be fine. As I glued them down, they started to wander a bit. Eventually I had to cut away pieces to make them fit. It probably added a great deal of time and tedium (not to mention a great deal of frustration). ~ ~ ~ I always recommend that my students do plenty of pre-work before they sit down to write their screenplay. This thinking on the page (and out loud) helps to flesh out the story, the structure, the characters, and a lot more. There are quite a few books on...