(Spec) Script Writing Process

Collapse

Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • #16
    Originally posted by fallenangel View Post
    Hi - There are several topics across various DD threads that talk about the art of story telling - Concept, Acts/Structure, Story elements (pace, plot devices, conflicts, journey, empathy, etc.).

    Question - What is your definition of done & the script is ready for primetime? Below is the process I follow before I say, Done. Keep in mind that not all scripts make it to #8. Several have choked at #4.

    1. Logline.
    2. Outline.
    3. First Draft. Includes basic etiquettes of writing (Formatting, Spell Check, Grammar, Choice of words, etc.) plus extensive use of Visualization while reviewing a scene in my head - Sound design, Music, Variety of shots/angles (Dolly Zoom versus Push-In versus Zoom, Wide versus XCU, Camera on Crane, Dolly or Sticks).
    4. Recorded Table Read (virtually impossible to skip this step for dialogue sanity check, IMHO).
    5. Revisionsv1. Feedback from Table Readers.
    6. Revisionsv2. Based on feedback from friends, peers.
    7. Revisionsv3. Based on feedback professional readers.
    8. Final Read.
    9. WGA Registration.

    Curious to hear thoughts...

    -- fallen
    I just wanted to add -- as we find out in logline forums or when we query reps or tell our friends about the great spec we just wrote -- that we should have added a step. And that is VET your idea. What Jeff Lowell always talks about in other threads. But it's so true. You can have skills/talent -- but if you have the wrong idea -- you're dead out of the gate.

    1. Logline
    1a. Make sure you have the right idea for the logline. This story can go many ways.
    1b. After doing that, is this a logline others besides me are going to be excited to read?
    1c. Has it been done many times?
    1d. Do strangers understand my idea in 1 sentence or do they have to read the whole spec and they still won't understand what the movie is to me?
    1e. Do I even want to write this now?
    1f. Am I only writing this because it's the first idea that popped into my mind and I always write the first ideas that come to me and never throw any away?

    In other words -- the biggest part of the spec writing process for me -- besides procrastination -- is finding an idea that not only makes me excited but doesn't have so many holes/reasons not to write it.

    Because I think writers should always be the ones most able to pick apart their own ideas for their flaws, but still always love it and think others will want to see this movie.

    It's about the idea. It all comes from that.


    Comment


    • #17
      Originally posted by sc111 View Post
      Impressive. Question: who do you recruit for table reads?

      Oops. Posted before I answered the question. I don't ever feel I'm done. It's more like coming to a point where I decide I've done all I can.

      That's when I set it aside to simmer. I need space from a piece of work then come back and look at it with fresh eyes.

      I rewrite as I go. So I don't have definite revisions 1, 2 or 3. It's my process. I can't move forward if I'm not reasonably satisfied with the latest scene I've written.
      Why lots are affraid of table reads.
      Maybe if the table read is at a Vegas buffet place.
      Or somewhere fun.
      Table reads sound boring.
      I could be wrong.

      Comment


      • #18
        I used to be a rigorous outliner until my stories kept turning out to be contrived, generic and conventional. I've realized that, for me at least, planning beyond the middle is a recipe for a B-movie. But instead if you just start with compelling characters and situations and then follow them organically wherever their truth leads them, you're going to surprise yourself, and the audience too. The "meaning" that you were overtly trying to insert into the story before, instead just comes naturally, watching the choices of the characters and their fate. If you're not surprising yourself, the audience sure as hell won't be surprised.

        Comment


        • #19
          But instead if you just start with compelling characters and situations and then follow them organically wherever their truth leads them, you're going to surprise yourself, and the audience too. The "meaning" that you were overtly trying to insert into the story before, instead just comes naturally, watching the choices of the characters and their fate. If you're not surprising yourself, the audience sure as hell won't be surprised.
          Couldn't agree more.

          Comment


          • #20
            Originally posted by Jimmy View Post
            I used to be a rigorous outliner until my stories kept turning out to be contrived, generic and conventional. I've realized that, for me at least, planning beyond the middle is a recipe for a B-movie. But instead if you just start with compelling characters and situations and then follow them organically wherever their truth leads them, you're going to surprise yourself, and the audience too. The "meaning" that you were overtly trying to insert into the story before, instead just comes naturally, watching the choices of the characters and their fate. If you're not surprising yourself, the audience sure as hell won't be surprised.
            This sounds good on paper -- but few can pull this off. Even outliners have the same issues. Because writing good stories -- is duh -- hard. So no matter how one gets there -- it's really judged on the end product. No one is going to ask your process until you've made it and then as I've said before -- I can't wait to make sh%t up just to see future writers take my bad advice. I heard Bono always writes naked. That's the only way to become a writer!

            More to the point -- I think the early screenplays we all write and read -- most of them fail -- because of the above advice. Just start writing... yada yada... and we are Aaron Sorkin.

            Take a compelling character that we already know -- let's pick Hans Gruber from Die Hard -- and he's a great character for sure -- but what if you are writing a story about him getting fired from his job at the supermarket. And then well Hans tells you he wants to now take over the Supermarket because that is what Hans does and all of a sudden your small indie movie that was supposed to be a romantic comedy turned into an action movie.

            So no -- we are the writers. We are the chess masters. We get to choose what the story is about before we start writing. What the characters say and do. So even if we think we are being lead by our characters -- we are just being lazy most of the time and it's going to cause more problems done the line.

            I've written many things both ways. Some turned out well. Some badly. But it was always me - the writer -- actually making it happen or not. I didn't live in some dream/fantasy land. However, yes at some point -- your characters come alive and you discover new things. Usually for me after I've written the first draft -- even if I planned the whole thing out.

            To me most of my great characters came because I had a great idea that let them shine in it. But I've always been an idea -- then character type of writer. There might be a few people that can do it the way you're saying very well -- but I think most bad scripts I read are doing it this way and it's hurting their specs not helping them.

            And for someone that loves B movies -- I disagree. I think you meant Hollywood cliche movie?
            Last edited by Bono; 03-07-2021, 09:24 AM.

            Comment


            • #21
              I think there's kind of a bell curve, Bono. The worst writers and the best writers don't outline. There's something to be said for learning the rules before you break them. A detailed outline can rise the level of competency of your script, you can write a really good script that way. But that process also may be costing you the spontaneity and originality that leads to a great script.

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by Jimmy View Post
                I think there's kind of a bell curve, Bono. The worst writers and the best writers don't outline. There's something to be said for learning the rules before you break them. A detailed outline can rise the level of competency of your script, you can write a really good script that way. But that process also may be costing you the spontaneity and originality that leads to a great script.
                So have you found success this way? I mean you said you changed up methods -- so did this new way of doing things lead to success in industry?

                Comment


                • #23
                  Table reads -- I think they help with dialogue -- but I don't think they're going to help if you wrote a bad script / bad story / structure issues. So it's better in my eyes for comedy pieces. I don't think people get to table read and then correct issues. Table read seems like a thing you do when you're trying to make a project and get the cast / crew on same page and hear the whole movie out loud as most people only read their scenes.

                  I'm talking about features.

                  In TV I think table reads is crucial part of the process for most shows, but then they are making something all the time.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Bono View Post

                    So have you found success this way? I mean you said you changed up methods -- so did this new way of doing things lead to success in industry?
                    Well if success means selling something, than not just yet, but 5 big companies are reading my latest spec, so we'll see.
                    In terms of personal satisfaction, it was a big success. There are hilarious scenes in there I would've never been able to imagine at the start of the writing process, but they unfolded naturally as a result of what the characters wanted and how far they took it. It was a lot more satisfying to write something that really made me laugh, because I didn't necessarily know what was coming next.

                    Also it only took me 20 days to write, no calculating, just gut instinct and go, so it felt more cohesive and "true" than anything I've ever done.

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      The conversation of outlining vs. characters dictating story perplexes me because they're not mutually exclusive concepts. At least to me.

                      I always outline everything up until the third act break, so I always know where I'm going story wise and most importantly, how long each story beat needs to be on average to get there with a manageable page count, but I never know how I'm going to get there until I start writing and the characters' personalities present themselves and dictate how those beats play out as there are numerous ways I could connect the dots of my very abstract outlines.

                      For the record, the reason I never outline the third act until I get to it is because I'm a big believer in letting everything that has happened in the story up to that point dictate how everything wraps up, even if I did have a specific ending in mind.

                      If you were to read my third acts, it looks like I had been writing with a great amount of foresight because a number of seemingly insignificant story threads from earlier in the script end up tying themselves up in significant ways during the climax.

                      The funny thing is that I never intend for those story threads to be there in the first place. I just create them as I go along to make the general ideas I originally had in mind for scenes interesting, and then I simply use them in the end to make it look like I knew what I was doing all along.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        To me it comes down to conscious calculation vs. subconscious instinct. My subconscious is interesting and keeps me guessing, while my conscious mind just comes up with contrived and formulaic horse ****.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Jimmy View Post

                          Well if success means selling something, than not just yet, but 5 big companies are reading my latest spec, so we'll see.
                          In terms of personal satisfaction, it was a big success. There are hilarious scenes in there I would've never been able to imagine at the start of the writing process, but they unfolded naturally as a result of what the characters wanted and how far they took it. It was a lot more satisfying to write something that really made me laugh, because I didn't necessarily know what was coming next.

                          Also it only took me 20 days to write, no calculating, just gut instinct and go, so it felt more cohesive and "true" than anything I've ever done.
                          That's success! 5 companies reading your script is awesome!

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Jimmy View Post
                            To me it comes down to conscious calculation vs. subconscious instinct. My subconscious is interesting and keeps me guessing, while my conscious mind just comes up with contrived and formulaic horse ****.
                            Well that's true too. I'm not actually pro one way or the other -- but I do feel a lot of first time writers use excuses for not doing the work to help them write great screenplays -- as their "process". But if it doesn't work -- then you got to try something else. If you have success -- then keep doing it.

                            Also, we discussed this many times in other threads, but we are bad judges of our own process. We try to explain it, but it's impossible to explain -- sometimes even to ourselves. I know people that say they vomit out the first draft and some say they rewrite as they go so when they are done with the first draft, they are done with the script. I don't know if I believe either is 100% true. They may believe this is what they do, but is that reality?

                            Like most of us -- a lot of the writing is done when we aren't writing. Our minds are working and ideas come to us. So when we are in the zone, our minds are outling the story.

                            I mean because a lot of the time, I'll know the scene, but the fun is writing the dialogue and discovering new things as I go. And of course yes finding that Act 3 that ties it all together and makes it seem like I had control the whole time, but they never knew the terrible ending I thought of in the outline before I thought of the right ending when I wrote the actual script.

                            However, let me go back. Idea is king. And a good reason to outline is the same as making sure you have a logline before you write. It's so you can figure out in 2-4 prose pages that you have no story and not 120 pages of spec where you realize -- oh my god -- I shouldn't have written this at all.

                            Once you know you have the right story -- I find that freeing.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              That's what kept happening to me - my improvisations outside of my outline were always the most interesting parts of my story. So I decided to improv the whole thing.
                              When I say no outline though, I did come up with characters who had specific goals and conflicted with each other. I suppose that could be considered "plotting." I guess the difference would be that I was much more concerned with intention than outcome.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Originally posted by Jimmy View Post
                                The worst writers and the best writers don't outline.
                                Being able to outline is a skill every great (or working) writer has to have. When you're writing or rewriting a script on assignment, you don't get to say "here's the first half, and then I'll see where it goes." When you're pitching, you don't get to say it'll be formulaic if you figure out the whole plot.

                                Comment

                                Working...
                                X