The Beginning Process



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  • The Beginning Process

    Can I get some examples of how the process of writing a screenplay flows for some of you. From beginning to complete.

    E.G. I start with an outline or index cards, that takes about a month. Then move to the first draft or treatment thats another two months. And then a omplete draft after that take another month and a half.

    Just wondering what its like for others. Thanks.

  • #2
    My ideal process (thought it rarely goes this well):

    1 month - brainstorming and research; initial synopsis (just for me) and brief outline. This is the "feeling out the idea" phase. If I can fill a notebook because ideas are generating more ideas (snowball; spiderweb) and I can't stop thinking about this story and jotting stuff down, then I continue on to the second month.

    1 month - character work and super outline; more brainstorming and research. This is where the ideas are given more of a concrete form, a filmic shape (structure), and the characters come alive.

    1 month - first draft. This is where I envision the movie, sequence by sequence, scene by scene, and basically transcribe it in screenplay format.

    2 weeks to 1 month - put the first draft away and don't look at it no matter how tempted I am.

    2 months - rewrites. Take the raw material of the first draft and hone it, without losing what excited me about the story in the first place.


    • #3

      get idea

      ask: is idea commercial? is it castable? would i want to see this movie (if i had nothing to do with it)

      if answer to all three questions isn't yes, process ends

      otherwise, cook idea. sometimes for months. this includes jotting down random ideas - i can fill a notebook

      pin down the ending - it's far easier to work toward a pat ending than it is to tread water without knowing exactly how the movie will end (yes i think of it as a movie from the get go - i don't write scripts, i write movies)

      then decide to go. at this stage i construct all the main characters. this includes designing their backstory/motivation and how their arc will lie

      then outline

      rework outline until totally satisfied i have a good product to work on (yes i think of it as a product to be sold to a buyer who will in turn sell it to the audience. i don't think of it as a stack of paper)

      then write draft

      then rewrite - up to 20 page one rewrites - during this process i can rewrite certain scenes up to 50 times

      then put away for some months or even couple years

      then rewrite some more



      • #4
        Sometimes it starts with a concept. Then I'll think about it for a bit (couple days). Sometimes I'll ask a few noteworthy friends and we spitball it. This is probably the most important step, but I often skip it. I want to write "FADE IN:" too badly and jump into the story.

        Sometimes it doesn't start with a concept. Sometimes I just sit down at my computer and start typing the script. Anything. Just see who pops up and where they go.

        Sometimes it just starts with a scene. I have a visual of someone doing something, people arguing, some kind of action, I don't know what. Anything. The visual is so compeling that I must explore it.

        Then, whether I have a concept, a scene, or just some pages, I'll write out some more. I'll take it to 10 or 15 pages to see where it's headed. Sometimes I know what the first few scenes should look like, sometimes I don't. If there's any magic that happens during my process, it's usually here.

        Random characters may pop up in these first few scenes. They usually turn into main characters. Sometimes they just start saying and doing stuff. Sometimes not.

        Once I get 10 to 15 pages down, I usually know by now whether the story is worth continuing or not. Or not. If I think there's a story there, then I'll really sit down and figure out what my characters hope to achieve.

        If I decide to continue on it, I'll usually write out some kind of treatment for myself. This could be anything from point form to paragraph form. I often argue with myself in my own treatment. I'll say something like "John does this. Why the hell would he do that? That's stupid. How about he does this? That's better, but I'm not entirely sure he's motivated to do it."

        Once I have the treatment laid out, then I try to write the rest of the script. I use the treatment as a guideline. My characters often diverge, or say stuff I didn't intend. They often take on weird characterizations. Then I try to figure out why. My story may diverge too. And often I don't notice until I refer back to my treatment. Then I'll try to figure out whether I should continue with where my characters want to go, or try to force them back into the original story.

        Then I'll have a first draft.

        I don't recommend anyone write the way I do.

        PS: Sometimes I wish I had the discipline to explore my story the way Tony does. But I tell myself, and I'm probably right, that the best part of my creative process is exploring through writing. It's also the thing that causes the most problems.


        • #5
          Yeah, I forgot to mention that before I start the first month, I run through a bunch of story ideas, find one I want to work on, then sit on it for a while. I ask myself, over and over, if it's a movie I would want to see. If it really is, and I'm being honest with myself when I answer "yes," then I move onto the first month.

          Also, research, brainstorming and character work carry on throughout the entire process, until the "reading draft" is finished.


          • #6
            Is my thought corect.

            I am wondering how long is it between the time you get done with a final draft to the time you submit it to an agent, manager or producer.

            My goal is to get done with the screenplay that I'm working on now so I can submit to agents, managers, producers and/or competitions.

            The question is should I be thinking about that or should I set that aside and devote all brain power to the story in front of me?


            • #7
              Re: Is my thought corect.

              I do it exactly the same way as Pipe Writer.


              • #8
                Re: Is my thought corect.

                Don't think about getting it done to submit. Concentrate on getting it right. In 2004 I had a goal to submit my screenplay to the Nicholl Screenplay Contest. A couple of readers came back with critiques on my main characters that made me realize I had a lot more work to do. I fought the urge to hurry up and submit, and boy am I glad I did! A year later, this script is ready to face the world. It didn't take the entire year to do this, maybe four more months. I'm ready to submit and glad I waited. Don't shoot yourself in the foot.


                • #9
                  Re: Is my thought corect.

                  It depends. The one I'm working on now, I've had in mind for almost 2 years. I wrote a short story (25 pages) to get a better idea of the characters and to see a "complete" story. This one is moving so slowly and I'm beginning to wonder if it is worth it.

                  I tend to keep the idea in mind until it's ready to write and then I write the first draft as quickly as possible--5 days seems average-- and then I focus on the revisions.

                  I don't do outlines or use index cards. I just wait until I know the story well enough to bang out the first draft. My next script, I've been thinking about for months. By the time I finish my current script, I'll have spent enough time with the new one in the back of my head that I'll be ready for it. If necessary, I'll write a short story and that gives me a chance to interact with the characters and start on the dialogue.


                  • #10
                    Re: Is my thought corect.

                    I don't have a process.

                    Not sure if that's good or bad. I just don't have one.


                    • #11
                      Re: Is my thought corect.

                      i get an idea, write it down on the pad next to my bad. then i spend 1 month trying to read what i scribbled in the dark. then i come up with a new idea in daylight. celebrate new idea with night of tequila. decide during morning hangover that idea was awful. then i write the first scene anyway. and then, you know, i keep writing.


                      • #12
                        It's differs from project to project

                        In my earlier scripts, I let the idea percolate, kept notes of ideas, and then went I felt this pressing need I sat down to write. Took my notes, turned them into 3X5 cards for each scene and started on my first draft. I wrote the story from beginning to end.

                        The last project I worked on, I never did 3X5 cards. I did a scene in the first act, a scene in the third act, then back to one, the a scene in act two, until the script was complete. Which was completely different than the way I usually write.

                        My latest project, just starting, I did a treament/outline of about 4 pages. I've never done a treatment before, but for this project that is what felt right.

                        Take the time to do a project right. Write the first draft. Put it away. Rewrite. Get feedback from other people. Do a rewrite. Put it away. Rewrite. Get feedback from other people. And keep doing this until most people who read it, think it's pretty good.

                        They are all going to have opinions, and you will have contradictory opinions. It's up to you the writer to decide what feedback to use and what feedback not to use.


                        • #13
                          I write the story in my head, beginning, middle and end. When I come up with a pleasing conclusion I scribble a fat logline-ish theme/idea to act as an anchor, then I write a detailed scene-by-scene outline that maybe runs to 10 pages and eventually gets expanded into the screenplay. Or sometimes not. Depends if it interests me. I usually find out around page 35.

                          Each to their own, there is no wrong way.

                          My Web Page - naked women, bestial sex, and whopping big lies.


                          • #14
                            I have a script sitting, waiting to be torn apart in a rewrite from ideas that are building in the back of my head and from people who were kind enough to read it and good enough to offer constructive criticism.
                            I have one that I'm currently actually physically writing. I'll talk about that in a sec.
                            And I have one in my head that keeps fighting for attention from the one I am currently writing. Sometimes a couple of other ideas that I have on my long list try to get my attention, but I quash them like bugs before they infest my noggin.

                            My head is kind of full. Not taking into account the 45 hours I spend at work, the 15 hours I spend at school, and the homework time I manage to squeeze in at the last second each week.

                            My process would drive a person to drink. I've tried the outlining and the index cards and the scene dissections. I actually had about 6 index cards this time before I typed them in and chucked them. I usually get a concept that is fully formed in so much as I know the protagonist, the antagonist, the beginning, and the end (the idea I'm working on now I got a couple of years ago and it's been marinating in my head all this time until it and I was ready). Maybe I don't know the exact specifics of how it will end, but I have a general notion. I will never start writing a story that I don't have an ending for. That's crazy in my world. I don't have the time to take the back-roads with no outlets. My outline ends up being my working script, with scenes with dialogue, sometimes just a couple of lines here and there, with bullets and ideas mixed in that I can work from. Then I start adding stuff to the middle (the middle, ugh) until I feel that I'm getting nowhere, then I try to outline again, and failing that, I start where I left off in the opening scene and start writing straight through, fleshing out all those little bits of ideas and dialogue along the way (I just started this part of the process today), until, omigod, the script is done.

                            If you didn't read the above paragraph (and I don't blame you), my process is that as long as I have my destination and a vague understanding of the points I have to hit along the way, I feel that each scene should progress naturally from the scene before it, starting from the very beginning. I just have to write it to figure out the exact route that I'm taking to get to my destination. I just know the roads I should avoid since I know where I'm trying to get to.


                            • #15
                              years - having an idea
                              two weeks - figuring out the structure. I start writing.
                              one month - shifts of the focus, the povs. scenes popping up.
                              three months-two years - getting it done. research. getting
                              most of the ideas into the script. fleshing it out. congruity

                              I randomly do scene-by-scene outlines when the storylines
                              become more complex.