How do you choose which script to work on?



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  • How do you choose which script to work on?

    Okay, for those of you that have an inventory of premises like I do, how do you choose which premises are worthy of the time and effort of turning it into a script?

    In my case, I come up with the logline before I write the script. I'll also write as much of the synopsis as I've come up with and then what I'd like to do thematically with the script (essentially, just trying to say what the script is about without talking about what happens). If I really get carried away, I might write as much of a rough outline (just a sentence or two per scene) to see if I can get the feeling for a throughline. You know, just to make sure that my idea is more than just a great first act.

    I also take the time to consider whether the script is commercial. I still have a small inventory of completed solo scripts, so I think it's important that I try to choose projects now that are commercial (although while still only planning to write a script that would hypothetically make a movie that I'd love and respect).

    I sometimes try to envison a movie trailer, maybe also the movie poster, to see if it's an idea that I could convey in a way that's interesting to a wide-reaching audience. What would the average film-going audience think of this movie trailer if they saw it play before any random mainstream movie playing at the mall?

    Of course, that's just part of my criteria, and of course sometimes I get carried away by a script by the overwhelming compulsion to write it just because it is "important" to me.

    Anyway, this isn't about the right or wrong way to do it, I'm just curious about other people's processes when it comes to picking what script to write.

  • #2
    I write each premise on a separate 3x5 index card, then submerge them all in a tub filled with blood. It doesn't matter whose. Then I pay some stranger $100 to dunk his head in the blood and grab one of the cards with his teeth. The card he pulls up is NOT the one I go with. It's the first one I eliminate. I eliminate premises one by one that way until only one remains. If the one that remains doesn't do anything for me, I kill the stranger, drain the tub, fill it with his blood (and the blood of about 20 other people), and repeat the whole damned process.

    This could go on for months.


    • #3
      (no, I don't really do that, mr. fbi-man-who-is-monitoring-this-board.)

      Seriously, I just go with the one I want to spend the next (the number varies) months making into a movie "on the page."


      • #4
        Accidentally, I have discovered the workshop approach. I started posted loglines here and on 2AVs with the initial idea that I'd polish my logline for a completed script. Through that process, however, it was revealed to me that I had some story flaws that ultimately couldn't be fixed. It was then that I realized it would be FAR more benefical to workshop the loglines/concepts prior to ever writing anything (synopsis, outline, etc), and address any flaws before painting myself into a corner so-to-speak.

        So that is what I do. I make logline pitches to the helpful people on this board and 2AVs and workshop the ideas in hopes that an idea will eventually provide all the necessary elements I have come to believe are necessary for a script to sell (and I'm stilling learning what those are).

        To be honest, it can be frustrating at times. Legitimate story problems have been presented to me over and over, which continually cause me to shelve an idea or scrap it all together. I have yet to hit on the idea that meets the criteria I am holding myself to.

        That, however, has been a blessing in disguise because speding time on these boards has turned out to be a tremedous learning opportunity that has illuminated some aspects of screenwriting that I can honestly say I really didn't get. Things like structure and character being the most prevalent. This process has allowed me to finally understand some things about structure that, I'm sad to say, I knew about but did not completely grasp.

        I write shorts and challenge myself with excercises to keep up on the script writing during this story search. I read scripts. As many scripts in production that I can, and I'm fortunate to get quite a few. And I continue to workshop ideas in hopes that I will eventually find the gem I'm looking for.

        Choosing has become a process for me more than a decision.


        • #5
          keen guy

          i ask: is it commercial? would i want to see it? if the answer is yes, then i decide whether to go or not based on instinct



          • #6
            I don't choose the script. The script. . . Okay, never mind. But I always have a couple of stories going and I work on whichever one interests me most at the time. Then I'll finish it, even if another story's bugging me to get written.


            • #7
              i have a mental file of ideas and characters and scenes which are continually ripening while i am working on whatever it is that i am working on. so when the time comes to start a new spec, i just pluck out of the file whatever is the ripest and get to work on it.

              there's nothing worse (for me) than trying to squeeze the juice of a story from a concept that hasn't had time to ripen.

              so, yeah.


              • #8
                It's the one that starts to nag at me to write it. Sometimes, it's ready to go, sometimes it's not, but it keeps nagging at me, eating away at my brain, like a splinter in my mind, infecting my waking life, and my dreams.


                • #9
                  keen - do my litmus test: tell each of your friends about this great movie you saw. tell it like you just saw it.* but instead of a movie you just saw, of course it's one of your ideas....but, you must NOT tell them it's an idea that you're planning to write. keep talking until they either yawn and change the subject OR say, is it available on dvd or out in the theater? if they say the later then you have your winner.

                  write on!

                  *ps - this is also your "pitch" practice


                  • #10
                    Nice one, Nikee!


                    • #11
                      splinter in my mind
                      Think of tweezers

                      The whole thing sounds like that ripening analogy ...& it's a real struggle to figure out if you have more than an Act 1. One may have a hook but no fish (harpoon, no Moby Dick?).


                      • #12
                        The one that grabs YOU. Or the one that gives you that electrical undercurrent of possibility whenever you think about it.


                        • #13
                          I like my Posit of Shame approach. When I start working on a project, I write the title on a Posit and slap it on my monitor. If I drift away, it's there as a constant reminder to get back on the job. That and a personal deadline works wonders...