Back in the writers chair
Its been a long time since I wrote Booked Out (coming up for 3 years) and over the last month or so I have started to write a new project. I know what your thinking… but when is Booked Out coming out. Its a bit of a broken record story on that front at the moment. There are a number of things that we are working on but nothing concrete to share and I don’t like saying we might be doing this or we might me doing that. So instead I thought I would describe how it feels to be writing again… sorry!
It is a strange thought when you think “I can write about anything in the world so why I am writing this?”. Most of the time I don’t really know the answer but that nagging doubt has crept in over the last couple of days as I ponder whether the first 20 pages of this film cut the mustard. Pretty sure they do or at least they do for a first draft but just being a little too critical of late. So what is this film and why am I writing it…
I don’t want to say too much as it still feels like my baby and I’m not giving it anyway that easily but… its a coming of age sci-fi story about a boy who finds an Alien Rover. Something like this… but an alien version…
Its set on earth though so feels more like a coming of age, losing your teenage marbles type of film rather than overtly sci-fi. I have always been a bit of a fan of sci-fi but not really all the fantasy stuff but more the kind that involves science or science concepts. I also did a Maths degree so I kind of like a bit of geeky science theory.
I’ve been thinking of writing again for a while and feel like I’ve started a little process that has been bourne out of writing Booked Out and going through all the different phases – editing, soundtrack, filming, etc. So here is what I do and then I’ll tell you what I’ve learned and how I am trying to incorporate that.
My writing process
Start by making lots of lists! Basically I have lots of notes of little ideas that I have recorded for too long now and I went through all my old notebooks and collated them into a list. Then I noted a list of films that I love. It helps to stare at your DVD collection for a while when doing this. Next up I did the same with film genres. From this I dreamt up more high level film ideas until I had a decent list. About half the way through this process I came up with the sci-fi idea and couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the time so by the end there wasn’t really a need to have a selection as one was already nagging me to get started.
During these initial stages I seem to be fixated on a couple of random images that somehow help to crystalise the idea in my head. I think its important to me at least to have these as they help set the film in context. One of these is the image of the boy running through long yellow grass but the image being filmed in a way that it looks very red in some sort of homage to Mars. Another is that he fixes old radio’s (remember when people fixed things instead of buying a replacement?) which gives the side-effect of having the idea of the noise of static being a constant tension in his life. I also like the idea that he is someone who likes to take things apart, investigate them, understand them and then he can put them together to fix them. This being some sort of metaphor for what goes on in the film although its there in the background rather than being obvious to the viewer.
So with these thoughts and a random idea I then try to create an outline of the film. I’ve heard this called a lot of different things and I can never tell if people mean the same thing or not but essentially for me it means a list of bullet points that describe the story. Some points may be really high level and others might be detailed. I don’t really mind at this stage as long as I can work out the broad points of the story. Around this I usually try and brain storm other things at the same time which help to make the outline better.
These have included:
- Question and answers about the characters. (age, music they like, first kiss, food they like, do they care about their appearance, etc). Anything that rings a bell.
- The characters specific goals in life, moments they have been let down. I feel this and the last point are different. One gives me a general idea of who they are whereas this one tells me what drives them through every moment of their life.
- Random ideas about the film or an area I am stuck on. (i.e. I know that I want the character to feel let down by another character so lets make a list of things that could make them feel let down)
- List films and books that feel like they are connected in some way.
- Watch those films and write a list (did I mention I like lists) of things that the film did well, things the film didn’t do well and what similarities there are with my idea.
- Make music lists. The boy is 15 years old so I am making a playlist of music I listened to when I was fifteen. Its also set in the 80′s so I have created an 80′s playlist too.
Some of these are more like procastination than writing but in my head they help. At this stage I had a rough outline so next step was to let a few people read and comment on it. Its a weird time as I really want to save some readers for the first draft of the script but I really want feedback before writing 100 pages. I decided to send it to a couple of people. One being the DoP of Booked Out who I trust to give constructive feedback and I know that he will be able to give good comments on the script even though he has read the outline.
I then took the outline and rewrote it a couple of times. It then felt like it needed a few more rewrites but I couldn’t help myself so for the past couple of weeks I have been writing the script which has made me get even deeper inside the characters so I am not sure if I jumped too early or not but there you go.
I tend to go with the idea of “keep writing the script and don’t look over scenes that you have wrote so far or you will never get past the first ten pages”. I also tend to not be too fussy about dialogue either in the first draft. The characters are a bit direct but I know that getting the story in the right format is the main thing then I can finesse that later on.
I wrote about this before I think but I also like going to different places to write and especially like getting out of the flat (or more away from the computer) to do the thinking up parts. I would recommend Yumchaa in Camden if you are looking for a writing den. I’m the one with the beard and a notebook if you come along.
Writing differently from Booked Out
There are probably lots of lessons that I have learned that I can’t put into words as I just feel like I have a better grasp of what I want to do, what I need to do it and what will and won’t work on the road there…. but… I thought I would try and describe a few things that I have noticed in particular.
- Try and make every scene as dramatic as possible. Might sound simple but even with simple scenes you can add little moments of tension in.
- Use actions by the characters to try and show their feelings instead of words. Kind of your show and don’t tell but focused on the characters actions in particular.
- Ensure the transition between scenes flow well and won’t jar.
- Establish everything up front in an interesting way but ensure the audience understand the needs of all the characters.
Not my best list ever but mind has started to slow down with all the talk of lists.
If you follow the Booked Out Facebook Page you will have probably seen this but I appeared in Mark West’s (one of the Booked Out composers) music video for his band The Lost Cavalry. I was chosen because I was the only person who had a beard like a frozen arctic DJ. It was quite fun doing some “acting” but think I prefer to being behind the camera. Take a look and let me know what you think
Back to the grindstone…
Ok, blogging time is up and scripting time is about to begin again. Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any writing tips I can incorporate!