12 June, 2006

14 Day Screenplay: Progress Report #4

I have a confession to make. I lied about my page count. Not only did I include the title page but I added an extra page. OK, so it’s not exactly war crimes but it does show the other side of this kind of challenge.

The benefit is sharing experiences and realising that, as Ops said, we can’t even make original mistakes as every screenwriter has gone through the same learning process. It is also great for mutual support and encouragement. The disadvantage is that I treated it like a competition and wanted to be seen as doing better than I really am. I just couldn’t let my ego go, and thought I’d better confess now before I added even more phantom pages to my total.

I would really like to finish as much of the 90 pages before the end but if I don’t, my ego will just have to cope. The main thing is that I have started my first rom-com screenplay and I will finish it eventually, hopefully by the end of the month. While 6-8 pages a day is asking a lot, 3-5 pages is a reasonable pace for me and for anyone, I rcckon. Heck, one page a day is better than nothing.

The pace of work depends not only on the individual writer’s style, experience, the genre chosen, how good the initial idea was and how much free time we have but much more importantly on how solid the story outline was and how much we knew our characters before we started. If all we get out of this is a reminder of how crucial the pre-writing stage is then that would still make the challenge well worth it.

With the best will in the world, an experienced talented writer starting with a weak idea and a poor outline will not do as well as a new talented writer with a good idea and a great outline.

I’ve now reached the scary second act which makes up half the script. Sure we generally know how to start a story and end a story but what about the development of story, themes and character in the middle? I think the easiest way of coping with it is to simply split that second act into three acts. On a basic level it’s just making sure the middle has its own beginning, middle and end.

For instance, in the second act of my rom-com Ziggy gets a new job (set-up) but there are complications in that he has lied about his criminal past, Amanda got him the job and the boss hates him and wants him sacked as Amanda prefers Ziggy to him. Plus there's the on-going conflict in Ziggy and Amanda's relationship and with Ziggy and his sister (middle). Finally the boss fits up Ziggy and the police are after him (climax). Dull second acts are usually about lack of conflict. Hopefully I have enough conflicts and complications to keep an audience (and myself) interested but if not I can always add some more. I can think of my theme and try and come up with things that enhance it.

I really like Ziggy as a character but I’m going to give him hell. My theory about dull screenplays without conflict is that the main character is usually a version of the screenwriter and so they tend to be passive and aren’t involved in conflict as in real life we tend to avoid conflict. But we can’t avoid conflict in our screenplays.

The one problem I have is that I've listened to the great interview with Josann McGibbon Temkin, co-writer of the hit movie “Runaway Bride”, regarding romantic comedy and she says she hates the "betrayal moment" where one character lies and then is found out by their partner and they split up before coming back together again at the end. She calls it contrived, annoying and tedious. As my screenplay is constructed on just such a moment it's a little bit worrying but I'll just have to carry on and try and twist it if I can.


Optimistic_Reader said...

You're doing well - don't worry about the "confession" scene. It sounds as though you've got some gritty themes going on in your script and I'm sure the confession scene is justified. But if you don't like it when you've written it, you can ditch it!

Robin Kelly said...

Thanks for that. It does feel justified and fresh at the moment and I hope it still does when I'm not so close to it.