If you’ve ever wanted to write your own movie but thought it was too daunting a task, think again. Writing a feature film is a journey and like all others, it begins with the first step. My husband Paul and I have written and produced one feature film together “Rabid Love” and are starting on our next one. For this blog, I’ll give you some insight into how we take that first step of writing our movie.
– It all starts with an idea! Sometimes it’s as simple as a moment or scene that we’d like to fill out into a complete story, or one character who we’d like to see brought to life. That idea plants itself in our minds and just won’t let go until we get it written. Making a movie takes years out of your life, so it’s important that you only invest your time into making those ideas that keep you up at night, distract you in crowded rooms, and basically inspire you.
– After we’ve toyed with an idea of a movie we want to make, Paul usually starts tinkering with a budget to see if it’s even possible. Paul and I are producers first, so we don’t want to waste our energies on something we simply don’t have the resources to make. It’s important to know what locations you have and maybe even what actors you have available. These are the kinds of factors that can greatly affect your script.
– Once we’re inspired, we like to make a list of movies similar to the one we’re making and start watching as many as possible. Before and during shooting of “Rabid Love” we watched dozens of 1970’s and 80’s horror movies and even some newer ones to keep the inspiration flowing.
-Okay, now its time to start writing, sort of. Don’t think of writing a screenplay as starting with page one and ending when you get to page 90. Think of it more like an upside down tower of cards or blocks. You start with one and then branch out and branch out again until you’ve got your whole movie. Paul likes to start with a single logline. This is one sentence that sums up your plot like, “A group of recent college grads on their annual camping trip pursue their own agendas when it comes to relationships but must work together to survive when one of them disappears and something in the forest comes after the rest.” This one sentence has already stated your ordinary world, main characters, inciting incident, and confrontation.
– Then comes “The Board”! Filmmakers are naturally very visual, So its nice to have a visual way of looking at your screenplay too. Our board is a combination of screenwriting techniques from “Screenplay” by Syd Field, “The Hero with a thousand faces” by Joseph Campbell, and “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder. It looks like this:
– I won’t go into every part of the board but basically it breaks your script into 4 sections; Act 1 the setup, Act 2 parts one and two the confrontation, and Act 3 the resolution. So we start with our logline and then expand that into the main plot points of the story like the inciting incident, fun and games, all is lost, and the resolution.
– Then I number 1 through 40 on a piece of paper, plug those main plot points in about where they go and then fill in the scenes that happen around those points just writing one sentence for each scene. Sometimes a scene might be as simple as “The hero has a fight with his girlfriend” or “Something funny happens to the coach”. I write all of these out on notecards and pin them to the board. Before you know it your one idea is turning into something resembling an actual movie.
– The great thing about using the board is that nothing on it is permanent and because of the pins, you can easily just move things around to change things up. Sometimes I’m not sure about one plot point like the all is lost moment. It could be that the hero loses the big race, or that Aunt Marge dies. With the board, I can pin both of those options to scene 26 and decide later which one I’ll go with. Here is a board I’m working on for one of my screenplays:
This is all brainstorming and you should let your ideas flow easily. When starting our board, Paul likes to have a beer and I like to have coffee and a sugary snack. We make movies because we love them and writing is a part of filmmaking. If you enjoy writing, shooting, and editing your movie every step of the way then the chances are your audience will enjoy it too. I hope this blog helps you get started on writing that great idea that you have in your head. Now get to writing!