Saturday, 24 January 2009

Outlines. Do you need them?

This week I've been speaking to a screenwriter who spends a long time outlining and I caught him off guard and just said "Why?" He couldn't really give me a good enough answer, I said "Why don't you just start writing and you'll find your character along the way" -- We disagreed and he still hasn't started writing, in my opinion it's just a form of procrastination.

"I'm not going to write because I feel like I don't know my story and my characters"

Well that's a fair enough point but how are you going to know your characters by never writing. For example the first pilot I wrote, I thought it up for ages, maybe 6 months and I did outlines, scene for scenes and character grids and when I got down to it, only 1 out of about 6 characters felt right. But then I had a first draft to work on and I could go back over it till the characters all improved. The screenwriter in question has nothing, he's wasting time like I did.

This isn't a naive standpoint either, I'm not on a high horse, most top screenwriters don't outline.

Two quotes (that I'm paraphrasing) I've heard over the last couple of weeks.

George Lucas when asked does he outline said "Hardly ever, I do what my friend Francis (Ford Coppola) taught me to do, lock myself in a room and just get through it, the first draft is going to be terrible but writing is rewriting so you might as well get that first draft out of the way as fast as you can"

The second being Fight Club scribe Jim Uhls who I'm lucky enough to talk to via the net quite regularly, he says "I don't outline because it's like shooting your load early, I like to explore and outlining ruins that."

I'm not for one second saying neglect planning but there is a distinct difference between a few grids to outlining every scene and spending months on the character's back story. Like Uhls said, "explore" you'll find your way.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Writer's Block? What's that!

Hope I haven't scared you off with the title.

Anyway I've been listening to a stupid amount of interviews with screenwriters over the past few days and a few little gems cropped up courtesy of David Chase and Aaron Sorkin.

When asked about writer's block and how he deals with it Soprano scribe simply said:

"Writer's block, that is just something I don't understand, it's having trouble writing right? Well that's just writing!"

At first I laughed but the more I thought about it the more it's absolutely spot on, what is writer's block? It's just hitting a wall where you feel you can't write any more or you get stuck in a certain scene and can't get out. Again it's not 'the block' it's just part of the process we're addicted to.

With a lazy ass google definition here are these two written short hand:

an inability to write; "he had writer's block; the words wouldn't come"

Writer's block is a phenomenon involving temporary loss of ability to begin or continue writing, usually due to lack of inspiration or creativity.

Both of the above serve Chase's argument, especially the latter, which when you think about it should be written:

"Procrastinating due to"

I salute David Chase. Writer's block doesn't exist.

When Aaron Sorkin was asked the same question he was kind of straight down the middle, he wasn't debunking it didn't exist but more "It means I have to do anything to get through it, even if it means me standing on my head whilst eating" - So his answer was more, yes it does exist but I only see it as a further challenge. Which is a very cool way to look at it.

Interviews With Screenwriters

Also if you read one comedy screenplay this whole year, let it be Chad Schmidt, I'm not going to ruin the genius premise but google, download and enjoy. It's like Curb Your Enthusiasm meets Arrested Development with a pinch of Being John Malkovich.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Goals for 2009

In my last blog I said write down goals, they help you stay on track and hone your discipline as a writer.

My goals for 2009

1) Write 3 pilots (all of which are hour long dramas)

2) Finish my play and send it off to playwright contests.

3) Think of a premise for my first feature length screenplay - Have it planned out roughly scene by scene to be written in 2010.

4) Network and make more contacts

5) Send out query letters to agencies, send my pilots to the BBC and overall get more people to read my scripts.