Screenplay Update on Absolute Freedom – Week 1 of a 5 Week writing Process.
Once again I am sharing my experiences in creating the 110 minute feature film, ‘Absolute Freedom’. I am not saying that my writing process is for everyone but maybe you can try some of these processes and see if they work for you.
I started to write the screenplay for ‘Absolute Freedom’ one week ago. Today is Saturday, 31st August, 2013 and it is the end of Week One. The Screenplay will be 110 pages long and I am currently at Page 25 with 85 pages still to write. At an average of about 25 pages per week, I will complete and polish the script by the end of September, 2013.
I am finding the process very enjoyable as I have a 30 page plan called a Story Pillar Map. Every story event has been worked out in advanced. Therefore, the process of now expanding to a 110 page screenplay is exceptionally enjoyable. I find it hard to stop writing at midday and would like nothing more than to continue writing the screenplay. This detailed preparation has now made all the difference to the writing enjoyment.
The great thing about having the 30 page Story Pillar Map is that there is zero chance of getting writer’s block. The reason for this is that all the story issues have already been worked out and resolved. That part of the process took about three months working on it part time, before writing the first page of screenplay last week.
Why am I not writing more than five pages per day? Firstly, there are corrections at the start of the morning on the material from the previous day. This also helps me to get zoned into writing the scenes for today. Four to five pages takes me about 90 minutes – two hours to write.
Yes, if I wrote six hours per day, I would write 16 pages per day making the writing process only 10 days. And yes, its tempting to get the script written fast.
However, I still have to look after Sydney Film Base, Australian Film Base and International Film Base and oversee our 4 Month Film Schools and write the blog. There is something productive anyway about writing five pages per day in that one can detail, take time and put everything into the morning session.
I am also very conscious and mindful that every scene is creating work for our crew and cast in March-April, 2014. Every car explosion, shootout and 100 extras is easy to write and rather challenging to produce. Therefore, I want to make sure that every scene is quality.
We all find our own different processes. When I am writing the screenplay, the scenes that work always make me feel elated and excited. On the contrary, the scenes that are not working make me feel listless and frustrated. This has only happened to me on one scene out of the 45 scenes I have written last week. I believe that this is due to the intense preparation in advance of writing the screenplay. When multiple scenes do not work, it is very frustrating and ultimately leads to writer’s block and a depressed mood and trip to the pub to medicate.
I believe the best way to avoid problematic writer’s block is to work on your story Creation and Story Pillars in detail till you feel 100%. Work with a team of people or one other person that you click with. Work together on the story. Question every story event till you have found gold. Then place it as a Story Event in your 30 page treatment.
When we were creating the story for ‘Absolute Freedom’, a story event could sit on top of 5 other ideas for that story event. That’s five ideas that we dished and excluded from the final story. Over many a long country drive, walk in the country, Valeska Madrid and I worked tirelessly on the story creation from May-July this year.
One other technique I use regularly is this. I recruit the actors to workshop a Story Event. I describe the scene and then the actors improvise the scene. I workshop the scene till I think it is right. I then record the scene on my IPHONE recorder. Then when I write the next scenes, I have a feel for the scene that I am writing. I can even play back the impros and hear the scene. I may even use some of the dialogue from the impros.
Also, I can check scenes that I have written and workshop them with actors. Having actors working alongside the screenwriting process is invaluable for me.
My writing process may help you with yours. Find what works for you. In the end the goal is the same: a Great Screenplay that attracts finance and excitement and the very best cast.
To summarise my process.
1. Spend time with your creative team creating the story.
2. Story comprises story events and pillars and for a feature film will be approximately 30 pages. This document is called a Treatment or Story Events Document.
3. Write at least 25 pages per week and your screenplay will be completed and polished in five weeks.
4. Recruit actors to workshop your story events in advance of writing the screenplay.
5. Also, actors can help you with your next draft as you perfect you screenplay. The actors can workshop your scenes so you can actually see the scenes working.
6. You need an awesome screenplay to make a great movie, so put time and effort into creating one.