Write A Crappy First Draft

Example of screenplay formatting. Writing is o...

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Unless you’re an experimental filmmaker, you rely heavily on having a great screenplay. And if you’re like a lot of people I’ve met, you probably have a gazillion ideas for movie projects – but you might not have any completed screenplays.

If this is you, you’re not alone.

Since producing my first feature, I have received about a gazillion emails from writer-producer types with great ideas for movies… The problem is, after having these types of conversations, I realize that very few “writers” have actually written anything.

The sad part is, over the past decade, I’ve realized that everybody has an idea for a movie. But few people have ever actually sent me a finished screenplay. In fact, can you guess how many people actually followed through with sending me a script?

A. One Person?
B. Two People?
C. Six People?
D. None of the Above.

If you chose “B” you are correct. Two people in ten years.

How about you? If you were given the opportunity to get your material read by a working Hollywood producer, would you be ready to go?

If not, that’s OK. I think one of the biggest challenges writers face in a first draft is an unrealistic standard of perfection. And as a result, it’s easier to talk about writing than actually writing. So let me offer you a strategy – don’t be afraid to write a crappy first draft. And second to that, don’t be afraid to suck.

Because even if you write something this year and you think it’s brilliant – I guarantee that your brilliance will dim in a few years when you look back on your work. So if your present work is going to suck in the future anyway, why not accept sucking as part of the creative process?

I’m writing this very late at night. Hopefully what I’m saying makes sense.

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Filmmaking Tips – The Magic of Filmmaking

Hollywood Sign
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This is one of those times when I’m looking back through old work; my student films and screenplays, and I immediately remember how enthusiastic I was about making movies. There was an entire summer when I saved every penny just to purchase a used Arri BL 16mm film camera and a few rolls of film.

Back then (and it wasn’t too long ago) it seemed like you needed so many elements to make a movie. The camera wasn’t enough. You needed an audio recorder. So I convinced my friend Tim to save his money and buy a Nagra audio recorder and a boom mic. The camera, film and audio wasn’t enough, I needed a location. So I convinced my friend Chad to let me use his house for a few scenes. But then I needed to light the house. So I convinced my friend Jim to “borrow” some lighting equipment from a production company he worked for. (And he really did just “borrow” that stuff.) But then we needed to feed the cast and crew. So I convinced my mom to cook lunch and make snacks for everyone.

And thinking about why I make movies – There is just something totally magical about the creative process. When you’re making a movie, it isn’t about the outcome. I mean, yes, you want to do great work. And you want people to enjoy your show. But in the process, like the night before the first day of production – when you stare at your ceiling until 4AM, too excited to sleep. Wondering if you have enough equipment. Wondering if you’re crazy for choosing such a creative path in life. Dreaming of first film festival success, then a career in Hollywood when people ask you to work, instead of you asking for work… I mean, all of these thoughts flow through your mind.

Then the next day, you roll out of bed – early, because you haven’t slept a wink. You arrive on set with coffee jitters. You’re wondering what is going to go wrong. What is going to go right? And as more people arrive on set, followed by more people, followed by more… You suddenly realize you’re one part of something big, and when it works, a feeling of oneness comes over you and your crew and your cast… And everything just flows. You load the film into the camera. You share some of your mom’s snacks around the craft service area. You have a few laughs. And regardless of outcome, you know – I mean, everyone around you knows too, that what you’re about to create will be around long after you pass. And for some reason, this feels religious and sacred.

The first time you hear the audio guy announce “speed,” your heart beats a little faster, then they call out the slate and with the clap – the word action escapes your lips – and like passing into another world, you create a world, a new world for you around you. This can’t be taught. If you haven’t experience this, it can’t be explained. It’s just something reserved for those of us who know. It’s passion, but like an addiction. It’s like trying to find part of yourself – maybe the more ideal version of yourself that feels one with the moment. And in the moment between action and cut, you in fact are somewhere else. Somewhere maybe better… Somewhere magical. And maybe this is why we continue to do what we do.

It doesn’t matter if you’re making your first short movie, or your 15th feature – we make movies becuase there is always that promise of wonderment. Happy filmmaking.