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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Leverage Your Following | Sell Your Movie PT 7

Internal rate of return, two solutions, cashflow

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One of the most important filmmaking strategies you must adopt in this era of modern moviemaking is a long term perspective. In years past, filmmakers focused on making one movie, selling it and then moving on to the next movie.

While the idea of creating multiple titles over the course of your filmmaking career has not changed, it is now vitally important that you plan a series of movies from day one. The reason for this is simple. You are now solely responsible for the success of your movie business. And to stay in business, you will need to create a profitable library of titles that continually pay you.

To use a real estate business analogy, in years past you built a house and sold it for maximum profit. But these days, given the changes in the real estate market, it makes sense to hold onto the house, rent it out and collect rent checks every month. This is the difference between capital gains and cashflow. And as an independent filmmaker, the growing demise in DVD sales outlets means that filmmakers must now focus on creating multiple titles – and increasing cashflow, over time.

Leverage Your Following

As I mentioned previously, creating a highly targeted mailing list is now essential for your success.

Thinking long term, the most important component of your movie making success is establishing a loyal following. From a business perspective, the size of your mailing list will provide a solid metric on which to base forward looking revenue projections. In other words, you can take look at your list and say “two percent of our followers bought this movie. I wonder how many fans will be interested in my next movie?” But instead of guess work, you can send your followers an email and ask them.

As you grow your community your fans will begin to know you, know your company and celebrate your work. And as long as you continue to provide good entertainment, you may eventually reach mass great enough to fund your future movie projects. Imagine how much prospective investors will appreciate your pitch when you already have one-hundred-thousand fans eager to buy your next movie?

[box style=”notice”] For more information on how to market and sell your movie, visit www.HowToSellYourMovie.com[/box]

In the end, the heart and soul of all forms of distribution is finding an audience willing to pay you for your work. Video on demand simply removes the middle-man from the process and allows you to connect directly with the people who matter the most – your audience.

Writing a screenplay-hold that template!

Today’s Filmmaking Stuff guest article comes from veteran screenwriter Jurgen Wolff. I find Jurgen’s approach to movie script writing to be very useful. In the following article, he expresses his thoughts on The Hero’s Journey and other screenwriting templates.

Writing a screenplay-hold that template!

I had an email from someone asking whether I’m really against the use of templates and formulas for writing a screenplay and, if so, how can I explain the fact that most screenplay stories do fall into a three-act structure?

Just to be clear, my belief is that templates and structures are better tools of analysis than of creation. During the rewriting phase, we often realize that what we’ve written is kind of chaotic, that we have things happening later in the story that we need to set up earlier, that a secondary character takes up too much space in the story or would add more to the story if we have her more space, and so on.

That’s a good time to use some of the traditional structures for clues as to where we could change things to make them work better. For instance, the hero’s journey includes the appearance of a mentor. If I realize that my protagonist would be clearer to the reader or viewer if he had somebody to talk to, a mentor kind of figure is one option. (This is more important in films than in novels, since generally in a movie you don’t get to hear the character’s thoughts.)

Or it may be that in the middle of my script things drag along too slowly–a common problem of first drafts. In that case, reminding myself that the traditional story model calls for escalating conflict can lead to better consideration of how I can add incidents that ramp up the tension and drama.

You can already do this assessment and repair work during the outline stage. That will save a lot of revision later. Some people like to write brief outlines, some write outlines so extensive that turning them into a novel or script is not a huge step. You have to experiment to see what works best for you.

What I’m against is relying on these formulas too soon–before you’ve decided what story you really want to tell.

Jurgen Wolff is a screenwriterFor instance, let’s say I’m fascinated by a character who could have saved his father from dying in a fire, but was too scared to run into the burning house. My interest is in how a person lives with that kind of guilt or “if only” thought.

If I immediately go to a standard story formula, I would ask myself what he wants. Hmm, redemption!

Maybe I opt for the hero’s journey template. What sets him off on his journey? Maybe a memorial service for the father a year after his death–my guy has buried his guilt, but now it comes out.

What’s his quest? To prove to himself that he’s not a coward. A friend accepts a job with a private security company that works in Iraq and invites my protagonist to sign up as well. He does.

During the training for this job, he begins to doubt his commitment (resist the call to action).

But a mentor appears–an old-time security guard who has been on half a dozen tours of duty over there and takes him under his wing.

And so on.

It could lead to a viable story, but I’m letting the template lead me rather than letting the character lead me.

I think it works better to live with your character for a while. No writing yet, just thinking about him and taking notes on whatever occurs to you about his life. What are his fears? His hopes? What impact does that have on his life? Maybe his marriage broke up because he was afraid that the incident with his father showed that he couldn’t protect someone he loves. Does he have kids? What does he fear they think? What do they really think? What caused the fire? Does he find out it was arson and set out to investigate?

My point is that the story could go in a hundred different directions. When you try to nail it down too quickly, the odds are that you’ll take it in a more conventional direction than you need to. It’s like any kind of brainstorming–the first ideas generally are derivative. I believe that trying to force the story into a formula or template has the same effect. Let your story be king. Let templates and formulas be the story’s servant–if needed.

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Jurgen Wolff has written more than 100 episodes of TV, several TV movies, the feature film, “The Real Howard Spitz” starring Kelsey Grammer, and has been a script doctor on films starring Eddie Murphy, Kim Catrall, Michael Caine, Walter Matthau and others. His plays have been produced in New York, London, Berlin, and Los Angeles. He is the author of 9 books including “Your Writing Coach” and “Creativity Now.” If you would like to find out more about “The Seven Things That Are Stopping You From Writing And How To Overcome Them,” check out Jurgen’s screenwriting website: www.ScreenWritingSuccess.com

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There is a saying in business that your network is your net-worth. For a filmmaker, I would venture to say that your friendships with other filmmakers dictate the scope and scale of your movies. And while not everyone you meet in the movie industry is going to become your best friend, it’s always great to know who to call, to help you make things happen.

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Self Distribution and MovieMaker’s Future of Movie Making 2010

Movie Maker Magazine The Future of Movie Making 2010

Read Jason Brubaker's article on Self Distribution in Movie Maker Magazine, The Future of Movie Making 2010

If you get by a news stand, make sure you check out the latest issue of MovieMaker magazine. It’s The Future Of Movie Making 2010.

In the issue, you’ll get a whole bunch of useful movie making information, including the 25 Must-Have Movie Making Apps, information on HDSLR camera as well as a great interview with Roger Corman.

But if you want my humble opinion, one of most informative articles can be found on page 38.  There you’ll find some great tips on Self Distribution Solutions. You’ll get a step by step guide for taking your feature film from festival failure to self distribution success. And the best part?

I wrote it.

Ok. At the fear of sounding a little too self promotional, I’ve read the entire issue from cover to cover. And every article is useful. If you’re not near a news stand, you can read some of the articles and order an issue of the magazine by going here.

And if you have read my article, let me know if you have questions or comments.