Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Film 102 - The Idea Phase

Okay, so a few days ago I covered a brief overview of the six phases of filmmaking. This little article will go more into depth on phase 1, The Idea.

I do get asked where/how I get my ideas for the movies. Ideas come from a variety of sources and experiences. Usually, I will write the idea down. Then I start chewing on it mentally. Usually for a movie, I'll merge several ideas. I might chew on an idea for years before scripting begins. Usually ideas are generated by the "What if..." question to something I read, or see, or experience.

For example, for my second movie "A Promise Kept," five years before the script, I had a client who's eight year old daughter was abducted from a soccer field and murdered. We did some stranger danger videos back then. But I always asked myself, "what if it happened to me? What would I do?" Also, a few years before, while doing jury duty, I remember taking a lunch and thinking about how they paraded Ted Kaczinski down the steps of their courthouse with a bulletproof vest. I was thinking a head shot and it's over. I combined those two ideas and you'll see them in the movie.

Another example was the first movie "The Keyman." I did something stupid... a mental lapse that ended up being okay. But I asked myself "what if it hadn't turned out okay? What would happen?" That thought process became the script.

A rare, very rare example of a totally different source- one night I had a dream in three acts. I wrote it down. Combined it with another idea I had. Then wrote the script. Right now, that script is being shopped to a studio. You never know.

So now the idea is there, what do I do? When I was first starting to write, I liked the program Dramatica by Screenply Systems. It made me look at structure, plot, character and arcs. Inside and out. Then I like to outline. For me, this step is crucial and I do it on every script. I love Screenplay System's StoryView, but any outline will do-- even Word. In Storyview, I start with roman numerals I, II and III for the Acts. I write a sentence that describes what happens in each act. Then I go to sequences... Here I write out action for what would happen in a sequence or series of scenes. Then I get to scenes inside the sequences. What's great here is that I can use script formatting that will convert over to my scriptwriting software.

When it's all outlined, I export to Movie Magic or Final Draft and begin the actual script. I'm somewhat ADD and need lots of white noise-- so I write best at a restaurant. For a morning writing session, I get there at breakfast and plug in and write until 11 or so. For a afternoon session, I get lunch, plug in and write till four or five. A great day is as many as 20 pages. A normal day might be four or five pages. This is a fast pace-- mainly because it's already been exhaustively outlined. A first draft takes two or three weeks (after a couple weeks of outlining).

But the real writing is in the rewriting. But that ends the Idea phase. Next up is Phase 2: The Development.

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