Perhaps the hardest thing for me when it comes to script writing is coming up with an original and imaginative story concept.
I’ve personally had more experience and am thus more comfortable with journalistic writing and documentary-style film. I am used to conducting interviews and creating stories based on fact. It is therefore more of a challenge for me to rely on my imagination when I am so used to documenting truth.
So what makes a good story? How can I improve my capacity to come up with compelling characters and plots?
In our class exercises so far, the prompters have certainly helped my ability to write freely in a script format (being provided with a character and action to base your script around). In these instances however, I find myself less passionate about the stories and characters. I do not necessarily feel a connection to the story, and this is likely to be shown through my writing.
I interviewed a young writer/director recently and he gave me some inspiring advice.
“Write what you know,” he told me
As a filmmaker, the ultimate goal is to resonate with an audience; to make a connection; to create something people will want to watch again. It becomes difficult to do this however if we write stories way out of our depth – stories based on something we have no knowledge of, experience with or exposure to.
“I find that a lot of young filmmakers forget that they’re are in their 20s… So tell 20-year-old stories. ‘Cause if you can identify with an audience, your film’s got more integrity and it will be more successful,” he said. “Just draw from real life, and you’ll be surprised what you can make”
Makes sense, right? It made me feel at ease. Why not write what I know? Whether that be a simple case of boy meets girl, two people having a conversation in a café, or about the connectedness of a town. Good stories do not necessarily mean spies, superheroes and vampires. Real, genuine characters can be just as, if not more, powerful.
I feel like this misconception of elaborate narratives equating to quality has hindered my capacity to dive into scriptwriting in the past. The entire process has kind of made me nervous as I felt as though there’s more room for failure when you haven’t got facts to fall back on. But maybe I can rewire my skills of documenting truth into my scriptwriting, by telling stories based on my own experience or stories I have personal connection with.
With this in mind, I hope to broaden my imaginative capabilities and write some damn good scripts.
PS: I hope that this rambling-style of blog is acceptable. I feel like the blogging format is more allowing of personal content like this, as sometimes I just like to let my mind run wild without necessarily stressing about research, formatting and the like.
In Thursday’s class we had our first collaborative exercise with the creative writing students. After writing a script based on a random character and action, the task was to film one single take version, and one shoot to edit. Our script revolved around 18 year old soldier Brody who was ‘waiting for a train.’
It is always difficult to go straight into working with people before you get the chance to get to know them. I for one find it easier to be assertive when I’m comfortable with those around me. Nonetheless, our group meshed well with the mutual goal of producing a high quality product.
In the single take shoot, I volunteered to be one of the characters. I am usually an awkward being when it comes to being in front of the camera so doing this pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone. Anyway, it was relatively straightforward as all I had to do was to remember my lines and gestures (however it did prove more difficult than expected at first – curse my terrible memory) and I let the crew behind the camera direct the action.
For the second shoot, I was allocated the role of assistant director. Due to the casualness of the shoot however, I essentially became an all-rounder. Although I haven’t done a lot of filming for narrative before, I was able to finally put a lot of my built-up knowledge into practice. My understanding of the 180degree rule, framing and shot size certainly became useful, and although it was not my role to control these factors, I feel as though I made some valuable suggestions and offered some sound advice.
We initially encountered some issues when in came to audio due to the signal to noise ratio. To begin, we were using the on shot gun mic mounted on top of the camera. In order to lessen background noise, I suggested we use the extension cord and hold the mic closer to the signal to mimic the function of a boom mic. While this did improve the sound quality to some extent (and Jules got a good ab workout), we could not get the mic close enough without entering the frame. I then suggested that we try the lapel mic – this can be tricky to use when not wireless, but we made it work and it ended up being the best sound out all three options.
While I didn’t get a chance to watch all our footage back and evaluate it properly, I do think we managed to do a decent job. We worked well as a team and I think we were able to execute the script with relative success.
Hello again blog. Apologies for neglecting you.
So here we are again, a new semester, new subjects, a new me. Well, not really a new me. I’m still the same old me. But everything else is pretty new. What am I even talking about?
The studio I chose to partake in this semester is called “Writing for Film.” While this may sound self-explanatory, we are taking it the concept a step further by dissecting the conventional relationship between screenwriting and filmmaking.
We intend to challenge the industry practice of isolating the screenwriters from the filmmakers by integrating writing into all production stages. It is bizarre that in traditional practice these two roles do not necessarily overlap, as how can one write for film without having any experience filming a film? In my opinion, these two aspects of the filmmaking process are very interdependent.
Of course, there are exceptions in the industry to this supposed ‘conventional practice.’ For me, comedy and sitcoms immediately came to mind. In a show like Friends, the writers would sit in on the shoot and they would make changes to the script on the fly. Through filming in front of an audience, the writers, directors and cast members could gauge which jokes would work and which did not, as what might sound good on paper may not necessarily transfer to viewers. They would then collaboratively make the appropriate changes to the script as they were shooting. I believe this working dynamic is something that we can draw from as judging by the success of the show, it was very effective.
So why I am I taking this course? I’ll admit that I struggle with the imaginative side of the narrative filmmaking process. I mean I like to think I’m creative, but I find it difficult to conjure up a random, brilliant story out of nowhere. I’m taking this course to practice and develop my storytelling skills, from coming up with an idea to putting it on paper. As writing goes hand in hand with filmmaking, I deemed it was necessary to build my skills in my weaker area in order to succeed in the other.
To be continued…