I finished my last feature length screenplay earlier this year. It was a drama loosely based on my time in college and by loosely based I mean the location stuck and maybe a couple scattered inside jokes. It was about growing up or more specifically, realizing you’re already a grown up.
The next feature I wanted to write was an extremely sad drama about redemption and family. However, after some thought, I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone. Over the last few years, I’ve written a bunch of dramatic short screenplays including Playing Through and The Climb. Both are short films I directed.
This time, I wanted to change things up. I wanted action. So I decided to put my new drama on hold and develop a superhero movie. Automatically this caused problems because in today’s movie world, superheroes are everywhere. How could I set myself a part? What could I write that would be different and fresh?
I set out to develop a concept I came up with last year and really worked hard over these last few months to work out a story I felt was worthy. The first thing I did was eliminate the word superhero from my vocabulary. I like to tell people I’m working on the least heroic superhero movie I could think of. I hit some snags here and there. Mainly with my main character. Yet somehow, I surprised myself by how attached I became to his story.
THE DRAMA RETURNED
The biggest surprise came when I realized my superhero movie turned into a drama. It does have big action but it also has big tears.
Last week, I spent 4 hours in a local library with nothing except a blank notebook and a pen. I wrote the entire story with as much detail as possible. It wasn’t quite a treatment or an outline but rather an OutMENT. (OutMENT? Just remember who made up that term!)
Essentially, my outMENTs are a series of point form notes mixed with larger descriptions of key scenes and characters. They’re full of story notes in the margins and most of the time they’re a complete mess. For me, these outMENTS aren’t meant to be a reference point unless I get stuck. They are meant to be my first official crack at the story. My chance to get it straight in my mind and establish an overall style.
Will my story be told in sequence or in a non linear fashion? How will scenes work together? Which voice will I choose for my characters or rather, which voice will they choose for themselves? How can I make this better?
These are all questions you have to work out in your mind before you start a project like this. I restarted my previous script about 9 times from scratch because I didn’t take the time to work out the broad strokes early. I learned my lesson.
Developing a new feature length screenplay requires more than creativity and hard work. It requires a passion for the story.
After my time in the library, I knew the passion was there. So yesterday, for the first time, I sat down and started writing. My development work isn’t completely finished but I have enough of the story roughed out. I couldn’t help it. It’s been so long since I really worked on a feature length action screenplay. I HAD to write some of these action scenes.
Truthfully, I’ve only written 2 feature length action scripts in my life. The first is absolutely awful and the second was deleted, burnt and shredded. It no longer exists.
It’s good to be writing action again. The unknown has kept me up at night, excited about the possibilities. Who knows where this story will end up? Regardless of whether or not this script ‘makes it’, after yesterday, I know it’s going to be a blast to write. For now, that’s all that matters to me.