Screenwriting & Simcity

March 9, 2013 at 7:19 am

Screenwriting Blog | Screenwriting & Simcity

SIMCITY CURES WRITER’S BLOCK?

Without a doubt, SimCity is my favorite game franchises of all time.  I’ve played every version and I’m still just as addicted as I was the first time I played the classic PC version long ago.

Recently, I purchased the brand new SimCity and despite some frustrating bugs, I love it.

Does this bring back memories?

SimCity was more than just a game to me.

I remember bringing paper, pencil crayons and rulers everywhere so I could plan out the cities I wanted to build.  If I wasn’t going to be home, I would simply draw them and recreate my drawings in the game later on.

I was obsessed with SimCity.

Screenwriting Blog | Screenwriting & Simcity

Note: I really wish I had kept some of those drawings…

What does Simcity have to do with Screenwriting?

A lot of it has to do with the creative freedom and power the game gives you.  It provides you with a set of tools and a blank canvas and it’s up to you to create your masterpiece.

In that way, starting a new city is just like staring at a blank first page.  The only difference is the medium and it’s all about creativity and letting your imagination run wild.

Build your world.

When I wrote stories as a child, I used SimCity to visualize the cities where my characters lived.

Why not?

For someone who couldn’t draw very well, it was a perfect way to figure out what these locations would look like.

  • Were they next to water?
  • Surrounded by trees?
  • In the slums?

Truthfully, these cities not only gave me an exciting reason to play my favorite game, it allowed me the chance to think about my story.

Have you ever engaged in an activity that lets your mind wander?  You go through the motions but really your imagination is somewhere else.  Your mind is occupied but your creativity is hard at work.

It’s that trance that I fell in love with.

I may not build the cities in my screenplays anymore but SimCity was around when I began to really take an interest in screenwriting.  I would constantly quit the game to write down whatever I came up with while setting down a police station or a brand new stadium.

Screenwriting Blog | Screenwriting & Simcity

For me, it’s like playing Basketball.  You can shoot a hundred shots in a few hours and plan out an entire script.  A creative ignition.

SimCity has those same qualities.  I can sit back and play for hours without really thinking about what I’m building.  I’m off solving story issues and building characters.  I’m creating stories.

I’ve evolved just as Simcity has over the years.  I may not lose entire afternoons in the newest version of the game but it’s nice to know my old cure for writer’s block is back.

What sparks your creativity?

What ‘The Matrix’ Screenplay Taught Me

October 10, 2012 at 7:19 am

What 'The Matrix' Screenplay Taught Me

XTRA | Top 10 Matrix Moments

Many years ago, when I first started devouring screenplays, I purchased The Matrix: The Shooting Draft.  A couple hours later, my outlook on screenwriting had changed forever.

What The Matrix Screenplay Taught Me

The Wachowski Brothers’ script literally redefined the way I looked at writing screenplays. Why?

Clarity & Detail

A movie as complicated as The Matrix has to carefully toe the line between originality and confusion.

When you are creating something that no one has ever seen before, you can’t assume that people will know what you are talking about.

I wrote and directed movie a while back that was heavily based on my own sense of humor and inside jokes that only my circle of friends understood.  I wanted to see if they would work on screen and truthfully, while it did work, it was a lot harder to articulate in the script.  Once we were on set, I could do impressions and show the actors what I wanted but it didn’t come across on the page.

SHORT FILM | Watch Playing Through

Imagine how challenging it must have been for the Wachowski brothers to describe their mind blowing action film.  Everything had to be clear in their minds and then expressed in writing.  Not an easy task to accomplish.

All Time Best: Top 10 Matrix Moments | Movie Blog

Clarity

INT. COMPUTER SCREEN

On a computer screen; so close it has no boundaries.

A blinking cursor pulses in the electric darkness like a heart coursing with phosphorous light, burning beneath the derma of black neon glass.

Got an image in your mind?

Neo raises his hands and the bullets, like a cloud of obedient bees, slow and come to a stop.  They hang frozen in space, fixed like stainless steel stars.

What The Matrix Screenplay Taught Me

The brothers really did an incredible job describing the world of The Matrix. I truly wish I had the opportunity to read the screenplay before I saw the movie just to see how close my imagination was to their ultimate vision.

Every single line in the film is useful.  Such an imaginative script could have gotten lost in exposition but it’s paced so well.  Each clearly developed idea building on the one before.  Each page showing you more and more.  Above all else, it’s entertaining.  Forget the movie for a second.  The screenplay itself is an entertaining read.

A light bulb went off in my head.  It was time to really think about how I communicate my vision to the reader.  It was time to put more thought into how I describe the worlds I want to see on screen.  Hopefully, it will be entertaining.

Detail

You really don’t have a ton of space on the page to get your movie out of your mind.  With so little real estate you need to make the most of it.  Yet there is a balance between minimalism and detail.

True, you can’t spend half a page describing a new location but you do have to carefully select which elements NEED to be included.  The Wachowski’s screenplay does this masterfully.  Each and every detail you need to know about is on the page.  There isn’t a single line of fat to trim.

This is one of the most important skills a screenwriter has to learn.  The more original details you put into your screenplay, the richer the experience for the reader.

This was another eye opener for me.

Once I finished the script I immediately printed out my latest draft and restarted.  I was still new to the screenwriting craft and every lesson I learned was so epic and wonderful that I owed it to myself to apply it.

The Matrix was definitely a turning point in my screenwriting and filmmaking career.  I felt so inspired after reading that amazing script.  It’s a feeling I chase everyday.  It fuels my need to learn and push myself to become a better screenwriter.

Awesome screenplay.

PS: Find out how the film itself changed the way I looked at movies forever.

Screenwriting Goes With Everything

June 6, 2011 at 8:00 am

Screenwriting Goes With Everything | Screenwriting Blog

It’s amazing how many random things can inspire you to sit down and write screenplays.  You never know when something as tiny as a grey hair can spark an idea for a movie.  I’m a big fan of collecting little tales like that and today I’d like to share a collection of 27 posts that covers everything from swimming pools to personal confessions.

Enjoy!

Click here for over 100+ original screenwriting articles.

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Be Honest. Is Your Screenplay Entertaining?

March 14, 2011 at 7:48 am

Be Honest.  Is Your Screenplay Entertaining? | Screenwriting Blog

WORKING HARD TO GET IT RIGHT

It’s been a while since I’ve written a screenplay with large amounts of action.  Actually it’s been a long while.  I think that’s the number one reason why I wanted to follow up my last drama with something a little more explosive and fun.

So I started developing my take on the superhero genre.

Most of my screenplays begin with a concept and then I build characters from there but this one was different.  I started with a group of characters and to date, I’ve spent most of my time developing their stories.

Slowly, the action sequences have begun to emerge that compliment and enhance the story but a problem arose.  I’m definitely thrilled with the characters I created but some of the action sequences lacked that certain spark.  Quite frankly, they weren’t very good.

So I stepped back and went through my rough outline and it isn’t nearly as good as it could be.

Honestly, it’s just not entertaining enough.

BREAK DOWN YOUR SCRIPT

Your first idea isn’t always the best.

New stories are extremely fragile and sometimes, it can be difficult to let go of scenes early on.  I wasn’t happy with the direction my script was taking so it was time to get back to basics.  Time to break things down and figure out what my story is about.  I’ve learned over the years that taking the time to regroup and try different things NEVER hurts your script in the long run.

What’s the worst that could possibly happen?  You come up with a terrible idea?  Discard it.  The only real issue is falling into a never ending circle of doubt.  A cycle full of second thoughts that leaves you wondering if the story will ever get over the hump.

What I like to do is break down my young story and set aside my assets.  What are the assets of my script?

  • I have a group of interesting characters with solid backgrounds that people will relate to.
  • I have a high concept premise with an indie approach that I’m excited about.
  • I’ve got a unique style that I can’t wait to explore and develop further.

I knew I had enough elements to create a story I believed in.  A story I was passionate about but my first approach left me feeling like I was lazy.  There were tons cliches and things I’ve seen on the big screen before.  The action scenes had zero emotion and I realized that I strayed from my original vision.

I had a great foundation and I screwed it up.  It HAD to be better.

DON’T GET DISCOURAGED

This is a crucial moment when you are creating something new.  Do you abandon it and try something else?  Or do you put in the work until it’s right.

It all starts with a vision of what you want to create.   Even if you aren’t happy with your first approach, there’s nothing stopping you from rethinking things.  Look at elements from a different perspective.  Change things.  Create.

Be interesting. Be entertaining.  Get to work!

BUILD YOUR SCRIPT BACK UP

Break the cycle of doubt.

While I was contemplating the script, I decided to write a short screenplay I’ve been developing for a while.  It’s another story filled with action and I wanted to get a few action heavy scenes written for practice.

You have to remember, a good action scene in your mind means nothing if you can’t visualize it on the page.  While I was writing the script, I started remembering everything I love about action movies.  I love the suspense and thrills.  The script was entertaining.

With my confidence restored, I returned to my superhero story with renewed dedication and passion.  I started a new notebook and wrote down the elements that carried over from my first attempt.

Then I started again with a new direction I was playing with in my mind.  At first, I didn’t think it was going well at all but then it hit me.

THE CLICK

Nothing excites me more than the moment something CLICKS in a story and everything makes sense.  The biggest problem my story faced was a lack of clear motivation for my villains.  It appears I’ve solved that problem.

All of the sudden, some of my old ideas make a lot more sense.  Combined with my new approach, I truly think I might have something now.

However, I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  A lot of research and work goes into a screenplay and I’m still at the beginning.  There is a long road between my rough ideas and the final draft.

It’s a road full of challenges that I can’t wait to take on.

THE LESSON

I think people confuse writer’s block with doubt sometimes. You feel like your story isn’t good enough and continue to come up with new ideas until something clicks and you can get to work.  This often works but you can still salvage an idea if you are honest with yourself.

I’m okay with admitting my original ideas weren’t the greatest.  It’s tough to admit to but it helps.  Instead of forcing things to work, think of it from a different perspective.

Give yourself the chance to write something entertaining.

Re-Reading Your Screenwriting Books

November 29, 2010 at 9:45 am

Re-Reading Your Screenwriting Books

One of my favorite books on screenwriting is How Not to Write a Screenplay: 101 Common Mistakes Most Screenwriters Make.

I’ve read it at least once or twice a year since the day I unwrapped it for Christmas long ago.

Click here for my review.

Since I finished my last feature screenplay, I’ve been working a ton on my new script.  I love the early development stage.  Working with a clean slate and having the freedom to try different things is incredibly inspiring.

It’s also a chance to get ahead on my research and really get to know the characters I’m creating and the world in which they live.

The other day, I was in my office writing some notes and about to head to work when I glanced at my book shelf.

It’s absolutely full of screenwriting books.  One in particular jumped out at me:

Real Screenwriting: Strategies and Stories from the Trenches

It’s one of the few books I’ve only read once and I decided it was time to go back and read about the craft I love.  Every day I read 10 pages or so on my way to work (it’s a short commute) and I’m now addicted to screenwriting books again.

I’ve since decided to go back and read a few more.  It’s a great way for an aspiring screenwriter to stay sharp especially when a story is still young and fragile.

What are your favorite screenwriting books?

Click here to check out my top 10 books on screenwriting.