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.

Face Your Worst Fears & Write Screenplays

July 29, 2012 at 7:23 am

Face Your Worst Fears & Write Screenplays | Screenwriting Blog

I FEAR REGRET

Over the last few months, I’ve really been able to put this fear into perspective.  It feels oddly freeing to say it out loud since I tend to bottle up pretty much everything.  My worst fear is doing (or not doing) something I’ll regret later on.  The overwhelming sense of guilt I feel some days is usually attributed to this fear.

A good way to describe it is in the way I use my iPhone.  The phone is never more than two feet away from me at all times and when it rings.  I answer it.  I always do.  I have to.  A missed call causes a large amount of stress and anxiety in my mind.  What did that person want?  Why didn’t they leave a message?  What if something is wrong?

It gets worse if I call them back and don’t get an answer.  Sometimes, the sheer curiosity alone can cause a mild sense of panic as I ponder the possible reasons the call.  It’s an odd ‘trait’ but one I’ve come to accept.  The down side is my family knows what I’m like with my phone so if I don’t answer it, THEY get anxious.

I’m being brutally honest because lately, I’ve been filled with so much regret and guilt without an outlet.  Until I realized that I have the perfect way to express myself and face all my worst fears.

XTRA | Screenwriting vs Anxiety

WRITE ABOUT WHAT SCARES YOU.

Recently, I tackled a horror script that amounted to about 10 pages of Zombie madness.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with the story now that it’s finished but it felt amazing to get some anger out.  It’s incredible how therapeutic writing a screenplay can be.

That was the warm up.  Next I began writing a story about a teenager who is unable to relate to his parents and I was able to work with the theme of regret.  I was terrified to write it because it would mean facing my own fears. Still, I pushed forward and wrote about forgiveness and family and suddenly, I felt a lot better.

SCREENWRITING THERAPY

When your mind is distracted, it can be extremely difficult to write.  Especially when you are writing about the very thing that made you sad.  I got stuck repeatedly and constantly checked my email, twitter and blogs instead of typing.  Eventually, I forced myself to move forward and the result was a very personal take on my fear of regret.

Thankfully, I’ve always been able to relate to my parents but I think that’s why I was compelled to write a story like that.  What if I wasn’t?  How would I feel?  So I made up a character who COULDN’T relate to his parents and explored the emotions involved.

The screenplay is nearly finished and regardless of what happens to the material, I’m happy I wrote it.

I’m happy I have a passion to rely on when I need to work some things out.  At the end of the day, I love to write and the more emotionally invested I am in the story, the better I feel when I accomplish my goals.

WHAT IS YOUR WORST FEAR?
PUT IT IN A MOVIE!

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Vital Screenplay Statistic: 100% Of All Page One’s Are Blank…

June 14, 2011 at 7:56 am

Vital Screenplay Statistic: 100% Of All Page One's Are Blank... | Screenwriting Blog

DON’T BE AFRAID OF PAGE ONE

I sat down last week to write a couple scenes I may include in a feature I’ve been working on the last little while.  The idea blossomed into a short screenplay idea that could serve as a sequel for the story.  It was an interesting take on the the concept I created but the more I developed it, the more it didn’t fit with the overall style I wanted to achieve.

Still, the character is both interesting and tragic so I wanted to write the short.  It’s one of those stories that, if done right, could be cool.  However, there is a fine line between cool and cheesy in this case so I had to be careful.  That was last week.

I still haven’t written the short.

A part of me hesitated because I hadn’t really broken ground on this new world I’m exploring.  My feature is still a month or so away from PAGE ONE but still I found myself intimidated. Even though the current story is a short that’s merely set in the world of my feature, I still wanted it to be perfect.

It was my first opportunity to nail an introduction to a reality I’m very excited to write about.  I’ve stared at the blank page on a number of occasions trying to figure out the best way to get going.  I think a lot of writer’s find themselves stuck on page one because you desperately want it to be amazing. That first paragraph is written, deleted, written, erased, written, overwritten, overridden, deleted again and restarted.  At least in my case it is…

I put a lot of pressure on myself when it comes to the opening sentence. It sets the tone for your script.  True, I’m only working on a short screenplay but the FIRST sentence is crucial especially since every sentence is crucial.

The same thing happens to me every time I start a new script.  I shouldn’t be surprised by now.  I know PAGE ONE is coming.  Even if I ignore it and walk away.  It’s still going to be waiting for me when I get back.

So I decided to try something else.

JUST LIKE A BAND AID…  RIGHT OFF!

Why wait?  Clearly my feature screenplay is influencing this ‘prequel’ idea so why not write the first page of my feature?  If I’m so worried about how the universe will be introduced then why not write it.

That’s when my imagination really fired up and I felt inspired.  I was about to start my new feature.  Officially.  I hadn’t planned on starting it until well into the summer but there I was writing my first sentence, my first line of dialogue, my first page.

When I finished the scene, I immediately felt like it could be better but the idea was there.  At this early stage, it’s the IDEA that takes priority.  I can improve the language as the screenplay evolves.  That first page also gave me a fresh take on the short I want to write.  Suddenly, it all made sense.  Maybe this short screenplay idea has a place in my feature after all?  Maybe it fits.  Sometimes, working on a separate idea will feed another.

That was my first hint that my new world is coming to life and that’s a pretty exciting feeling.

We shall see after I get passed PAGE ONE.

Vital Screenplay Statistic: 100% Of All Page One's Are Blank... | Screenwriting Blog

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!

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