Why The Lord of the Rings Continually Inspires the Screenwriter in me

December 12, 2012 at 9:56 am

Why The Lord of the Rings Continually Inspires the Screenwriter in me

LORD OF THE RINGS INSPIRES A NEW AGE OF SCREENWRITING

I love writing screenplays.  I always have.  It’s always been a distant dream to write a film that gets made and shown to audiences around the world.  I say distant because it’s not a simple task to accomplish and it’s easy to lose your way.  But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.  Last year, for a time, I lost my way.  I was still obsessed with screenwriting but I wasn’t making time to actually write.  There was always something else to do.  It’s a poor excuse.

That’s why I dropped everything and challenged myself to do better.  As soon as I applied myself, I finished a new screenplay within two months.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you actually sit down and write.  What does that have to do with The Lord of the Rings extended edition DVDs?  There is a chapter in every film’s documentary that focuses on the screenwriting challenges they faced.  Three half hour chunks dedicated to each film and the passion required to realize get the screenplays done.  I.  Love.  Those.  Documentaries.

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Adapting The Lord of the Rings was an exercise in commitment and screenwriting precision.  With such a wealth of information at their disposal, it fell to Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens to weave it all into three movies.  What I love the most is their devotion to the world of Middle Earth.  They care so much about these characters and that’s why they were so successful.  They knew the world and the characters well enough to deviate when they needed to in order to make the movies work.  It takes supreme command of the craft to pull off a screenplay based on a beloved book AND having the confidence to change things.

What’s even more inspiring was their constant need to make the screenplays better.  There were always places to improve.

IT WON’T WORK IF YOU DON’T CARE

There have been many instances when I felt disconnected from the characters I created.  The Lord of the Rings inspires me to continue searching for a story I believe in.  Last summer, that search led to an idea that I finally sat down and finished.  It was an amazing experience and immediately led me to another concept I care deeply about.  That’s the most inspiring thing about these films and the talent behind them.  These people cared deeply about J.R.R Tolkien’s work and wanted nothing less than perfection.  They wanted to treat every single detail with the respect it deserved.

That’s the dream.  Looking at a blank page and seeing a blank page doesn’t work.  You have to see something there.  Something you care about.  You should see new worlds, characters and the little details worthy of your passion and dedication.  It should be fun.

That type of thinking makes the blank page an inspiring sight indeed.

Why The Lord of the Rings Continually Inspires the Screenwriter in me

I Finished My New Feature Length Screenplay!

November 7, 2012 at 9:58 am

I Finished My New Feature Length Screenplay!

July 12, 2012

YOU DON’T FINISH THE FIRST DRAFT OF A NEW SCREENPLAY EVERYDAY.

Today is a good day.

On May 29th, I published this post.  It was about putting this blog on hold for a little over three months.  I wanted to finish my newest screenplay and hopefully develop another.  It’s been 45 days.

I finished my screenplay! 

What an incredible feeling it is to type FADE OUT and smile.  Obviously my work is far from over as it’s just a first draft but it’s important to appreciate the moment.  I write a lot about ‘moments’ in movies and I feel like my new script has some great ones.  I’m proud of what I accomplished today.  Not just because I finished a screenplay but because I decided to focus and challenged myself.

Had I not taken a step back and reorganized my priorities, I could very well still be sitting on page 11.  It feels a lot better now that I’ve pounded out 105 pages.  Today, my little experiment was a success.  I still care deeply about screenplays.

WAS MY PASSION FOR SCREENWRITING LOST?

I ask that question because I feel like I could have accomplished so much more if I had focused years ago.  It feels so amazing to finish something new and unique.  So why didn’t I write more?  Why didn’t I write!?

Today represents a big leap forward for me.  I doubted myself.  I was beginning to question my passion.  I debated the difference between the love I have for the craft and the dedication needed to finish a new script.  I’ve learned there is a big difference between writing about screenplays and WRITING screenplays.  Who was I kidding?

I’ve earned the write to call myself a screenwriter again.  However, this new found enthusiasm can only live if I continue feeding it with new ideas.  I just reignited my passion and now I have to keep the fire going.  That’s my new mission.  I’ve proved to myself that I can write a feature length script if I commit 100%.

Now I have to prove that I can continue exploring new ideas.  When I wrote about taking a break from blogging, I mentioned very clear goals.  I wanted to finish a script and develop a new one before September 15th, 2012.  I’ve finished the first draft.  My list of rewrite notes is lengthy but manageable.  I should have a draft worth passing along to close family and friends within a few weeks.

Beyond that, I already know the next story I want to tell.  The seeds been planted and I feel like I’ve challenged myself again.  My new script is infinitely more complex than the one I just finished.  I’ve created a main character that has a long road to travel before redemption is attained.  Now it’s up to me to develop something worth while.  Something I care about.

– Long ago, I wrote a screenplay about a high school basketball star struggling to decide what to do with his life.

– Last year, I finished a screenplay about three college roommates who stand on the brink of adulthood.

– My new script is all about dealing with stress and anxiety as an adult.

Next up, I plan to write about responsibility and courage.  A drama that mirrors my own journey with a wedding around the corner.  (Actually, I suppose by the time you read this, I’ll be married!)  But I don’t want to think too much about my next project when there is still work to do.  I’ve got a second draft to tackle tomorrow!  A second draft of a screenplay I’ve decided to call: Strangers

HAVE YOU QUESTIONED YOUR SCREENWRITING?

I’ve never claimed to be an expert when it comes to screenwriting.  I can only talk about my own adventures between FADE IN and FADE OUT.  But if there is anything I’ve learned over the last year it’s this: 

You only get out of screenwriting what you put into. 

It sounds corny and horrifically obvious but a story isn’t told until you tell it.  Write it down!  Challenge yourself.

Today, I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I can breathe again.  I don’t doubt myself anymore.  To think, all I had to do was sit down, shut up and write screenplays.  It’s a simple lesson but I’m happy to report that I’m a screenwriter again because I made a choice.

WHAT ABOUT THE BLOG?

All these screenwriting lessons have led to an inevitable question:

If putting the blog on hold led to so many breakthroughs, what will happen in September when I start posting again?

First of all, the blog isn’t going anywhere but I am going to make some changes.  (Again, these will all be announced by the time you read this.)  When I created The Athletic Nerd, I posted 7 days a week.  In year two I gave myself Saturdays off.  Towards the end of year three I began posting Monday-Thursday only.

I love movies, screenwriting and independent film.  I can’t wait to start posting new articles again.  I’m looking forward to featuring more of your work in the next evolution of THE POST.  But I owe it to myself to keep writing screenplays as well.  When the blog returns, I’ll be writing three posts a week.  Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  That’s just a minimum.  I’ll probably still have week’s with 5 or more posts but I won’t feel like I HAVE to come up with that much original content.

I’ll save the rest of the announcements for a separate post.

SCREENWRITING!!!

Back to the new screenplay!  I’m done!  I finished it!

There’s nothing better than setting a goal and reaching it!  The only thing left to do is set more ambitious goals and work my ass off.

Thanks for reading!

The Summer of Screenwriting: Looking Back

Well, that day was nearly 4 months ago now and the passion is still there.  The blog has been back since September 15th and October traffic nearly tripled the numbers I got in August.  Posting 3 days a week instead of 6 gave me a lot more free time to develop my new screenplay and I finally started writing pages.  It’s a little later than I had hoped but those first 10 pages are always exciting to tackle early on.

Interestingly enough, I’ve also lined up the script I want to write AFTER I finish my latest.  I’ve decided 4 straight dramas is quite enough and I’m going to attempt a horror film next.  Until then, I can’t wait for another day like July 12, 2012.  The day I typed FADE OUT and completed a project I’m extremely proud of.

That was a good day.

I Finished My New Feature Length Screenplay! | Screenwriting Blog

Tomorrow I Finish The First Draft Of My Screenplay

October 24, 2012 at 9:07 am

Tomorrow I Finish The First Draft Of My Screenplay

July 11, 2012

Nothing worked.  No matter what I tried, I simply couldn’t relax enough to sleep.  So I leaned over and picked up my iPad to write this post.

I’m too excited!  Earlier today, I wrote 22 pages of my feature length screenplay.  I was so close to finishing but I had run out of time.  It had to wait until tomorrow.  I went to bed and watched a documentary on The New York Times thinking it would be interesting but not enough to keep me awake.  It backfired as I started thinking about the possibilities of this blog when it returns.

It didn’t matter what I tried.  I was wide awake.  So I grabbed my iPad and started writing this:

More than anything, I just can’t wait to type Fade Out tomorrow.  It means more to me than any project I’ve ever worked on.  Just over a month ago, I decided to test myself and see if I could truly commit to screenwriting and screenwriting alone.  Tomorrow proves that I can and that’s a big deal.  I put so much pressure on myself over the last few years and never stopped to fully appreciate how much I love to write movies.  Tomorrow is going to be so much fun.

I’ve already set an alarm.  7 AM.  That’s 8 hours from now.  8 solid hours would be perfect but it’s like Christmas Eve! Every time I close my eyes I see white pages full of action and dialogue.  I see the final page.  I see FADE OUT.

Tomorrow is the big day.  I’m going to be able to tell people I finished my new screenplay.  I’m going to be able to read it start to finish.  I get to start the rewriting process.  I get to fine tune my story.  I get to write.

I couldn’t be more pumped.  Part of me is thinking I should just get out of bed and finish it now.  I could work on it all night and not have to deal with this.  I don’t have to toss and turn wondering how it will all come together.  I can get up right now!  But I shouldn’t…

…  The point of my Summer of Screenwriting is to find a balance between my career, my personal life and my writing.  I have other missions to accomplish besides my script tomorrow so I need to sleep.  I just need to figure out a way to calm myself down, forget how important tomorrow is and relax.

So I’ll begin by saving this post, shutting down my iPad and closing my eyes.

Tomorrow, I finish my screenplay.

The Summer of Screenwriting: Looking Back

It took a while to finally relax and close my eyes that night.  I was so excited to write the final moments of my movie.  All I could think about was typing Fade Out and how much it meant to me.

That was over 3 months ago and I find myself writing something new and experiencing the same feelings all over again.  I’m no where close to finishing but I desperately want to get to end and feel proud all over again.  Until then, I get to work on my screenplay tomorrow.

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.

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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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Batman Begins A Screenwriting Rewrite

July 17, 2012 at 7:43 am

Batman Begins A Screenwriting Rewrite | Screenwriting Blog

I was channel surfing the other day and I stopped the second I spotted The Dark Knight. One of my favorite movies of all time.

With The Dark Knight Rises officially released, I was definitely in the mood for Christopher Nolan’s version of The Caped Crusader. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t watched Batman Begins in a while and so I crawled into bed and put on the DVD.

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I was instantly reminded of two things. First, Christopher Nolan’s brilliant film is still on of the best comic book movies ever made.  Second, it reminded me of a page one rewrite the film inspired way back when it first debuted in theaters.

PRINT YOUR SCREENPLAY.  START OVER.

Batman Begins A Screenwriting Rewrite | Screenwriting Blog

I was in in college studying Broadcasting and an unfinished feature length screenplay was weighing heavily on me.  I started it in high school and it was painfully obvious when I saw all the rookie mistakes.  The characters came across as immature and there was a glaring plot hole in my story.  Yet, I wouldn’t allow myself to write anything new until I finished it.  This caused a problem because I couldn’t find the motivation to work on it.  In those days, it was easier to just go out and have fun then stay home and write.  Procrastination can be a dangerous habit to break.

The story was called Behind Max and it was about a high school basketball star desperate to find the support he needed to go for his dreams.  When I finished the first draft I really rushed to the end and this resulted in a very weak final act.  But really, the entire screenplay needed work.  What I needed was a spark.

That spark was Batman Begins.

Christopher Nolan’s incredible interpretation of Batman taught me a very important lesson. It taught me to step back and look at my own films in different ways.  To open my eyes to new approaches and different directions to take my screenplays.

I distinctly remember humming that unbelievable theme all the way home.  That night, I stayed in, printed out my script and read it start to finish.  I find you resist stopping to rewrite and tweak your script when it’s on paper.

Once I was finished reading the screenplay, I got out my notebook and got to work

What is my story about?  What am I trying to say?  What have I said already?  How can I say it better?

By the end of that night, I had outlined a much better approach to Behind Max and I felt alive.  Things changed for me that day.  Making the choice to go out to the bars was more difficult given the work I desperately wanted to finish at home.

Batman Begins A Screenwriting Rewrite | Screenwriting Blog

Two days after that magical night, I went and saw Batman Begins again and it had the same effect on me.  It was such a unique and realistic take on Batman.  Who knew you didn’t have to have incorporate a high level of cheese just because it’s based on a comic book. What Nolan did was treat the material as if it could be real.  A different approach and one that certainly entertained and inspired me.

After I saw the film a second time, I sat down with my outline and my old script and started from scratch.  It took two weeks to finish the screenplay and I haven’t touched it since.  It was exactly the story I wanted to tell.  It’s still a story I began in high school and thus, suffered from a lack of maturity but I was proud of what I had accomplished.  Proud to be a screenwriter.

Finally, it was time to move onto new projects.  I have Batman Begins to thank for that.

Years later, when the DVD ended, I dug up Behind Max and read it again.  Holding that screenplay always gives me chills.  As I read it, I actually found a couple typos but it doesn’t matter.  Writing that screenplay taught me how much I loved to write.  I’ve faced many challenges since then.  After a few down years, I’m finally writing features again.  It’s fitting that a new Batman movie came along.

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Batman Begins A Screenwriting Rewrite | Screenwriting Blog