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

Getting Stuck Reading Your Screenplay Before It’s Finished

September 26, 2012 at 9:19 am

Getting Stuck Reading Your Screenplay Before It's Finished | Screenwriting Blog

June 16, 2012

SCREENWRITERS!  You’ve just completed an epic new scene full of drama and/or excitement.  You want to read it again but why limit yourself to a single scene?  Why not read the entire script up to that point to see how it flows?

I’ve read books in the past that promote creating your first draft uninterrupted and then see what you’ve got.  I don’t think that’s my style.  I like going back to the beginning from time to time and scrutinizing the events leading up to my new scenes.  But I’m also guilty of taking too much time away from crafting new material in favor of reading.  At what point do you have to skip to the blank page at the bottom and type something new?

I mention it now because today, I caught myself reading things over because I was stuck.  I knew the next scene that had to be written but it just wasn’t clicking.  It’s one thing to plan a scene but it’s an entirely different beast when you have to write it.  It turns out, I didn’t have a really clear idea of what I wanted the scene to be.  I knew the players and the action but the details were lacking.

So I procrastinated.

I went back to page 1 and read everything I had…  Slowly.  While I wasn’t being overly productive, it still helped a lot.  In the early stages of your first draft, there are bound to be a couple scattered grammatical errors.  You can always work on the structure of your pages and the all important white space.

You can improve the language of the script.  Find better ways to describe your world.

It’s important work but nobody will ever see it if you don’t finish the script right?  There are pros and cons to everything.  In the end, I decided to leave my script alone once I read it over.  I stepped away.  Some will argue that I wasted valuable time better spent writing new pages.

I think any time spent exploring the pages you’ve already written is still a productive exercise.

Have you ever found yourself reading your screenplay before it’s finished instead of writing new pages?

The Summer of Screenwriting: Looking Back

I think this post sums up a lot of my problems when it came to screenwriting.  I always had the best intentions but always put things off.  I was definitely productive that day but what I failed to mention was how much free time I wasted playing video games before I even opened up the script.

Ultimately, whenever I did write new material it was always worth the wait.  I would always catch myself wondering why I put it off in the first place.  The lesson?  I need to stop complaining, procrastinating and most of all, I need to stop whining about it.  I need to sit down, shut up and write screenplays.

I’m Intimidated By The Big Scenes In My Screenplay

September 19, 2012 at 7:14 am

Crying When You Write Screenplays...  The Pros Out Weigh The Cons | Screenwriting Blog

June 3, 2012

I woke up with a single intimidating goal:

WRITE…  THE BIG SCENE!

It’s the scene I had to get right and it scared me as a result.  How many other screenwriters share in my anxiety when it comes to the big moments?  I was certainly nervous.  The scene in question was crucial.  It happens towards the end of the first act and everything depends on it’s execution.  This one scene could make or break my movie.  The pressure was on.

Essentially, this scene drives the action for the rest of the screenplay.  It sets so many huge events in motion.  I think what excited me most was the challenge.  Nobody is calm before they face something they fear.  You’re heart races.  But there is no better feeling than pulling it off.

Here’s the thing…  As nervous as I was, I couldn’t wait to dive into the drama.  It’s an exciting feeling to finally get to the meat of your story.

So I got to work writing a scene I wanted to complete within 7-8 pages.  I knew if it got any longer than that it would drag my momentum down.  After my first pass, it was 10.5 pages long…  Too long.

I started searching for ways to make it simpler and more effective.  Slowly, lines began to combine with others.  Others were lost all together.  These types of scenes are always full of exposition and they’re tricky to pull off.  I can’t imagine the nightmare adapting The Council of Elrond in The Lord of the Rings.

I think disguising exposition is one of the aspects of screenwriting I could improve the most.  My second pass was much more entertaining and 8 pages long.  I had reached my goal.  It wasn’t perfect but there it was.  At that point, I wanted to make sure everything leading up to this major scene made sense so it could truly deliver the drama I envisioned.  I discovered that, even at 8 pages, it still slowed down the story.

My work continued…

On my third pass I had forgotten how nervous I was to write the scene.  It’s always easier once you get your thoughts on the page.  I wasn’t feeling intimidated anymore.  I was ecstatic.

I carefully selected the moments I couldn’t bare to delete and rewrote the scene again.  This time, I was more focused than ever and managed to pull it off in 5 pages.  My crucial scene was finished.

I love writing screenplays.

WHAT DOES BUNGEE JUMPING HAVE TO DO WITH IT?

Truthfully, I feel nervous every time I tackle a scene like that but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.  I’ll never bungee jump but I assume I would feel the same way before the big leap.  You’re looking down, unsure of what will happen after you jump but you’re excited to experience the fall.

The terror reaches it’s peak just before you leap off the ledge and you fly.  When you’re safe on the ground you can’t imagine why you were scared in the first place.  It was fun.

On this day I stared with a blank page.  The ledge of the screenwriter.  No matter how nervous I was, I couldn’t wait to experience the fall…

So I just…  Jumped.

The Summer of Screenwriting: Looking Back

Ironically, when I finished the entire story, I realized my crucial scene still needed work.  Actually, it’s not that ironic at all.  Every scene should be perfect but the BIG scenes should be super perfect.  (A subtle reference to The Matrix Revisited)

The most challenging part of the scene was making my villain believable.  Until that point, this character is sympathetic and good.  There were flaws and hints along the way but I really worked hard to strengthen the story so my villain could shine in that moment.

I’m bias but I really think I pulled it off.  It’s a frustrating scene to read for all the right reasons.

Screenwriting vs Anxiety: My Last Line Of Defense

June 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Screenwriting: My Last Line Of Defense | Screenwriting Blog

I’M AN ANXIOUS PERSON

Before I go further, I’d like to make one thing clear. I have seen the effects of anxiety attacks and depression first hand and it’s no joking matter. My anxiety is mild in comparison. But of course it still concerns me.  That feeling of concern is essentially the root of my problem.

I wake up most mornings feeling guilty and anxious for no reason at all. I’ve even had issues with my jaw because I’m so tense when I sleep some nights.  There are times when I become extremely frustrated because I really don’t have much to complain about. I’m actually a very happy person. I appreciate the things I have, the relationships I hold dear and I look forward to what the future has in store.  So why do I feel like I’ve done something wrong or that people are angry with me every day?  Why am I so anxious?

I wish I knew. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to make sure my door is locked or double checked the oven burners. (Even on days I don’t cook) I quadruple check daily so I don’t end up at work lost in my imagination wondering if someone broke in to my home and stolen my dog.  I like to think that these are useful character traits because I know deep down that I’ll never leave my door unlocked or an iron plugged in. (And that my dog is safe.)

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A few years ago, I finally got sick and tired of feeling that way and I told my family.  I had hidden it away for years.  Nobody knew that every time I answered the phone, I was expecting horrible news.  Or that I sometimes wrote myself long emails just to ‘talk’ to someone.  I never hit send.

I’m blessed to have such an amazing family but, to tell you the truth, hiding it from them gave me some of the tools I needed to beat my anxiety.  I’m usually able to talk myself down and in doing so, I’ve become a man who rarely gets angry.  I’m known to get frustrated from time to time but I normally make jokes to mask it.  Mild anxiety attacks like mine could easily lead to outbursts but I’ve never allowed it to escalate to that level.  This skill is the only reason people never knew that I was really an anxious person.

Recently, I’ve dealt with a terrible crisis in my life.  A situation that lead to a lot of anger and statements I’ll never forgive.  I’ve never felt true anger before and I was ashamed of myself for letting it happen. At that point, I decided to talk to a pro.  I saw a counselor for a brief period of time to talk about my anxiety.  There was no way I was going to allow myself to become an angry person.  For years, I’d kept my stress levels down because the causes were always tiny and manageable.  Now I actually had something real causing massive amounts of stress in my life and I didn’t know how to handle it.  All I wanted to do was scream at the people responsible.

Thankfully, I didn’t.  Between of my future wife and close family, I had enough support to back off and allow myself to calm down.  Yet, there was something else I hadn’t yet realized…

I HAD SCREENWRITING

I was in college for two years.  I basically spent my entire first year drunk at bars and social functions.  I guess you could say I had a normal college life.  It was a blast.  Every night there was another party to attend that resulted in hundreds of hilarious memories I’ll cherish forever.  However, something changed in my second year.

I realized I was terrified of graduating. I had spent my entire life telling people I wanted to work in film and television and now I actually had to do it.  I was months away from the rest of my life.  That realization was a big wake up call for me and I took action.  I worked my ass off.  I took on every single project I could.  In addition to my regular school work, I was writing on a regular basis and we started producing short films on the side.  This was the birth of 17 West Productions.

Aside from that, I started taking extra assignments in school.  The college even sent me out of town a few times to work on various projects.  For our ‘big’ show, we produced a 30 minute look at the CFL in Canada but we didn’t stop there.  We called in a few favors, drove to Toronto and made a 5 minute behind the scenes documentary of an actual CFL broadcast.  It took two weeks to produce 5 minutes of our half hour show.  That’s the kind of dedication we had but I wasn’t done there.

I started to teach myself web design and Photoshop.  I devoured every new piece of software I could get my hands on.  I couldn’t stop.  What people didn’t realize at the time is that I was keeping myself awake so I could work more.  I rarely slept more than 4 or 5 hours.  I even got into caffeine pills for a short time.

I skipped parties to practice editing.  I stayed home from the bars to write screenplays.  I volunteered every chance I got to gain more experience.  A workaholic was born.

I HAD A CAREER

This effort led me to my current career in television.  I started my month long work placement the day after school ended with 100 hours standing between me and my diploma.  I finished those 100 hundred hours in 12 days.  I never left that studio.  I was training for two separate departments simultaneously.  I’d get to work around 8am and follow one person and at 4pm I’d switch jobs and follow another.  During down time, I sat in an edit suite and practiced.

Needless to say, I got hired and for the next 2 or 3 years I wrote as much as I could in between shifts.  I was addicted to screenwriting by that point and loved to work.

“Find a job you love, never work a day in your life.”

That became my motto.

What I didn’t realize until recently is I was also coping with anxiety.

My counselor was the first person to point it out.  I had told her in my first session that my anxiety started in college.  In my second session I mentioned how much I loved to work and all the projects I tend to put on my plate.  She made the connection.

Subconsciously, I became a workaholic to keep my mind occupied.  I didn’t realize that taking on all that work was really my way of turning off the anxiety.  It was one of those ‘huh’ moments.  Suddenly, it all made sense.  No wonder I worked so much!  I didn’t want to face the potential sadness that accompanied a bored wandering mind.

ANXIETY CHANGED MY LIFE

Looking back, it’s difficult to think about where my life would be if I wasn’t anxious.  I worked my ass off and it led to my dream career, an independent film company and a strong passion for screenwriting.  Over the years, there have been stretches of time when I didn’t write a word.  Close friends will tell you that I wasn’t very nice and I was easily frustrated by the smallest things.  I was on edge and cranky.

If I didn’t write.  I wasn’t happy.  At first I thought I felt guilty for not writing but that wasn’t the case.  I felt guilty because when I don’t write, the anxiety takes over and THEN the guilt sets in.

KNOW THYSELF. (It applies to more than just Neo.)

In the last few years, my constant need to work has calmed down.  Mainly because I live with my wonderful girlfriend wife now and she calms me down without trying.  I don’t think she’ll ever know how important she is to me even though I tell her everyday. (Also because she would kick my ass if I spent my time at home in front of a computer instead of spending time with her.)

Time has healed the anger I felt.  I still have rough anxiety infested mornings but most of the time I wake up with an overwhelming sense of calm.  I’ve made peace with the situation that 2011 ushered into my life.  The truth is, the people responsible have to wake up every single day full of anger and I feel sorry for them.  I’ve moved on.  It’s because of the support system I have and the relationships I will never take for granted.

But more than ever I know that I’ll write screenplays until the day I die regardless of any success that may or may not be in my future.  I know that feeling anxious is a part of who I am.  But it’s also played a part in shaping who I have become.

Regardless, no matter what happens, I’ll always have a blank page waiting for me.  I’ll always have screenwriting.

What If Steve Jobs Was A Screenwriter?

May 10, 2012 at 9:19 am

What If Steve Jobs Was A Screenwriter? | Steve Jobs Book Review

REVEW: STEVE JOBS BY WALTER ISAACSON

“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products.  Everything else was secondary.  Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that was what allowed you to make great products.  But the products, not the profits, were the motivation…

‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach.  Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.” (Steve Jobs p567)

I’m an Apple fan.  For years I resisted because I felt Windows based PCs offered more of what I was looking for.  Of course, my theory was proven wrong the day I got my iMac with Final Cut Pro.  Since that day, the Apple brand has been a vital part of my creative life.

The combination of my iMac, iPhone and iPad keeps me connected to whatever project I’m working on at all times.  I write screenplays, I write blogs, I create graphics, I edit movies.  I create…  I create every day thanks to the creativity of Steve Jobs and the talented designers and engineers at Apple.

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Creative people are fueled by the creativity of others.  This is especially true when it comes to the marriage of creativity and technology.  Steve Jobs believed this to be a fundamental component of innovation.

“What drove me?  I think most creative people want to express appreciation for being able to take advantage of the work that’s been done by others before us.” (Steve Jobs p570)

When I opened the cover of Steve Jobs b Walter Isaacson, I was excited to find out more behind the iCEO himself.  When Steve Jobs passed away, the world lost a true visionary and his story fascinated me.  The book itself is absolutely incredible as it describes each and every triumph and defeat Jobs experienced.

But something interesting happened as I turned the pages…  I started relating Steve’s passion and innovation to the world of screenwriting.  Once that happened, I couldn’t put the book down.

What If Steve Jobs Was A Screenwriter? | Steve Jobs Book Review Walter isaacson

Inspiration.  Motivation. Innovation.  Creativity.  Passion.  Dedication.  Commitment.  Sound familiar?

These are the common themes throughout the book but they are also present in the hearts of creative people around the world every day.  In this way, Steve Jobs’ story goes beyond the story of a man who changed the world.  It’s about the very essence of creativity and the quest for perfection.

In my own life, I associate these themes with Screenwriting.

“We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings.” (Steve Jobs p570)

If Steve Jobs was a screenwriter, he would have scrutinized every word.  Every character would be constantly tested.  Each and every description would be reworked until the image was perfected in the reader’s minds.  Steve would have paid extra close attention to the amount of white space he used.  He would have agonized over names and locations.  He would have poured his heart into every scene.  Every moment.

If Steve Jobs was a screenwriter, he would have been tireless and relentless on his quests to get his scripts produced.  If a script wasn’t successful, he would have been angry at first but then he would break it down and find ways to make it better.  He would analyze every single detail and demand better of himself.  Steve Jobs would have believed in his vision.  He wouldn’t have quit until he succeeded.  The story had to come first.

If Steve Jobs was a screenwriter he would have been passionate.  He would have been dedicated, innovative and precise.  Most of all, he would have cared immensely about the audience and how his screenplays would make them feel.

It’s an inspiring thing to read about somebody who cared so deeply about his craft.   Even better, he surrounded himself with remarkable and talented individuals.  People who made him better.  Take Jony Ive for example.  This is a designer responsible for many of Apple’s defining innovations and a visionary in his own right.

“Simplicity isn’t just a visual style.  It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter.  It involves digging through the depth of the complexity.  To be truly simple, you have to go really deep.” (Jony Ive p343)

It’s an interesting quote when you apply it to screenplays.  Especially during the rewrite process.  People like Jony Ive were crucial components in the execution of Steve’s ambition.  Of course, film is also a collaborative medium and while crafting a screenplay is a solo effort, a script destined for bigger things.  Steve Jobs would have not only understood this.  He would have embraced it.

Beyond anything else, Steve was never satisfied.  If he created a product that changed the world he set out to create something better or entirely new.  To me, that’s the most exciting aspect of screenwriting.  Every time you begin a new story it’s a new adventure.  A new world.  A new you.

“If you want to live your life in a  creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much.  You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away.” (Steve Jobs p190)

Each new story represents an evolution of your creativity.  A chance to really say something.  It’s a freedom that screenwriters crave.  It’s an addiction that takes a hold of you.

STEVE JOBS WOULD HAVE CALLED IT MAGIC

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