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I’ve never written a screenplay for a modern musical before. Even though this isn’t a traditional, all-singing-all-dancing, type of musical, it still presents certain hurdles when it comes to writing a good screenplay – what’s the correct way to write about characters breaking in to song?
This is something I’m more than sure I’ll figure out, finding my own style of writing this kind of action in to the script.
How did the creative process begin on Walk Away?
It started with a theme that I wanted to work with in a film, bullying. Along with something that I’ve always been interested in, the dynamics between siblings, and especially those with a large age difference.
I always assign a large notebook to all of my film projects, making notes every time I work on the film. I’ve also gotten in to the habit of dating the top of every page – it’s a handy way to keep a dated reference for the films development. I’ll also add a title to each page, so for example I might be working on a character one day, so at the top of the page I’ll have the title ‘Character/Joe Bloggs’ and the date. It’s a good habit to get in to.
Here’s my process for developing the Walk Away story so far:
- Character profiles (age, name, job, good/bad characteristics, likes, dislikes etc)
- Heart of the story (what is the central theme of the story? In this case bullying and the relationship between two brothers)
- The World of the story (what do our characters see?)
- Key plot moments (interesting ideas to carry the story from A to B to C etc)
- Locations (start to think about interesting places to set each of the scenes)
This is generally how I start the creative process, I then refine and add to the above and what I find is a story starts to take shape every time I return to my notebook.
Another handy tool I use for story development is mapping out relationships between characters and their surrounding ‘film world’. How does each character interact and effect another character in the story? This can highlight redundant characters and introduce new characters that are needed to drive conflict etc.
All of the above is mixed in with LOTS of frustration. I spend a lot of time looking at a blank page, or looking at my current notes, scratching my head. If I’m stuck on something I now just move on to another section of the story and what I’ve found is the one or two things that have been missing just miraculously appear at the most unexpected of times.
“Writing really can be the most frustrating process, it breeds procrastination.”
Once I’ve got several refined versions of all of the above I move on to my ‘scene-by-scene’ document. Which is exactly what it seems. I build each of the scenes using the scene heading (i.e. INT. HOUSE – DAY) followed by one paragraph that explains what this scene should do as far as moving the story forward goes. Once I’ve done a few versions of this I then move on to the treatment, which is a more detailed outline of the story.
All the time I’m making sure my story and characters follow the traditional storytelling arcs. For example, I’ll compare my main characters story arc to Vogler’s Hero’s Journey. Although I very rarely stick to it 100%, I tend to just use it as a guide. It helps me make sure that there is something interesting and captivating going on with my characters.
It’s then on to the first draft of the screenplay.
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