I have been writing screenplays for 25 years now. I’ve sold a few, written a bunch on assignment, and optioned many specs. Some have been optioned several times. Everyone who reads my scripts seems to love my writing, but getting a script to the screen is the miracle. The toughest part of making a movie is raising the initial money to get it into production, especially if you want to make it through all the industry channels. These days that process has become highly improbable for many.
That is why indie filmmaking has become so popular. There are schools and books on guerilla filmmaking and literally thousands of festivals to exhibit a film once it’s made. I’m currently working on a super-low-budget indie film (someone else’s) for the education. It’s like going to school. Because unions and permits are circumvented and the money is scarce, I’m able to jump in and do everything from PA work to craft services to continuity supervising. I now know why people specialize in crew work. For a film production to go smoothly, everyone must know what s/he is doing. Amateurs get in the way. The crew has a unique name for every little thing and you gotta know the lingo… especially if you work on the genie (grip and electric) crew.
However, this will not stop me from going in the direction of writing more indie-type scripts. After being at this craft for over 25 years, I realize that I want more control over my own product. I want to direct what I write. I have already written 7 spec indie scripts and I’m learning with each one how to take production costs into account during the writing. Now, I want to write one that costs virtually nothing to make (that means under $50,000). How will I do that? I will write a script where the story takes place completely within my own living space (all interiors, meaning I can control weather and light) with a minimum of characters – 3 max.
While this blog will be a place where I can share my musings with you on the elements of writing scripts, I will also track my progress on this quest to get a movie made under my complete control… he said with the naiveté of a novice. I hope to encourage and guide you to and through your own film production as I share my experiences and mistakes with you.
In the meantime, I continue to consult with writers on their scripts. There is a wealth of information on line and in books on screenwriting. Most of this information deals with screenwriting 101, i.e. writing a beginning-middle-end story with a single main character who is also the protagonist of the story. There are many other forms and formats of story-telling, but screenwriting 101 must be mastered before any other form is tackled. Screenwriting 101 is the fundamental structure of any good story. The more advanced forms of story-telling are a variation on this theme. I’ll write more about these advanced forms in later posts.