Journey Through a Screenplay
The Pain—and Ecstasy—from FADE IN to FADE OUT
Next year—on the 17th April, since you ask—I will be attending the London Scriptwriters Festival (LSF), with a view to sell my latest screenplay to the massed throngs of agents, producers, and directors that invariably turn up for the event. The problem is, I haven't yet put metaphorical pen to paper yet, and beyond having a vague outline of my story set in my mind, I have nothing of substance to show them.
As fickle as they are, these people generally want something a little more concrete than a vague idea that is nestled in my head, and that means that I not only have to get something down, but probably have to show them a finished completed script. All ready to go.
So, starting today, well, tomorrow probably (I'm nothing if not a superb procrastinator), I will start to create that script, and that is where you come in. This is a journey for me, and I would like to share it with you too, if only so that it demonstrates the process behind creating a screenplay, and if that inspires you to have a go too, then all the better.
Like all good stories, we will start at the very beginning (a very good place to start), and pick out a working title and a log-line...
While a title is pretty much self-explanatory, a log line is a lot more difficult to concoct. It is perhaps one of the hardest parts of creating your finished product and, unfortunately, the first thing that the agent, producer, or director will see, so if you get it wrong, that is the end of your foray into film-making. The log-line tells the potential buyer what your story is in no more than 20 (or so) words, and to craft one is a skill in itself.
Here are the log-lines from some well-known movies:
Allied: A Canadian intelligence officer falls for a French resistance fighter during the Second World War. (nb, this actually doesn't outline the jeopardy element of the story)
Crocodile Dundee: An Australian hunter with a larger-than-life reputation accompanies a reporter from the Outback to the urban jungle of Manhattan.
Jumper: A man with the ability to teleport is hunted by a secret religious society determined to wipe out all of his kind.
Love on the Menu: In order to save his restaurant from closing, a chef agrees to work with an executive from a frozen food company.
Top Secret: A rock 'n' roll singer on tour in 1950s East Germany blunders into international espionage as Nazis plot to take over the world.
Dr Strange: An American surgeon becomes a warrior in an inter-dimensional battle between the forces of light and darkness.
So, a log-line describes the major elements of a movie succinctly, so that the agent, producer, or director can see exactly what they are getting. Then, if they are then interested in the concept, it’s likely that they will request the script to see the detail.
This means that, before I even start writing, I have to know the concept sufficiently to be able to write out the whole film—or at least the major plot elements—in short form.
My story is a fictional account of the early space race, in which governments fight both within themselves and each other to gain a foothold in the impending space race. However, while that in itself can be thrilling, it needs a human element to really pull people in. Moral dilemmas are one thing, but people need to be able to connect on a personal level. We go to the movies to live the lives of others, to share their triumphs, and to suffer their woes. We want to cheer when they win and cry when they lose, and that can only happen when we immerse our audience in human emotion. Therefore, the story has to include something to make the story something that people want to see, just to understand what happens to the main antagonists (those are the good ones, by the way).
Doomed love briefly flourishes as Governments recklessly pursue the goal of becoming the first nation in space.
There it is; that is my log line, and the start of my journey to get this sucker made. Next, we’ll start to get the bare bones of the story together, and we are nowhere near touching Final Draft—the industry standard screen-writing software—yet!
So, with LSF tickets coming in at £350 a go, I need to get started!
Stay tuned for more...