We are near the end of my self-indulgent reminiscing about my recent exploits as a writer of screenplays. Acknowledging my failure to even make the cut as a semifinalist in a script writing contest has put new life into my prior commitment to draft and post a weekly blog. Life does have small rewards to divert us from our disappointments.
The final steps in the process of writing my screenplay was to take all of the research gained from the sources listed in last week’s message and construct a meaningful story formatted in a professional screenplay style. The laborious way in which I began this process was to transcribe the pertinent passages from each source into a single extensive compilation. It was essentially a document of quotes.
One difficulty I had to contend with at the outset was the lack of significant information that would help me establish a credible chronology for all of the events mentioned in my compilation. It was informative to see how a strict sense of timing was non-essential to the other writers. But when your professional career is one of accountability, as mine was, a need for exactitude will easily collide with another’s casual and entertaining storytelling technique. I found it frustrating.
Since I was using multiple sources, each one describing the same events, my compilation contained a significant amount of redundancy. I stopped adding material when this document reached eighty-nine pages and 45,000 words. I knew I had too much information for a two-hour script. The value to accumulating an excessive amount of material, though, was in the depth it provided to my awareness of each character due to the wealth of information generating much needed background and context.
The next step was to eliminate the duplications (even triplications) in the compilation in order to create a concise narrative I could read through as if it were a manuscript written by one person. Merging accounts minimized my act of plagiarism. The reduction also helped to refine my placement of events in a credible sequence even though I lacked sufficient details to say with full assurance that I got it right. My resolution was to focus more on creating a rational story arc as opposed to a legitimate history. Still this level of editing resulted in a fifty-nine page Word document of more than 29,000 words.
From here I created a loosely designed script in Word, which still had too much information. My goal was to get down to 21,000 words before importing the document into the newly acquired Final Draft script writing software. This meant the further deletion of scenes, which were not germane to the primary storyline. Another method for reducing the word count was the consolidation of characters and events as explained in a previous message. At this point the page count didn’t matter but I was way over my goal with a document of nearly 25,000 words.
There was a time constraint affecting my work as I was trying to meet a drop dead deadline for submitting my script to a contest sponsored by MovieGuide. So I acquiesced to the length of my script and imported it into Final Draft. The software did misinterpret some of the formatting in my Word document. This I corrected on my first read through and was pleased with the appearance of a professional looking script.
I landed at 130 pages, which was the max allowable by MovieGuide without paying an extra fee due to length. I’ve subsequently thought of further cuts I could make in anticipation that anyone interested in the script would prefer a 120 page limit. Unless you are Damien Chazelle, whose credits allow him the luxury of writing/directing a three hour movie like Babylon, two-hours is the industry standard for the rest of us. Angel Unaware would clock in at a more modest two hours and ten minutes as currently written.
The experience documented in these past several messages has been enjoyable if only for the discovery of a little bit of movie star history and the discipline of writing a feature length script. The disappointment of not qualifying as a semifinalist in the MovieGuide contest has been mitigated by yet another discovery; I found another contest, this one sponsored by ScreenCraft. February 1 is the date given for announcing their choices for quarterfinalists. I have another chance at screen writing success. Until then I will have to find another topic to write about in order to stay with my commitment of posting weekly messages, while avoiding an unwanted encounter with anxiety as I await the decision from ScreenCraft.
The plot thickens.