Monday, May 3, 2010

Script Frenzy; a frenzy or a fizzle?

Impulsive Decision Revisited: This is my report on what went right and what went wrong following my last minute enrolment in the Script Frenzy challenge a little over a month ago. Within days of signing up, I posted a blog about my excitement over the prospect of attempting to write a 100-page screenplay in 30 days. Not to mention my uncertainty about my sanity! Well, the month of April has come and gone. And now it's time to debrief.

To recap a few of my reasons for giving in to the impulse: I've always had a hankering to learn the ropes of screenwriting and I knew that one good way of learning is by doing. Secondly, I have a first draft of a novel that might make a good film so I thought plotting would not be an issue. And finally, I was itching to do some revision of the story and felt that creating a screenplay version might help me to do that.

The hesitant side of my nature did warn me that April may not be the best month to attempt this adventure on the wild side. However, my muse seemed to be telling me to throw caution to the wind. Meaning, "Ignore the conflicts inherent in family commitments at Easter, deadlines for income tax returns, meetings committed to attending, and don't even think of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Consider the success of dashing off more than 50,000 words during NaNoWriMo in November." So I was drawn into the heady prospect of becoming a screenwriter. The possibility of running a fever, with accompanying aching muscles and no energy for a week or more, was something I could not have predicted either.

On the positive side (always apply the strokes first, before the chastising begins), I learned a lot in the process of writing ten scenes. I downloaded a software program that assisted greatly in formatting, but I spent an inordinate amount of time investigating the mechanics of writing in a new format. I admit I was a little intimidated, but it was very exciting to see the dialogue and action sections begin to develop. Eventually, I could see I was getting somewhere.

But the month was almost half over and I had only reached 10% of my goal. The fact that I had written that amount over a period of two days gave me hope that I could still be a "Winner" if I really applied myself. I wrote a few more pages. My count was edging up.

Then came the day when I came to two inescapable conclusions. One was a wall consisting, not of writer's block, but an absolute need to change too much from the original version of the story to complete the script in the time remaining. I knew then that I wanted to rewrite the story, taking it from a contemporary setting (with back story episodes from twenty years ago) and relocate it to begin in the fifties and flash forward to the seventies. This would require more research and changes to the action to bring my characters in line with the decades in which they were now living.

The other conclusion was simple. Although I was keen on the Script Frenzy challenge to begin with, I was now much more interested in the process of developing this new angle to my story. Although I read the periodic pep talks I received via emails with a certain amount of guilt, I no longer felt any pressure from myself to complete 100 pages and to verify that I had done so by April 30th. In that respect, the original feeling of frenzy had definitely fizzled out!

However -- and this is an outcome that both NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy applaud -- I accomplished more in the month of April than I would have if I had not signed up. Although I "failed" to get the certificate, I consider myself a Winner. I now know more about the mechanics of writing a script than I did at the beginning of April; I have 14 pages of an "original" script; I discovered that every scene written for film must have an intensity that is harder to capture than its equivalent in the novel; every word of dialogue has to evoke so much more for a viewer than words on the page, supported by narrative, do for a reader. These are my opinions, for what they are worth.

Late in April, I heard that Bill Boyle, a screenwriter from Los Angeles, is in Saskatchewan to lecture and offer workshops in June. In the past he has been here as a resident expert with SaskFilm. For a description of his lectures and workshops, check the website of his company,
All That Sky Productions. When he was here before, I wanted to take a workshop from him, but there always seemed to be a conflict with other commitments. This time I will make it a priority to attend, and I hope that my tentative dabbling in screenwriting will give me a small head start with more knowledge than I would have gone in with a couple of years ago.

I suppose my experience is not unique. Have you ever felt you had failed because you didn't meet your original expectations, only to discover that you had achieved something else instead? Possibly something more valuable? Isn't it true that no effort goes unrewarded, although the outcome may not be as expected or intended? What do you think?


Vince said...

Hi Helena:

Your post makes me want to try Script Frenzy next year. What I’d most like to know is more about the software program you used. I just don’t know if I want to learn a new software program. And I’d sure want to learn how to use it before next year.

About Nano: I think I have done it eight times now with three competitions. What the experience has done for me is change my ideas about length. I now think that 50,000 words is nothing. My last Nano has expanded into 120,000 words.

BTW: I have a recent NaNo project book reviewed on my website. It’s called “Queen of Hearts” by K. Dawn Byrd. You might find this book of interest. I also have it reviewed on ACFW.


Jana Richards said...

Hi Helena,
I believe that the research and actual writing you did on your script is an education. And an education is never wasted. All our experiences contribute to our education as writers. Maybe you'll go on to be a great scriptwriter or playwright. Or maybe not. Even if this exercise only gives you a clearer picture of where you want your novel to go, it was not wasted time.

Have fun at the scriptwriting workshops in June! Let us know how they turn out.


Helena said...

Good to hear from you, Vince. The software I used is Celtx, which I downloaded free. It was one of the programs described on the Script Frenzy site (the link was provided in my first blog if you want to jump over from this post -- then click on Writer's Resources). It has quite a few features that I have not fully explored yet.

I agree that Nano made the numbers seem much more possible.

Helena said...

Commments on comments to be continued. Have to leave for a short spell.

I'll be right back.

Karyn Good said...

Script Frenzy sounds like an interesting endeavor. And one that's helped you explore the possibilities of your story. The workshops in June sound very interesting. Be sure to let us know how it goes!

Helena said...

Thanks, Jana, for reinforcing my thought that no experience ever truly goes to waste. And we never know what it will lead to -- tho, "great scriptwriter" may be stretching it a bit!

I'm hoping the workshop opportunity will actually happen, and I will no doubt inflict my thoughts about it on you as well.

Helena said...

Hi, Karyn.

Yes, it was definitely worth the effort. Just wasn't the right combination of conditions to do it 'right.' However, knowing what I do now, I can see trying again next year.

Thanks for coming by today.

Joanne Brothwell said...

Script frenzy sounds fun! Like Vince, your post makes me want to try it.

Stretching our comfort zone is the only way to grow.

Helena said...

Joanne, I had no idea I was making this sound "fun" but I'm so glad it came through that way.

Actually, taking a risk does end up being good for you, and a little "heart in the mouth" does help your adventure quotient!

Thanks for pointing that out!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Congats Helena. I applaud you. And you're right... although completion of the task is always good, it's not the end-all. It sounds like you accomplished far more on the path you took than if you'd stayed on the one you started on.

I downloaded the ScriptWrite app to my iTouch last week. I don't have a script in mind at the moment, but an inspirational film company offers a yearly prize in a script writing contest which could lead to a movie. This is very appealing to me. :) They only had about 50 entries this last year, but the script has to be properly formatted. I've always wanted to write a script but was scared of the formatting rules.

The ScriptWrite app does that. It also has tips for scriptwriting. I've played around with it enough that I'm now ready for whenever I decide on what my script will be. Seems like most of my better ideas come while I'm driving and away from my laptop but now it doesn't matter.

Your post is very encouraging to me. Thank you.


Helena said...

Anita, I think you've made a good move. Getting prepared ahead of time will make all the difference.

The formatting isn't that mysterious (once you've been exposed to the basic rules), but the software automatically pops you into the right indentation, capitals for the scene headings, etc. It just means you don't need to focus on the mechanics so much, freeing you up for the action directions and the dialogue, above all the dialogue. (Seems to me you should have a bit of an edge with your acting experience, at least you have been exposed to the film world first hand.)

I'll be cheering you on when you enter that script contest. Keep us posted.

Molli said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences along with the idea of Script Frenzy. To be totally cliched (please consider there's an acute accent on that e, okay -- I can't seem to get the blog to do it for me), it's all grist for the mill. Or, if you aim for the stars and miss you may still land on the moon.
You've gained valuable experience as well as a new perspective on an old story, not to mention giving us all another possibility for our own development. I don't call that a fizzle at all.