First draft done

Over our vacation in Orlando (lows in the 60’s, highs in the 80’s; such a nice change from the dreary weather at home), I wrapped up all the scenes I originally envisioned when I wrote the synopsis for Treasure Hunt. However, the script turned out to be much shorter than I intended (that seems to be a chronic problem for me). My goal was 100 pages, once formated (I use Fountain). That, I felt, would give me some cushion from the movie being too short, while making it unlikely I’d wind up too long (the sweet spot is 90-120 minutes; there being approximately 1 minute per page of formated screenplay). When I said all I intended to say, though, I wound up with 68 formatted pages (a bit more than 14.5K words; it’s heavy on dialog).

The minimum length to be considered a feature is 80 minutes (this is very important when it comes to festivals), thus I’m running 12 pages shy of the minimum length (again, assuming filming and editing result in 1 minute per page). In researching the minimum length, I discovered that, to my surprise, beginning and end credits are counted in determining the official length of the movie. I already have plans for putting a critical poem to music for running over the end credits, so that adds a couple of minutes, and I have a (PG-13) love scene that’s described in three sentences, which will surely run at least a minute or two, but that still leaves me well short of my goal.

I sent the draft off to one of my screenplay editors for her review (now I wait two long weeks). I have confidence she’ll have suggestions for scenes I can enhance and likely new scenes I haven’t thought of (or did think of, but felt would slow the pacing down; I have notes scattered through the screenplay just for her). I work with her because I know she can provide invaluable insight for just such things. The other editor I like to work with doesn’t have an opening until the end of May, but hopefully I’ll have less to make up before she gets to it. I’m confident she’ll also have suggestions for making it longer (as, I’m sure, both will for making it better; why I trust them with my ideas in the first place).

My next job is to focus on creating storyboards and floor plans (the former being sketches of what I want the viewer to see, the latter being camera placements relative to actors and props). Naturally, my brain spends endless effort on anything NOT related to TreasHu and I instead wrote the ‘inciting incident’ for my follow-on to RedDom this morning, as well as mentally fleshing out scenes for a couple of other movie ideas I’ve been making notes for (for example).

I decided to take each scene from the TreasHu script and turn it into an individual web page, so I can put the created images right next to the relevant script elements. I began doing that manually, and after a half dozen scenes realized I could automate it with a program, so slipped into that rabbit hole for a few hours (spread over two days). Once again, I’m running out of excuses, so here I am, blogging instead. I believe I’ve decided, since I suck at drawing, I’d first start writing down what I have in mind. Initially as a way to try and develop momentum, but also as a way to try and at least have some record of what I have in mind (I deliberately try and avoid ‘directing to the script,’ so it’s easier to read). I also have mentally struggled with a way to keep the screenplay as it evolves in sync with the images I produce (I also need to take pictures of the various locations; all this is to have as raw material when I start to talk with DP candidates, ideally starting no later than May (and we’re already in April!)). So I focus on those issues rather than actually doing the drawing. I suspect it won’t be so bad when I get started, but, as I believe I’ve said before, I don’t have much control over my brain and have to sort of cajole it into performing for me.

I do feel good about the draft, though. I earlier sent it to two women who have been helping me as subject matter experts (SMEs) on the Civil War. They both felt the elements I mentioned were accurate, though one of them clearly envisioned something more ‘period’ when I first approached her, and it took her a while to get used to the modern take (period pieces are expensive, and I need to avoid expense at all costs). As is often the case, the SMEs gave me 100x more information than I could ever use, but it was an interesting learning experience. Just this morning my wife and I were watching a segment of “Aerial America” that focused on Virginia. When they were talking about Stonewall Jackson, I was telling her about some of the things I’d learned, only to have the narrator repeat them. Just like learning about how Dominatrix‘ work for my murder mystery, I got to learn a whole lot about the Civil War. Fun stuff. Now I’m really looking forward to researching my other scripts.

Signing off now, to try and get motivated to storyboard, but have a sneaking suspicion I’m going to wind up in front of the TV once again…

Author: mitusents

Biochemist, MBA, then programmer. Now novelist, screenplay writer and hopefully director. What a strange trip it's been.

One thought on “First draft done”

  1. This is fascinating. I’m a writer but have zero clue about how film scripts are written/constructed. Such great insights here. Good luck. It seems you are well on your way. In my opinion, less is always better when writing. It’s much harder to cut and kill your darling than adding and padding up scenes.

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