Screenwriting's been on my mind lately and it's not just because I'm right in the middle of writing a couple of things right now. Well, I'm waiting for feedback on one, right in the middle of writing another, but I digress... Screenwriting's been on my mind because I think that a lot of indie filmmakers don't actually give screenwriting the time it duly requires. If you're writing something to enter into a screenwriting contest or you're planning on trying to sell a script on spec, you better have written something that stands out. Right off the bat, what's the concept? Is it a new twist on an old topic? Is it new all together? Is it interesting? Will people care? Then, wrap a story around the concept... Are the characters interesting? Do they have motivation? What's the goal? What's driving them to that goal? You have to keep asking yourself these questions through every step and every stage. If it fails on any of them, rework it and fix it. If you can't rework it or fix it. Sorry, throw it out and start from scratch. Why? Because if you don't, it'll get thrown out anyhow. You won't win that contest. Your spec script won't sell. Now, you're nodding your head, thinking... yeah, I get it. I'm a screenwriter, I do all that. What's your point? Well, my point isn't necessarily for you. I'm talking to you indie filmmakers that write a script with intent to shoot it yourself. A lot of you guys tend to worry more about the filmmaking process than the screenwriting process and guess what happens when you negate that whole rigorous screenwriting process? Your films sucks.
I'm not going to tell you what makes a good story, how to write a script that will sell or what elements need to be in your screenplay. If I knew the answers to any of those questions, I'd have won a few contests, sold a few screenplays and I'd be drunk, writing this post from the patio of my home in the hills. I'm not there yet, but when I am... I'll be sure to go back and edit this post. Now, what I am telling you is that you need to go through the proper screenwriting process, even if you're making a micro-budget indie in your backyard for pocket change. I've seen way too many indie films where the killer is a cardboard cutout from a thousand other indie films or the characters are dull and lack any originality, there's no twists or turns, there's no sense of why things are even happening or it's just a rehash of some other film. Look, I understand that filmmaking itself is a bitch. Personally, I find it WAY more arduous than the writing process. That's goes without mentioning having to come up with make-up, effects, props and sets... then there's the editing process, which, for the record, I actually really enjoy. My point is, they're all difficult. They all take time. However, all that hard work in post and on set will be lost if you just fluff over your script. You need to write a good script. Otherwise, regardless of how talented you are in the actual filmmaking process, your film is going to blow. So, please, please, please... for the sake of indie horror, really drag yourself over the coals when it comes to the screenwriting process. You need to have that foundation if your film is going to do anything.
Now, the best part about the world we live in today is that information is everywhere. Bless this internet thing... That's not to take away from books, I have lots of books on screenwriting and there's a few that I would definitely recommend: "The Screenwriter's Workbook" by Syd Field and "Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Television Writing" by Richard Walter both come to mind as 'must reads'. I just dug up "How Not to Write a Screenplay: 101 Common Mistakes Most Screenwriters Make" by Denny Martin Flinn and, I've gotta say, it's pretty good. However, that's not my point. My point is, even if you don't want to buy books, there's lots of websites and podcasts that you can listen to that are free. My favorite website is "The Business of Show Institute", sign up for their newsletter and you'll get lots of free advice and all that. Also, even though it hasn't been updated in over a year, there's a podcast called "Sam and Jim Go To Hollywood" and there's lots of good stuff in there.
I know there's lots of information out there and I'm always looking for new sites, books, podcasts, etc... so, if you know of any on the art of screenwriting, please post a comment. Now, gotta get back to writing...