On the beat, on the screen

Without going too far into it, I participated in a little experiment for the last week, challenging myself to see how disciplined I could stay with the various pieces of my life I want to be better in – watching what I eat, staying active, practicing my French and writing.

It didn’t go gangbusters, but it didn’t go horribly wrong, either. So, win!

For today – because it was easily the biggest win of the week – I’ve got to share the news on the writing aspect. The whole “if you wanna be a screenwriter, write for the screen” predicament haunts me, as there’s no one but me who can get me to do it. So, I did it.

I fumbled through a few self-inflicted writing exercises this week, and tonight, I did something truly incredible. Well, incredible to me. The incredible part being that I did it. Not, like, the content. The content is decidedly not incredible. Yet.

But what I did – what I finished – has me feeling like I just climbed the first foothills of what is sure to be the Mt. Everest of writing one’s first screenplay. And if this is the warm-up, the warm-up feels goooood.

I’ve been stewing on a story idea for months now, this tangible idea, living with characters and a beginning and an ending and a journey of sorts in between. And as part of my experiment in discipline this week, I made myself get around to writing. Actual, fingers-on-keyboard, document-open-and-filled-with-words writing.

I started small with character bios, drafting up a page on each of the main players in my story. A recommendation straight from Syd Field himself, each bio was – once I got into it – a joy to draft. Imagine! I actually enjoyed hashing out character, shaping backstory, parsing details and timelines. It’s like I’ve got a knack for it or something…

After the bios, I jumped tonight into what Blake Snyder affectionately calls “Beating it out.” No, not like that.

Snyder’s concocted a screenwriting formula, a tried and true framework for putting a movie on paper. And he swears that if your script follows the formula, by the end of it you’ll have a viable narrative. Seeing how I’m new to this whole screenwriting thing, a formula offers some pretty great structure to start with. I have to know the rules before I can break ’em, right?

So, character bios and rough story treatment at the ready, I sat down with Snyder’s Beat Sheet and hashed it out. And go figure –  an hour later I had a screen filled with writing. Beats drafted – act breaks, midpoint, first and last images, A story and B story and even a whiff of death! Does that count as screenwriting? Damn right it does!

I’m sticking with the personal experiment for week 2, and writing is again included. Beat Sheet in hand, it’s to index cards and scene shaping I turn next, and I kinda can’t wait.

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