Wednesday, October 02, 2013
THE FIRST DRAFT
Work began last week on the first draft of a new commissioned feature.
I love first drafts, the freedom to explore plot and character, seeing what works, what doesn't, and experiencing those moments of pure joy when the screenplay almost writes itself. Oh yeah, and it's hard work. How do I currently write a first draft? Like this...
The way I work can change from script to script, although there is usually a familiar structure in there somewhere.
First of all comes the treatment. I use this to make sure the producer and I are on the same wavelength. There's nothing more embarrassing than to finish a first draft and find out I've gone off on a tangent, away from what was originally discussed. This has happened to me once before, a basic error, one I'm determined to never repeat. The treatment is really a rough outline, 6-12 pages in length, to make sure the inciting incident and the turning points are all there and the story, characters and their arcs work. The treatment is a guideline, my version of what I'm going to write, and it will change, sometimes drastically, with each draft. But at least looking at the treatment the producer knows where I want to go with the idea. I'll usually get a few notes and have to change some parts, but once the producer's happy then it's on to the next stage.
Characters. I spend as much time on my characters as I can, because if I don't get these right then the screenplay won't work. So I work on their background, their personality, how they talk, what influences them, what drives them and more importantly what their major flaw is. I know I'm happy with my characters when they become as familiar to me as my real life friends.
Index cards. Forty of them to be precise. I love index cards. I use them to scribble the major points, or incidents of my plot on and then play around with them until I'm happy with their order. They don't have to be detailed, they are just a guide to make sure I'm hitting every turning point, etc.
First draft time. I'll work from the index cards, crossing them off as I go and use the treatment if I need more detail. I try and aim for 5 pages a day, although I've done 30 in a day once, aiming to have the first draft completed in around 21 days. This then usually gives me a week or two to play around with the draft, check the character arcs, the dialogue and give the screenplay a quick spruce up.
Then I send it off, get my notes and a whole new level of writing begins...the rewrite!