Monday, 13 January 2014

HOW TO TURN IDEAS INTO STORIES : 3 'EASY' STEPS

READ THIS : Before we get started, Let me just say, once again, that this is my approach to writing and developing film projects. I'm not saying it the best way, just one way of doing it. In the end, you should really find your own way of doing anything, shit that works for some people doesn't work for everyone. It all just a matter of what works for you as a filmmaker/writer/artist/juggler, whatever. However you should be able to apply any approach back to your own work to try and better the final product and with that said lets go.

Ideas are the easy part, Some people come up with a hundreds of ideas everyday. However those people are very lucky. If you struggle to narrow your creative flow down to any one idea then check out the Last weeks Blog Here for some ideas of how to do just that.

Yes having an idea is pretty easy, It can happen relatively naturally and be inspired by the strangest of things. Getting those ideas out and down on paper into a coherent story is another matter altogether. 

So you've come up with a concept for a film. Brillaint. However a film cannot live on concept alone and so you need to turn that idea into a script if its going  to become a movie. I started out as a writer and so I have a habit of writing a lot of the material that I Direct and Produce. I won't go into writing theory or anything, There are a thousand books out there that can help you with that, It took me 4 years at University to really get to grips with my own writing, But my approach is this.

1. SUM YOUR FILM UP


One of my favourite ways of figuring out my story is to give it a vague premise, the kind of thing that you would find on the back of DVD. If your submitting scripts to production houses this is great to get into the habit of anyways. The Blurb for Slasher House that appears on the back of the DVD is almost the same one I wrote before I started writing the film in 2005.


"When Red wakes up naked in a prison cell in an old abandoned madhouse, she has no idea how she got there or why she has been placed there. As her cell door opens she soon discovers that she is not alone. Trapped with the worlds most notorious serial killers she finds herself caught in a deadly game with no escape as one by one the other 'inmates' are released to stalk her. Red must now battle these psychotic killers and try and free herself from her incarceration but she soon realises she is being manipulated in a much deadlier game." 


I then used this to imagine how the movie would play out, Your short synopsis my change as you develop your film, but for me, I like to keep it vague enough and then run around within those parameters, as I find it keeps me on my creative toes.

Anyways, after this I hit my sketch book.


2. TIMELINE YOUR FILM

Timeline for Slasher House http://slasherhouse.com
I often draw a diagram. Usually based on the 3 Act Structure that you can read about in any good screenwriting book. I use this as a guide, not a rule as to how my film will play out. It's important to understand the typical structure of films, because understanding the rules makes it easier to break them effectively when you need to.
I Draw out a chart and then start to create events specific to the story as I imagine it. Here I tend to start with my inciting incident at the end of act 1 that leads us into the story we'll be following for the rest of the film.  

In Slasher House this incident is Red being freed from her cell with no memory and left in the seemingly empty house. Her adventure starts here.

I then head straight for my ending, This is to help me know precisely where I'm going and everything in the middle serves as a step toward getting to that point. 

In Slasher House, The End unveils the reason that Red is in the house and the truth about who she is. (If you want to know in detail you can check the film out at http://slasherhouse.com)


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Then I start add my point of no return, which is slap bang in the middle. 

In Slasher House this would be our main Antagonist (Corben) being set free, which totally changes the pace of the movie and takes it another direction, whilst utilising the elements that have already been set up. 

From here I fill in the gaps, each segment encompasses an incident that moves the story forward. Revealing information that the audience will ultimately use to understand the film in its final moments.


Here's our template that we use when breaking down a story. Each line represents a major Event in the story.  The bigger the line the more important the event should be. The large one in the middle is the Point Of No Return.  I try to add mini events in between each one if I can, character beats and things like that to help give the audience information and push the story along. Obviously script writing is much more complex than that, but this a good place to start.

This is then what I use to figure out my story. Which takes me to the next step.


3. TREAT IT TO A TREATMENT


A treatment in industry terms, is the film written down in detail, as much detail as possible without it being the script itself. A treatment comes in various lengths depending on whether you are submitting it or using it as your own guide. I have always written in terms of summing up each scene as best I can without adding dialogue (although this is perfectly acceptable). 


Segment Notes From Slasher House
My approach is to break the film down into segments, and then sum up each segment till I have a full story. I hand wrote Slasher House's segments in my sketchbook, but since then I started using a program called Celtx, which is Free to use and can be downloaded HERE. That allows me to add notes to scenes and so now I add notes to each segment in the form of summaries which is mega helpful, however if I have time I do try and write full treatments in a simple word processor before I start.

Once you have your story down, you can start to find holes and problems and iron them out before you hit the scripting stage. This can be majorly useful when you get stuck and save you hours of sitting in front of keyboard with a little flashy cursor taunting you.

I used to just jump straight to script when I was starting out and the result was dozens of unfinished films that I hadn't really though through fully. Preparation is always good in all parts of filmmaking and that should include writing.


I hope this helps you in someway in moving your project on to the next stage. Remember, this is simply the way I do things and you may have your own approach or may have read about another approach or whatever. Like I said before this is not the right way, Just a way.


MJ

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