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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Part One – The Unending Question: Which Screenwriting Software to Use? – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

I’ve been asked what software I use for writing and for outlining, and what would I suggest for new writers who want to get into screenwriting but either can’t afford the top-end programs or don’t want to spend money on something that they may not get a lot of use from.

This is an endless debate that goes on and on and you will never find anyone that will give you the definitive answer on what program to use. There will be people out there who tell you that you can do just fine with free software or web-based writing tools, like WriterDuet or Celtx, and others that tell you that if you have any hope of working with industry professionals, you’ll need professional software like Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter.

Let’s start with the easy proposition, which is: outlining. You do NOT need any professional software to outline. You can handwrite on a legal pad, use note cards, or my preference, writing in Microsoft Word. Of course, Word is not a free software, put if you have an iPad, you probably have “Pages”, which is fairly close. I use Word because I can type and type and type my garbage draft outline, edit things easily, copy and paste, and use their pre-formatted outlining tool. I can also easily send a copy of my draft to my writing partner, Rick, and he can edit it and add his own notes. Can’t do that with a legal pad or Post It Notes! It is a convenient tool and I highly recommend it.

But what about outlining software, you might ask? Software that helps you develop your outline and characters? I’ve looked at them and even tried a couple just to see what they were about. Some of the ones out there that you may have heard of are Plot Control, Contour, Dramatica,  and Outline 4D.

These programs are designed to help you along in the outlining process by asking you questions. For example, Plot Control will prompt you to answer questions like “What is the unique or significant event that is happening to the main character?” or “What is the main character’s personal goal and what obstacles are preventing the character from achieving it?” Answering these questions will supposedly help you propel the narrative forward and essentially get you a completed outline. I’ve tried it and found that while the prompts help with explaining different stages of the story, like the “inciting incident,” and is somewhat easy in use, the layout is a little boring and is not great with providing many examples to help in the use.

Contour prompts you along on each of the plot points and sets up a series of “Yes/No” situations to create drama and conflicts for the characters. Contour is good in that it can help in creating hurdles for your protagonist, and it provides a lot of examples to explain each question prompt (as well as provide a lot of completed storylines from actual movies so you can observe what the outline should look like). The downside I have with it is that it seems to force you into a given scenario or type of film. For example, every main character seems to have to be faced with either a literal or metaphorical “death” to propel the story along. It’s a bit overdone, especially if you’re trying to write a comedy or lighter indie-film.

Dramatica is the most highly detailed of all and incredibly difficult to use. It’s gets into a lot of minutia for something that should be a fairly short process. You have to define your characters, get into a ton of options for what the character’s journey is, and then start building in the supporting characters and their journey. You could have literally hundreds of different options at your disposal, which is great, but it is so confusing and frustrating to use that you’ll likely give up on it after an hour of use. They do have videos explanations on how to use the software, but honestly, if you have to watch hours of explanations to write out your outline, then maybe this software isn’t for you. Listen, they have a lot of people that swear by it, so maybe you just have to try their free trial version for yourself to see. Note that the Windows and Mac versions are radically different – the Mac version is the more souped-up one.

If you just want a straightforward outlining program, then perhaps you can try Outline 4d. It has a dual way of outlining, either in timeline version or a more standard outline. The timeline version has the ability to show you, theoretically, how you’re progressing in terms of minutes into the movie with the various stages of your outline. Thus, you can see whether your Act I is running forty minutes long (that’s too long!). It’s a little distracting with the visuals in timeline. The standard outline is more what you’re likely used to and you can type away to your heart’s delight. The outline is pre-formatted so you don’t have to think, really, just type. They also have several examples, like “Thelma and Louise,” that they have pre-populated in the program to show what your outline should ultimately look like. It does not provide you any prompts or explain what certain elements of the story are, so it’s not very useful from that standpoint.

I should point out here that several of the screenwriting programs, like Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter, have developed ways for you to create story notes and index cards within their program, so you don’t necessarily need an outlining program if you just prefer jotting notes down as you go.

For me the bottom line on all these programs is that these programs might be helpful in prompting questions you may not have been thinking of, but ultimately, you have to understand that they don’t write the story for you. They can only provide the prompt, and if you need a program to ask you questions about a story you should already know, then maybe the problem is your story and your whole creative thinking process. Your brain is the most important software you need, and if you can’t creatively craft a story without prompting from a piece of software, you’re never going to be able to get that story into a quality script.

My suggestion is you spend time with however you write, whether on a laptop, on a legal pad, or what have you, and begin with your idea. Think about how you want it to begin and how you want it to end. If it helps, write down your beginning on one side of a piece of paper, and the ending on the other side of the paper, and draw a line from that beginning to the end. Now draw about 5 or 6 up and down lines through that line. These will represent roadblocks for your characters (every main character needs roadblocks to hinder his journey) and it’s up to you to figure out how to get your character around these roadblocks. This is a simple process and can help you more clearly define your story and build your outline!

In addition, spend some time writing two or three line descriptions about your main characters. Once you’ve done that, go back and re-read them critically. Do they all look like the same character? Do they all have the same traits? One helpful trick on this is to ask yourself the question: What if this movie was about them, rather than the main character? How would it be different? How would they react in the same situations? Shining a light on the supporting characters and their unique roles can provide you with a richer, fuller, more dynamic movie.

In Part Two of this post, we’ll talk about screenwriting software programs and which ones we prefer.




The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry’s screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Friday, November 9, 2018

Reaching the Midpoint of the Outline – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

We’re still balancing work life and family life and writing life in trying to finish our outline.  I’m sure this is never an issue for you (ducks as you hurl projectiles at my head), but it’s constantly something we all need to juggle as we try to conjure up things creatively.

I’m a big believer that a well-balanced life makes for a well-balanced writer.   If all you know if your work life or family life, that’s going to be reflected in your writing, as your world experience tends to color your writing style.  Maybe you’re the exception, maybe you can handle 14 hour work days and 6 hours of sleep, trying to cram in a couple of hours of writing in between fast food meals.  But what will that writing look like?

If you have an unbalanced life, take a look at some of your writing and see if it’s not having an effect. Better yet, have someone you trust to read it and give you an honest assessment of what’s in there. If it’s off in any way, take some time to go out and doing something enjoyable.  Hike.  Go to a baseball game.  Binge watch “Ozark”.  Drink some beers with friends.  Once your head is cleared of all the unhealthy crap, then you can be more productive.

So back to the outline.  When we last left our friends, Lucas and Hunter were having a little disagreement over whose side Lucas was on.  After Lucas sides with Jinx, Hunter tells his guys to be wary of him because he could get in the way.

Time to create some more complications for Jinx.

Music is playing and students are dancing.  Lucas asks Ellie to dance and she agrees. As they dance, Jinx watches them from the house through a window.  He thinks Lucas has feelings for Ellie.  He’s distracted as Cass walks behind him.  She sits on a couch and beckons Jinx.  He gives in to the temptation, goes over and sits down.

After the dance is over, Lucas tells Ellie about the picture on the mantle.  Ellie says that was the trip where Nick almost got ticketed for underage drinking and Jinx talked the cop out of it.  As they talk, Ellie folds a napkin, making a flower out of it.  She attaches it to a straw and sticks it in Lucas’ drink.  “What’s this?” asks Lucas.  Ellie isn’t even aware she was doing it. “Oh, that.  It’s a flower for your drink. Jinx used to always be annoyed that the Mexican restaurant that didn’t put a flower or umbrella in my virgin pina coladas and so he would make me one out of a napkin.  Guess I just picked up on it.” Lucas is a bit put off that everything is becoming about Jinx.

Back in the house, Cass makes small talk with Jinx.  When the small talk stalls, she gets more direct: “What’s the deal with you and Ellie?” Jinx is nothing if not honest, and tells her that at one time, he thought she might be the one, but now he’s basically resigned to just moving on – he’s leaving everything behind here, including her.  “Well,” Cass replies, “Maybe you ought to create a new memory you can take with you,” and slides her hand over to his leg.  Jinx is uncomfortable.

Hunter watches Cass and Jinx from across the room. Cass and Hunter’s eyes meet, and they share a conspiratorial smile.  Jinx sees Hunter, and as Cass slides in closer to Jinx, he extricates himself from the situation, embarrassed.

We’re now creating several scenarios where things could go wrong.  Hunter and Jinx, Lucas butting heads with Hunter, Cass interfering potentially between Jinx and Ellie, and whether Jinx and Ellie can truly express their feelings before it’s too late.

As we head into the second half of Act II, we’ll continue ramping up these tensions.  If you have any comments about how it’s going so far we’d love to hear them!


The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Getting the Outline into Act II – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

So after taking a Sunday off, we got back to working on the outline.  We’ve completed the outline for Act I, and we’ve locked our main character, Jinx, into a difficult situation. Our resident bad guy, Hunter, was forming a plan to exact revenge on Jinx.  You can see the previous outline blog notes in previous posts.

Now as we go into Act II, we need to start creating obstacles for Jinx and begin raising the stakes for him. That can be in the form of human obstacles, or in many cases, moral ambiguities.  Both create the dramatic tension we’re looking for.  But it can’t all be emotional conflicts and head-butting, and you can’t get right to the dramatic showdown between Jinx and Hunter — you have to build to that point, constantly pulling the rubber band until it can’t stretch anymore, then let it snap into place.  And hope that you don’t stretch it too far and break it.

Starting with Act II, Jinx leaves the dock and wants to leave the party.   He’s looking for Tate, and goes to the lake house to find him. Not seeing him, he goes in the house, where students parade in and out.  Inside, he’s nowhere to be seen.  Students are situated around the house – it’s not a wild scene, but people are enjoying themselves.

One of the things we want to try and do with Jinx is show how he has had an effect on others, even when he doesn’t realize it.  Why do this?  Because one of the themes of this script will be that Jinx has had an impact on the lives of others, even when he can’t see it, especially in this world after the accident where he has built up this belief in his mind of how he’s now a pariah in this small Texas town.  So we’ll show small things that begin to add up as we go.

One girl, Savannah, stops Jinx, asks him where he’s going to college. University of Texas, he says.  Me, too, she responds.  She’s excited because she’ll be able to get help on her freshman history classes.  “You saved my ass on a half dozen exams junior year.” Another student with her pipes in. “Saved me too.” Jinx isn’t sure how to respond, but before he can figure it out, the girls are off to chat with someone else.

In addition, we’re going to drop in a little subtext.  In this instance, Jinx stops in front of a mantle above the fireplace, where there are various framed pictures. Several of them are of Lucas and Maggie, some with Lucas’ parents. It’s obvious the house belongs to Lucas’ family.  We finally land on one important picture:  It happens to be Jinx with four other people: one is Lucas.  The others are Ellie, Maggie and a guy we haven’t seen yet (Nick).  They look happy in the picture. Not a care in the world.  Jinx is transfixed by the picture.

From behind Jinx a voice arises: “Remember where that pic was taken?.” Jinx turns, and it’s Lucas. “San Antonio,” says Jinx.  “I remember you were surprised by how small the Alamo actually was,” replies Lucas.  Jinx agrees. “I imagined it being larger than life.”  Lucas follows up with: “I miss hanging out with you.  Let’s get together this summer, okay?” Jinx mumbles a half-hearted, “sure.”

The subtext, of course, is that we tend to make things bigger than they tend to be, and in particular, Jinx has made the accident bigger in his mind than it is in others. But Jinx of course can’t see that — yet.

We need to bring Hunter back for another appearance to offset the good feelings we just got from Jinx and Lucas.  So Lucas leaves the house and runs into Hunter and his goons. There is an argument over whose side Lucas is on.  Lucas makes it clear where he stands and moves on. Hunter mentions to his guys to watch out for Lucas.  He might get in the way of their plans, and if they have to, they’ll take care of him as well.

We’ll continue working on this and post the next part of our outline (and other random thoughts) soon.  In addition, because of some of you may want to see the continuing outline as we go so we’ll create a page that has our progress.  If there is anything else you’d like to see, please let us know!


The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Getting into Subtext with our Script – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

A good script is going to have a lot of layers to it, in other words, it’s not just A, then B, then C, then D.  That results in a pretty thin script.  One of the best ways to add subtlety to your script and build unique characters is by adding subtext.  As we’re building our outline, Rick and I are always looking for ways to add subtext to the story.

What is subtext you ask? It’s really just an underlying or deftly hidden action by a character.  Rick is a master of the subtext, and I’ll let him explain his thinking on the subject:

If there was a strength or skill to consistently work on as you ply your craft as a screenwriter, I’d recommend it be adding subtext to each of your scenes. It makes movies so much more impactful when you’re watching them and enhances your characters and story immensely. Sometimes, in ways you don’t even put together right away — I’ll offer two examples, one from an older film and one from a more contemporary film, that I use in my screenwriting workshops to illustrate:

1. Think back to “The Graduate.” – There are countless examples in this film alone (Mike Nichols was a genius and you’d do well to listen, watch and learn from his incredible body of work) but I specifically love this simple example: Remember, early in the film, Dustin Hoffman has graduated college and is basically loafing at his parent’s house, unsettled and unsure of what he wants to do with his life. This frustrates his career-minded father to no end. One day, the Father comes home and his shoulders collapse upon seeing Dustin Hoffman floating on a raft in their pool, just chilling and thinking. He, of course, pleads that it’s time to ‘do something with your life’ and Dustin merely looks at him and feels very misunderstood. For me, the beautiful subtext in this scene is that it’s set for our directionless character in a pool where he’s literally drifting aimlessly. The mere visual of him ‘drifting’ enhances the message so beautifully, yet it doesn’t hit you over the head and scream: This guy’s got no direction in his life! Subtext. It adds so much. Do it in every scene.

2. Then there’s “Titanic.” — James Cameron, ’the screenwriter’ is as equally talented as James Cameron, ‘the director.’ Reading his scripts, the visuals pop and he’s very conscious of subtext in pivotal scenes. Remember, toward the end of the first half of the film, Rose’s mother is helping her dress for the Captain’s dinner and making it very clear to Rose how important it is for her to stick with the ‘money and established’ suitor she’s positioned Rose for, rather than that impulsive bad boy Leonardo something-or-other. As she’s basically telling Rose what to do, what is Rose’s mother actually doing? Tightening her corset. She literally pulling the strings and tightening the pressure on Rose to her specifications. Rose is visibly uncomfortable yet her mother tightens and adds pressure. Again, it’s all very natural and organic because someone has to do it but the subtext of having Rose’s mother communicate her wishes this way, enhances the message, her character and the take-away from the scene exponentially.

Re-watch any of your favorite movies. There’s probably countless examples, some of which you may have missed on the first few watchings. Good subtext is often that — submerged in the words and actions of the very natural. Get good at it and screenwriters of the future will be citing examples from your scripts to screenwriters learning the craft. It’s a universal strength and powerful tool to make your scripts engaging on multiple levels.

Thanks to Rick for this valuable insight!  We’ll be back soon with more work on our outline!


The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Considerations for having a writing partner – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

Taking a quick break for the outlining sequence for a moment, as Rick Hansberry, my writing partner for “According to Plan”, “The Journeyers” and now “Lake Regret” provides some thoughts around whether you should consider a writing partner for one of your projects.  Listen up, guys, Rick is a sage when it comes to this stuff!

His thoughts on maybe why you DON’T co-write with someone:

“Generally, use thesetwo writers as guidelines, if you’re considering co-writing with someone. Everyone’s situation is different and these are by no means universal but intended to help those that have never co-written a screenplay with someone and are trying to evaluate if it will suit them. In reverse order of consideration:

5. Do not co-write to ‘learn.’ Before attempting to write a screenplay, be sure to read hundreds of them. Literally. They’re on-line and in books. There’s no excuse to not have read countless screenplays to understand, format, structure and the nuances of the craft. Your experience level may vary but never co-write your first screenplay. Learn the craft, then apply it.

4. Do not co-write to ‘coast.’ Sure, having a writing partner makes it easier to advance pages and attack revisions but there should always be a balance. A co-writer is a co-creator and there should always be a back-and-forth, give-and-take. If you tend to be lazy about writing, do not co-write to have someone to procrastinate with, rather treat him or her like an exercise or dieting partner — Push them through tough stretches – Hold them accountable and expect the same back. You’ll both win in the end.

3. Do not co-write for the ‘credit.’ If you’re looking to hitch your wagon to someone so you can finally say you’ve had something ‘produced’ or ‘optioned’ you’re doing it for the wrong reasons and it’ll show. Just about any produced writer (yes, I can say that my work has been ‘optioned,’ ‘bought,’ and ‘produced’ but I won’t say I speak for all) will tell you that there’s a certain amount of luck and having the right script at the right time in this business. They’ll also most likely share that there’s countless dozens of scripts by writers that haven’t sold anything or had anything produced that have more than one script that totally blows them away. Know in your heart of hearts that a good script doesn’t always get bought or produced and own it for what it is.

2. Do not co-write if you’re the type of person that doesn’t argue well or holds grudges. Just like every screenplay needs conflict, so do writers. Having a strength like structure or dialogue is fine but ultimately you have to bring your complete game to every script and so does your co-writer and inevitably there will be times when you disagree about a character, a joke in dialogue, a scene, or an ending. If you can’t argue for it and lose and be okay with it, then don’t waste the other person’s time. Creativity inherently wounds egos because no one loves everything. Accept going in that you’ll lose some battles and win some and the script will be better for it but if you hold a grudge — it’ll show in future exchanges and the script will suffer for it.

1. Do not co-write if you can’t accept a subordinate role sometimes. This is a rule to follow for relationships and marriages and careers in general. Let others take credit. Have enough self-esteem to know that your contribution to a project is valuable and it’s not all about you. One of my many hats is to work as a paralegal in a law firm. In many instances, I do the lawyers work for them (at a cheaper billable rate) and they simply review it and often present it to the client as their own — and that has to be okay with you. You have to accept that we all have different roles and times to shine. If you know you’re not the type of person that needs to be recognized or given credit or put on a pedestal, do not co-write but also — unless you’re producing and directing your own films, do not pursue screenwriting. In the film industry, even after the script is optioned or purchased and everyone loves it — it’ll be changed by countless others involved in the production. Have the internal fortitude to know that you’re not the chain, just a link.”

Next time, Rick will chime in with the 5 rules in favor of co-writing.  Stay tuned — and if you’re enjoying this blog, follow and share with your friends!

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The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Outline – Act 1 – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

In the previous post we talked about our method of outlining, which is to fall somewhere between the full-blown, no stone left unturned outline, and “we know the beginning and the end, let’s just write and see what happens” outline.  We have a generally good idea of where we wanted to go with it, and so we needed to do a broad brush painting of each act.

Pretty much 95% of the screenplays out there are in three acts.  You’ll see all these guidelines and screenwriting books that you must have three acts — it’s the way everyone does it.  The first act needs to be about 30 pages, they say, the second act about 40, and the final act around 25, give or take.  But if that doesn’t work for you, fine.  Write what works for you.  My only thing is that your story works, and you write it well.

If you are working in the three act structure, then the first act is for world-building.  We learn about the characters, what relationships they have, and the world in which they exist.  You also will typically will have what is known as the “inciting incident”, which pushes the protagonist into his or her story for the rest of the film.

With “Lake Regret” we will probably be following the three act structure, and so we need to do a little world building in the first draft of our outline.

We know we have our script set at a lake house, and we know a high school graduation party is going on throughout the film, so we have to start with getting our protagonist to the party, and introducing the main players (both the heroes and the villains) that will be driving the story.

We came up with five main characters and a couple of supporting characters to revolve the story around:

— Jimmy “Jinx” McCarthy,  our main protagonist.  Jinx is the kid that everyone used to like at his school, but ever since an accident caused the death of another student, he feels like he’s been shunned at the school, which may or may or not be imagined by Jinx.  He’s created a world in which he feels like everyone’s against him, and is determined to leave this small town he’s grown up in forever now that he’s graduated.

— Ellie Burton, Jinx’s friend and someone that Jinx has had a crush on for years.  She’s tried to build him up during his difficult time, but he’s still in a dark place.  Despite the crush Jinx has on her, she may have eyes for someone else.

— Tate Oliver, the person who knows Jinx better than anyone.  When he learns Jinx is trying to leave forever, he tries to be the voice of reason, and caution. But does Tate have an ulterior motive in keeping Jinx around?

— Hunter Callahan, who was a friend and football teammate of the student who died, and who is seeking revenge on Jinx.  The question is how far he will take that revenge.

— Cassie Wilbanks, an attractive student that flirts with Jinx throughout the party and may sabotage any chance of a relationship between Jinx and Ellie.

Now that we’ve outlined our main characters, we need them to start interacting.  Stay tuned to see where we take them…

 

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The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Outlining for the script, how I hate it (but oh how I need it) – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

So before we delve into today’s post, just a bit of horn tootin for both Rick and me. Rick recently had another short film completed, “Missed Stop”, which will be hitting the festival circuits in the near future. I have a short script, “Last Rites”, that is set to be filmed in California over the Labor Day weekend, and so I hope to see a finished cut before the end of the year. Always great to see how the words you’ve written are interpreted by the director, the cinematographer, and the cast.

But getting those words to the script are always paramount to the writer, and how they get there varies from writer to writer.

There are those writers who need to have every beat in the story crafted out, the story blocked out to the greatest extent possible, characters fully described and the protagonists main arc perfectly delineated. Once they have all that then they can finally sit down and type out FADE IN and craft their script in accordance with their outline. I can’t do that. I just can’t. If that works for you and that’s the only way you can tell your story, then by all means, go for it. To me, it’s a little bit of paint by number writing, because you’re going through each scene and you’re writing based exactly on what’s in that outline without any room for maneuvering lest you sabotage the rest of the outline.

Then there are the writers who sit down at the computer with only a general idea in their heads about the story and the characters and just start typing. In their mind they want to see where the characters take the story — which is a bit of a fake out. The writer is the one driving the characters, so the writer still is the one making up the story on the fly. To those writers who can pull that off, I tip my cap to you and secretly loathe you, because that’s not how I can do it.

I think both Rick and I are somewhere in the middle group. We’ll look at each act, prepare a general, but not overly detailed, synopsis of each act, and then work from that. This allows us room to deviate from the big picture as the spirit moves us without having to go back and revamp the entire outline. It gives more flexibility to operate, and I feel, to be more creative overall.

I encourage anyone preparing to write a script to work with whatever gets you motivated to sit down and start writing. Do what works for you, and not because you read it in a book or because someone told you that it HAD to be done a certain way to be successful. Most of the people telling you that haven’t had any success to speak of.

That said, it’s time to start outlining. Let’s see where our outline takes us on our trip to Lake Regret.

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The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Little Bit of History – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

So, before we get into today’s topic, I wanted to share a little background about Rick and me and how we started writing together.  I mean, you can obviously take the shortcut route and just read about us on our Writers page, but that’s the Reader’s Digest version.

We both were writing short film scripts for submission to a peer-review site called Movie Poet (R.I.P. to this great site), where every month a different topic was presented for you to write short script of up to five pages (and no more).   It had a very dedicated following and there were some extremely talented writers on that site.  I still run across some of these writers on other sites now, primarily Simply Scripts, another great peer review site (and free!).

One day — April 13, 2013, to be exact — I got an email from Rick asking me to read a series of two page scripts he had written.  This was to be the first of 1,316 emails (to date) that we have exchanged about scripts and other related matters (gmail does save every email you’ve ever written, I’ve discovered).

I gave him some feedback, he thanked me and that was that, or so I thought.  After a few months break, we connected again and I helped him with some notes and story ideas on his feature “Taking the Reins” (FYI, producers, this is a great script — ask Rick for a read!).  Then, in January, 2014, we committed to writing a feature together from scratch, and out of that came a great feature script (in my total unbiased opinion) called “According to Plan.”  It took about four months and when we finished, we sent it around, got a couple of reviews on the Black List, and put it on Simply Scripts (it’s still there, by the way, if you want to read it) but I thought it was one of those scripts where we thought we had written this great script (we had), but like 99% of most scripts written, it was destined to collect dust in the interwebs of history. Or so we thought.

Fast forward two years, after we’d been working on a lot of different projects — I had a short film produced and had been working with a director on a rewrite of one of his scripts; Rick had two feature films and two short films produced — he’s always been such a slacker — I received an email from a producer in L.A. who wanted to produce “According to Plan.”  He paid us to option the film and after some discussion, he decided he wanted to turn it into something completely different, much to our chagrin. Rick and I wound up writing an entirely new script out of it, called “The Journeyers,” and the producer is trying to find a director to helm the project.  We’ll see where it goes, but the option is still with him.  I could write an entire blog just on the process with that film, but it definitely gave me the idea for writing the blog for this script.

Rick and I have learned a lot about each other during the collaboration process, and the interesting thing is: we’ve never met in person.  He lives in Pennsylvania, and I’m in Texas.  We swear up and down we’re going to meet up someday, but life, as it always does, seems to get in the way.   We have similar backgrounds, both of us have experience, past and current, as DJ’s, we both have experience in the legal world, we’re both into fantasy sports.  So we come from a common place and a shared background, and it has made for a great collaboration.

What I’ve learned in writing with Rick is that we each bring different gifts and talents to the table.  He very much wears his producer’s hat and likes to think about the cost of everything that goes into the script; I’m more big idea guy and like to think about story, damn the costs.  Rick is pragmatic and I’m whimsical.  Rick does great subtext; I wouldn’t know subtext if it bit me in the nether regions.  Somehow we make it all work.

All that is to provide you with a couple of disagreements we had right off the bat, before we even started outlining for the script.  When I first thought about this piece, I envisioned this great opening where our protagonists enter to this great 70’s song from King Harvest called “Dancing in the Moonlight.”  Then I thought about other songs from the 70’s that would fit perfectly into certain sequences.  This needs to be a period piece, I thought.  Like “Dazed and Confused” (only better!).  Rick’s response: Uh, no.  Okay, he didn’t say it exactly that way, it was more like this:

“I don’t think it’s advisable. I’ve been watching postings for scripts and I never see anyone looking for ‘period pieces.’ Probably because they’re expensive to film and continuity is a bitch with what was and was not available — plus some youngish audiences will not know or appreciate ‘how’ things were. It works for adult drama series because they get an older audience.”

Okay. I get it. Pragmatism 1, Dreamers, 0.  I’ll get you next time, Pragmatic Rick!

Actually, I didn’t.  Next idea was the use of flashbacks to help tell the story.  I also envisioned an accident happening in one particular way.  Rick wasn’t necessarily keen on the idea. His response:

“Really, I’ve been trying to stay away from flashbacks. Not even from a producer’s standpoint of expense etc. I just find it ‘too easy’ — like you’re telling the audience to ‘pay attention, there’s a reason we’re interrupting the action to show you this.’ I like the challenge of a nuanced approach. Anyway, hack away and we’ll go back and forth. Nothing is carved in stone.”

A ha!  I’ll take that as a “maybe” and we’ll call it a draw!  Pragmatism 1.5, Dreamers .5!

We’ll hammer it all out, I promise.  And I’m going to get a victory for all of dreamers here soon!  Meanwhile, the outline is underway and we’ll bring you up to speed on how that is coming along in the next few posts.

_________________________

The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

Saturday, September 22, 2018

We’ve got a logline – Lake Regret - post author Gary Howell

We have a logline.  We think.  At least a first draft of one.

Loglines are a pain in the ass to write. I’ll be the first to admit that, and some of the best writers I know stink I writing them.  Loglines require you to be concise and to basically come up with an overview to your entire movie usually in a single sentence.  But they are helpful to quickly explain to someone the essence of your movie.  If they get bored with that simple explanation, or don’t understand it, then it’s a pretty good sign you’d better go back to the drawing board.  Here’s a quick article on writing a good logline that might be worth reading: How to Write the Perfect Logline

For “Lake Regret,” we wanted to convey the sadly ironic situation that our protagonist found himself in, and create empathy for what he was going through so that you would pull for him from beginning to end.

I’m going to leave the logline here for you to read, and ask yourself whether you would want to read this script.  If so, why?  If not, what is it that doesn’t appeal to you?  This is the sixth or seventh draft of the logline, and we’re willing to write seven or eight more, but your feedback can help us refine it further.

LOGLINE – LAKE REGRET
A high school senior who accidentally caused the death of a popular student tries to deal with the emotional fall out at a lake house graduation party, and at the same time cut ties with the small town he desperately wants to leave behind.

In our next post, we’ll start pulling back some more of the curtain about developing the storyline, and how a couple of guys who collaborate so well still can get into disagreements over the tone and direction of the script.

Bookmark this site and keep reading!  Hope to hear from you!

_______________

The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission

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