I just completed the first draft of my fifth spec screenplay of 2016. It’s called I AM THE NEW BLOOD, a contained thriller about an aspiring model who is targeted by a fetishistic death-cult. I’ve dubbed it SPRING BREAKERS meets THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. I’ve been working on this first draft for about three weeks.
My goal is to write ten feature-length screenplays by the end of the year. Today marks the halfway point.
NOTES ON PROCESS:
Before writing a screenplay I write a rough logline and spend some time with that logline to make sure that it expresses the kind of story I want to write. Once I commit, I commit. Sometimes, before writing the logline, I get an image of a certain scene or a character stuck in a certain predicament, something that resonates. Any little mental image can lead to a feature-length screenplay, it just takes a good amount of preparation.
After hashing out a logline, I move on to an outline, stressing beats that the film will need to hit. Once I am satisfied with the beats and the tone, I spend time getting to know the characters. Usually, they come to me as I go through this planning process, but if they don’t, I have a method to round them out, which I usually do. When I know them, I can write them to life.
For this script in particular, I actually didn’t start with an outline, but only with the main character. She was floating face down in a pool. However, after writing about fifteen pages, I knew I needed structure, that it would help the project flourish. I learned that with screenwriting (at least for me), it is always advisable to work out where a story needs to go. The beautiful thing about this is that as I’m writing, I’m always free to deviate, but also have a structure in place to follow. This keeps the machine moving, keeps me from completely going off the rails and ending up someplace that might not be good for the story.
Since most every script I write is done without a producer attached, I am free to play with the worlds I create and edit at my own self-disciplined leisure. I also write by using timed sessions. These focus me on the moment and set an immediate limit to my attention.
When I’m done, I revise. There is great joy in the revision process and it is always in the revision process where I can get a sense of how a certain story does or does not work. I’ll usually go over any given script three times before sending it out to producers. Once I receive feedback, I’ll continue revising appropriately. I like to consider every script I write a work-in-progress and always subject to revision based on the needs of whoever might be interested in it. Even though I have a goal of ten scripts this year, I still want to ensure that every script I write is as great as it can be.
I am very proud of I AM THE NEW BLOOD. It has a strong protagonist who faces almost constant conflict. She could be any of us and it was so worth it for me to take her to the darkest places I could conjure and let her suffer. Once she reached bottom, I knew then, and only then, cleansed in the blood of those who hurt her, cleansed in the blood of those she loved, could she rise and destroy them. This is her therapy. It’s a narrative arc that I love to write. It’s a narrative world that I love to put characters through. They always surprise me, no matter the extent of my plans. And when they are reborn, I, too, feel a sense of life expanding.
Screenwriting is a way for me to add life to my existence. I know this now. And it’s the ultimate magic act.