Recently I removed my film “Who Shot the President” from YouTube and the other on-line video sites where I had it posted. It is still available for those who would like to see it, but they will have to buy it from my website. (See: http://www.dynamiclethargyfilms.ca/who_shot_the_president.htm )
I had been getting some nasty comments about the film since I first posted it. A while back, I wrote an article about the criticism I got about this film: Why Do People Hate My Film.
( See: http://www.webupon.com/Video/Why-Do-People-Hate-My-Film.534095 )
These comments didn’t bother me and I never considered removing my film from view. Then I got a very disturbing comment on YouTube where the poster threatened to “beat me down”.
My first thought was to report the comment to YouTube, since I didn’t think they would approve of people making threats to the people who post videos on their site. Instead, I decided to remove the film from the web. After I had done it, I thought I should have reported it to YouTube anyway, but it was too late.
I know some people will disagree with my decision, because it looks like I am giving I giving in to people who want to suppress my views. This disturbs me as well. I don’t like my work being censored, even if I do the censoring.
What I kept in mind, though, is that I want to communicate my philosophy in my films. The question for me then, does the controversy over my film help or hurt my ultimate goal?
While I would like more people to see “Who Shot the President”, I felt that keeping it widely available was a diversion of my energies away from my real goal. What the anger people were expressing told me was that I would need to become more subtle in my films.
I got the new version of the outline done this week. I added about 2,500 words. One of my scenes started to look redundant, so I removed it. I did some other cleaning up of the file and it is easier to read now.
This coming week I start on the script. There is one more thing I want to do before I start though. I have extensive back-stories for my characters now, but I haven’t given any thought to how they talk. Knowing their personalities will help make the characters distinct, but I know from writing “The Anger Trap” that each person’s way of talking needs to be different.
I came across this posting (http://candidcoverage.blogspot.com/2010/03/avoid-page-10-rejection.html) on James Jordan’s Candid Coverage Blog (http://candidcoverage.blogspot.com/).
This posting explains why moviemakers reject many scripts within the first ten pages. He then provides 20 tips to avoid that. His focus is on selling a script to a Hollywood studio, but I think many of the tips are useful, even if you are going to be making your own movie.
A few years ago, I submitted my script The Anger Trap to a screenplay completion. I was disappointed with the comments I got back because it seemed to me that the reader hadn’t read past the first ten pages. After reading this blog, I can see what I was doing wrong.
I have taken two of the tips to heart so far.
Tip 9 says that you should introduce your protagonist by page three.
I am still working on my outline, so it is too soon to know how long each scene will be, but I did make some estimates. My protagonist shows up in the third scene, so I need to keep the first two scenes to less than a minute each. I was planning to have the first two run longer than that, but I know that I have to keep them short.
His tip doesn’t say anything about the antagonist, but I assume that introducing him early is a good idea. I already have him showing up in the first scene.
Tip 11 says that by page ten the script should have revealed the main issues of the story.
This is where I think The Anger Trap went wrong. I don’t give any indication of where the story is going until page six, and it doesn’t really become obvious until page 20. I had already been thinking of moving a later scene to the beginning of the film for a possible rewrite.
When I went over my outline, I felt that I had the main issues on the table by the end of the seventh scene. I will need to keep the first few scenes very short to have that done in the first ten pages. I may need to move some of the minor events to later in the script.
All of my major characters, except for one, do show up in the first ten pages. I revised an early scene to introduce Lucas’ boss, James Wilson, within the first ten pages. Introducing the last character in the first ten pages would be a problem though. I think I can leave her introduction until later in the script. I saw it done in The Night of the Generals (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062038/).
The question of when I would start writing the actual script was on my mind this week. I had hoped that I would get the revision of the outline done, so I could start on the script next week. I only got about 2,000 words written and still have a ways to go yet.
I have been following Screenplay-Tip ( http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Screenplay-Tip/112581738752369 ) on Facebook for a while and they had a relevant idea this week.
“Don’t edit as you go along. This will overwhelm you. Finish the story and then go back and revise structural issues.”
I am having some problems with the plot now and was considering whether to work on those first, or write the script and deal with them later. The advice Screenplay-Tip has is to get the script written first, and then work on the problems.
When I wrote The Anger Trap, I ended up wishing I had spent some more time working on the outline before I started on the script. I can see the other side of the issue though. Starting on the script will bring out the characters more. Understanding the characters should make it easier to solve the plot problems.
I worry about having some underwhelming clues for my detective, but then I don’t think that details like that should stop me from going forward. Usually these are details that can be brought out later.
I finished revising the character descriptions. I had to change some of the characters because of what I had learned about them while doing the outline. Late in the week, I got back to expanding the outline.
I added some pieces to the story that I think will make my main character, Lucas Martin, easier for the audience to empathise with. One of the mistakes I felt I made with “The Anger Trap” was that the main character was hard to identify with.
I changed the name of one character, William Williams, to Billy Clark. He is a suspect in the case. I decided that the name was too cute. I have been using photos of actors to help me visualize the characters. I changed three of the photos this week. Mostly it was because the actors were too old for the parts.
I am starting to expand the outline by providing more detail on what happens in each scene. I went back and reread parts of my outline for “The Anger Trap” to remind me how I did it last time. I’m finding that my scenes seem to be shorter, with less happening. While doing the revisions I added two new scenes for a total of 58.
I moved one scene to a different location. That may have created a little problem for the following scene, but I think it will work out OK. What I felt good about was that it was a scene where I had a loose end that I was able to tie up. In it, the detectives find a clue, but I had no clue what the clue would be. I have similar problems in other scenes later in the script and I have been worried about coming up with good solutions. Finding a solution for this one gives me more confidence.
This was my most productive week so far. I added 3,569 words to my character descriptions and 2,116 words to the outline. That brings the outline to just about the same length as the outline for “The Anger Trap”. I do need to do some house cleaning on the outline since I have a lot of duplication. That would make it shorter. I am about a third of the way through the revisions to the outline. I should be able to get that done next week. I want to do another run through both the outline and character descriptions before I start on the script.
My protagonist, Lucas, is starting to develop. I finished going through my outline and have described what each of the characters want in each scene. I am finding that Lucas often has conflicting desires. This is a good thing from the point of having a good story. Through out the story he is torn between wanting to “solve” the case or to just walk away from it.
I started to write up more detailed character descriptions. Mostly I was transcribing from my notes, but I also drew some ideas from what I learned about the characters while doing the outline. I’ll need to do a lot more work on the descriptions before I go back to the outline.
I went through an exercise where I used a system of personality factors I found on Wikipedia to develop descriptions of each character’s personality. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/16_Personality_Factors ) I’m not sure how helpful this will turn out to be, but I find that all my characters were coming out differently.
While going through my notes I found some good ideas for scenes that I had forgotten about. I added a couple to my outline. In one case, I replaced a similar scene that was weak. In the other, I added the scene. That disrupts the structure I had created for the story. I decided not to worry about that for now. When I am further along I will know if that is a problem or not.
I added 2,717 words to my out line, bringing it to 10,369 words. I added 1,389 words to my character description, but most of that was copying character information from my notes.