How do you get group feedback on a feature script in the early stages? So far, it’s been by sharing 5-10 pages at a time with my writers group.

But what about the structure? Am I sure it’s going to work? Is it possible to share an entire outline with the group?

That was my goal for this past Sunday’s get together. I’ve been working from a loose outline, but it seemed too loose to share. So I started turning it into a treatment. I got through Act 1 before running out of steam.

Still, the act of writing it solidified certain aspects in my mind. Then I could discuss that document and my plans for the strucure more clearly.

Here’s the doc, half treatment, half fuzzy outline:
gamersoutline110605

My sounding board, Wayne, gave me a few suggestions to strengthen the first act. Basically, give Jess a more active role in discovering clues about the parallel dimension game before even meeting Trevor. Or maybe that’s WHY she meets Trevor, in following up a lead. We talked about ways to bring in fantastic elements earlier, while adding plot points to the first act to make it longer.

There’s also the challenge of making Jess likeable, vulnerable, yet able to grow into a strong hero. I don’t want her to get sidelined. Even though Trevor is the action hero at first, she has to assume that role by the end of the movie, so it’s her story. Wayne brought up Batman — be careful not to let it become about Batman battling the Joker, while she watches. No — I’d rather it be like Vicky Vale discovering who Batman is, then taking on the Joker herself.

I came away from that meeting with a hundred new ideas to try. It might mean starting over from page one, so I think I’ll finish a solid treatment first.

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With the new feature Red State, filmmaker Kevin Smith is bypassing the studios, instead roadshowing the picture himself. Over at Script Shadow, Carson Reeves predicts a time when the entire filmmaking process will be transparent.

“At some point I expect this to trickle down to the development stage. If you developed your script openly, providing numerous drafts on the internet and encouraged feedback from fans, it’s an easy way to build awareness for your film (not to mention improve your script) and thus create anticipation throughout the development process. A case can be made that the leaked scripts for Inglorious Basterds and Avatar helped make those films what they were…”

That sounded familiar — it’s what I’m doing here. Of course, the difference is I don’t have a throng of followers giving me feedback. Yet.

This experiment is also a way to encourage accountability, like those on diets who Tweet their daily weight. If I write in public, then there’s nowhere to hide if I don’t follow through.

And lately, there’s been a lot of not following through.  Now that Script Frenzy has come and gone a couple times without my participation, I have a new goal in mind.  I’ll be entering the script in this fall’s BlueCat Screenwriting Competition.

Now back to the writing.

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How do I start this blog up again? Obviously, my original plan to write Gamers in a month was derailed. I got involved in other projects and Gamers went on the shelf.

Last summer, I shared what I had written with the Rochester Movie Makers Writers Workshop. It got my juices going again, showed me what was working, and also what WASN’T working.

In the interest of honesty, I’m posting those 14 pages now, before I hack it up. Essentially, I’ll be dropping most of the first scene.

gamers100801

I followed up with a few more pages, a description of “hyperspace” travel, followed by an exposition scene which felt wrong as soon as I read it out loud. I’m thinking of a smoother way to introduce Jess to the idea of universe-hopping. In this version, she and Trevor discuss how dimensional travel works in a convenience store, and I’m not buying it. She’s way too calm, he’s too nonchalant. You can see that in pages 15-17 here:

gamers101109

So that last scene will inevitably have to go.

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Today’s scene? Pillow talk and an abrupt exit. For those keeping score, I’m way behind on pages. I’m pushing ahead anyway. Maybe I’ll catch up by the end of the month, maybe not, but at least I wrote 3 pages tonight!

It’s interesting. I have an outline, but I got to a fork in the road. Should I have the characters stay together, or split up and postpone their adventure another 10 pages? To figure it out, I outlined different versions of the next few scenes until I knew how the story wanted to be told.

For me, it’s more like research than invention. I’m discovering the story, but I can only do it by typing the wrong words sometimes. When I find out WHY they’re wrong, I can take the other path, go the correct route.

Wow, I’m starting to spout about the creative process. That either comes off as profound or incredibly self-centered. I’d better go to bed.

gamers090409

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Okay, I’m only two lines into page 10, but that’s how I’m counting it. My plans for a big fat writing weekend fizzled, partly because I was working on cartoons, but mostly because I was watching television. Evil, evil television. On the plus side, it turns out Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse really does get better 6 episodes in!

Anyway, what’s going on in the latest pages? Drinking and flirting, two things I practice very little. But at least there’s lots of song lyrics, which I have considerably more knowledge of. Hey, here’s a question… If characters quote (but don’t sing) songs by The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, do you have to pay? Probably, but I’m leaving it in for now anyway. The luxuries of a first draft!

Oh, and the script is starting to get steamy. I’m blushing just thinking about it.

gamers090407

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I’m learning to ignore the fear and just do it. So far I’ve failed at waking up and writing before work, but at least I forced myself to sit down tonight.

What makes it easier is the outline. I know what has to happen in each scene. I just have to invent characters and words that come out of their mouths.

Some story secrets…

The duck story
Is based on an actual incident. A relative of mine once stopped traffic to help a baby duck who had fallen through a sewer grate.

Getting fired from a TV job
Is obviously inspired by my own experience in radio. Yes, I was fired. No, I try not to hold a grudge. I changed it to TV so it would be more visual. I’m pretty sure I could improve this section with the proper research, so I should talk to some TV behind-the-scenes people before writing the second draft. Still, I’m trying to move forward — keep writing, no matter the errors, and fix it later.

Drinking
Is what I did the day I was fired. That day was St. Patrick’s Day, by the way. It was a surreal experience to be in a bar that night, let me tell you.

Here’s the latest pages:
gamers090402-2

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The first two pages represent a head start, something I wrote a year ago. You can read along on the “script in progress” page or download the PDF from the link below.

gamers090401.pdf

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The grand experiment has begun, and I have a new blog. Now I sleep. I’ll write in the morning!

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