There’s this thing going round …
Don’t worry, it’s not contagious.
Well, technically it is. I mean, plenty of people have had it before me and plenty more will have it afterwards, so it’s sort of contagious … but not really. You can’t catch it by being sneezed on or sitting on the wrong toilet or licking a doorknob.
At least, I don’t think you can. If anyone wants to go and lick a doorknob and report back, that would be extremely helpful.
But no, you can’t. I already knew that, I just sent you off to lick things because I enjoy wielding that kind of power over you. You can’t catch it from doorknobs because it’s an Internet thing. Specifically the Internet thing called The Blog Tour.
It’s a meme, I guess. Do they still call them memes? Or have they got a new name now? Like ‘zupers’ or ‘demdams’ or ‘xxyjrnmm’? I have no idea, for I am old and … well, sadly not grey yet. Still ginger, but working on it.
Anyway, back in my day we called them memes and we did them when we were told to do them. Which I have been. By Jason Arnopp, no less, in this very blog post here.
He tagged me …
Do you crazee kidz still call it tagging? Or have you given it a new name like ‘catweezling’ or ‘flibbart’ or ‘m’hinge’?
Stalling? Me? Why, yes, I suppose I am. No, I don’t know why either.
Jason tagged me and now I have to answer these four questions …
Well, I don’t have to. It’s not like Arnopp’s going to visit me in the dead of the night and scoop out my kidneys with a warm spoon. Actually, he might. He’s like that.
1) What am I working on?
I guess it depends how you define ‘working on’. Scriptwriting isn’t really a digital job. It’s not on or off. Projects hang around for years after they’ve been ‘finished’, sometimes looming out of the fog of the distant past like an iceberg which needs completely restructuring so that it’s made of blancmange instead of ice because the producer has found a financeer who’s got a girlfriend made out of blancmange.
Or something like that.
Similarly, but completely differently, I’m working on scripts without actually writing anything because I’m either thinking about it or the client is and any month now they’re going to get back in touch and I’m going to explode into a frenzied bout of typing … despite looking, to all intents and purposes, like I’m lying on the sofa watching Person of Interest.
So I guess a better way of wording this would be “What projects have you got active?”
Well, since you put it like that:
- A high concept drama/thriller feature thing.
- A high concept, family-friendly action-adventure franchise based on a pre-existing public domain property which is incredibly well-known throughout the whole world and yet no one’s ever made this kind of film about it.
- A sci-fi/adventure TV pilot which is something I’ve written just for me. Hopefully for someone else at some point, but just for me at the moment.
- A series proposal for someone else.
- And a veritable pile of one pagers for a friend so we can pick which one to develop into a script.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
It doesn’t? Or it’s worse? One of those two.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Because it either interests me or someone’s paying me to or both. Ideally both. In the past, if someone was paying me to write something which didn’t interest me, I tried to fit it with a theme which did interest me. Nowadays I just say no. Saying no is much easier.
4) How does my writing process work?
I tend to start with the idea and think about it for as long as possible.
Then I try to find the irony in it – which character would be best to tell this story? Who’s the most unlikely person to go through this journey? When I have the idea, the story and the character then I try to distil it into a sentence.
After that, I brainstorm the shit out of it, just writing down anything which pops into my head which may or may not fit into the film. If I really, really like the first thing I think of, I pop it to one side and try to think of something better. I think it’s pretty important not to stop on the first thing you can imagine … because that’s often the first thing everyone else can imagine too.
Which is not good.
Except when it is.
Afterwards, I collate the brainstorming document into a slightly neater version which actually makes sense.
My pile of ideas, characters and motivations collected, I go back to the sentence and turn it into a logline(ish) and a synopsis. I’ll probably do this three of four times until I’m happy with it.
Incidentally, if you’re producer reading this – this bit takes a long fucking time to get to. It takes a lot of thought to get to the point where I can ‘jot down’ a quick one-pager.
Then I hit the index cards like a fucking banshee. Which basically means just putting them down on the table or up on the board, depending on how saucy I’m feeling that day. I start with eight cards and give each section of the film a name like “Finding the cheese” or “Run! It’s Jesus!” or something like that.
When I can sum up each eighth of the film with a pithy, annoying phrase then I break each bit down into a beginning, middle and end and add extra cards in until there are (roughly) five or six cards per eighth. I usually go back to the neatened brainstorming session to make sure I’ve not forgotten anything/changed my mind.
Now, it’s treatment time. My treatments tend to be roughly ten pages which makes one page roughly equivalent to one rough page. Roughly.
Incidentally, if you’re a producer reading this, to “bash out” a quick ten-page treatment involves thinking of EVERYTHING WHICH IS GOING TO BE IN THE FUCKING FILM IN ITS ENTIRETY FROM BEGINNING TO FUCKING END. That’s why it takes a little while. Just saying.
I tend to do three or four drafts of the treatment too – until I’ve got something I really like.
Then it’s script time, which is like Hammer Time but with less trousers. Scripting is where I realise the map isn’t the territory and none of it makes any fucking sense from the trenches. I probably do five or six drafts of each script before it gets to production … and then five or six more during pre-production and five or six more during production.
Incidentally, if you’re a producer reading this, it is five or six drafts. Only naming every third one a new draft doesn’t stop all of them being a new draft, it just stops you paying for them.
The general rule of thumb is all the changes made during development make the script better, all the changes made during pre-production make the script cheaper and all the ones made during production just fucking ruin it.
And that’s my process. I follow this religiously. Except when I don’t. Which is most of the time.
Wow! Those were long answers, weren’t they? I like my answer to number two best, because it’s short.
Still with me? We’re nearly done. The only thing left is to tag the three folk I want to pass this thing onto. Obviously, I’d love to pass it on to all of you; but some of you have already had it and are therefore immune. The rest of you who aren’t tagged … sorry. Unless you didn’t want to be tagged, in which case … you’re welcome.
Rosie Claverton is a screenwriter and novelist. She grew up in Devon, daughter to a Sri Lankan father and a Norfolk mother, surrounded by folk mythology and surly sheep. She moved to Cardiff to study Medicine and adopted Wales as her home.
Her short film “Dragon Chasers” aired on BBC Wales in Autumn 2012 and her debut mystery novel “Binary Witness” will be published by Carina Press on 5th May 2014.
Currently exiled to London, she lives with her journalist husband and their pet hedgehog.
Rosie’s brilliant. She wrote on Persona and was utterly wonderful at it. She’s a great writer. Hire her.
Hi, I’m Danny Stack. Phill asked me to provide a short bio of around 75 words, so I’ve wasted quite a few already with this intro. And I decided not to go with the ‘third person’ bio style, too, just to give it a go, but it’s actually much more awkward doing it this way than saying ‘he doesn’t like referring to himself in the third person’. Anyways! I’m a screenwriter, script readery-type person who also directs when I get the chance. And, um, my 75 words are up so I should point you to my website, I guess http://dannystack.com
If you’re a UK writer who doesn’t know Danny either through his own work, the Red Planet Prize or his podcast with Tim Clague … then shame on you. Give up now, you’ve failed to demonstrate the minimum required level of interest in your chosen career.
Rob Stickler wants to be a successful writer. He finished his first feature length script at eighteen and hasn’t given up yet.
He main focus is scriptwriting. People sometimes like his stuff.
He is Welsh and a vegetarian. His hobbies include drinking tea and reading comics in the bath. He dislikes flags, meanness and writing about himself.
He lives in the Midlands with his wife, their son and a cat called Nyssa.
Rob was one of the first wave of scriptwriting bloggers from back in the dark days of the Internet (2007). A wild time, a time without laws or iPhones, a time when people had to be content with phones which could browse all of the Internet, had proper GPS navigation and could make video calls.*
Okay, I’m done now. I’m going to stop.
*Yes, I know iPhones can do 2 of those 3 things now; but they couldn’t then. This sentence is here purely to annoy one person who reads this blog and expects me to try and annoy him.