So I sat down today to write this treatment. It’s a horror film, it’s got a good premise, I know who the characters are and I’m ready to go.
Step one: white index cards to mark out the opening image, inciting incident, first act break, midpoint, second act break and closing image.
Step two: put the murders down on red cards. There are six murders throughout the film, so I mark them all down, in order and roughly how and why they happen.
Step three: blue index cards for scenes I want to include. These are scenes which illustrate the theme, are essential clues to solving the mystery, reveal character or are generally just cool and I want them in there. Basically, these are the scenes I know have to happen.
It’s all shaping up nicely. Step away from the board and what have I got … ?
A big bloody hole where the second half of act two should be.
This isn’t meant to be a definitive guide to the film. I don’t plot out every scene on cards before writing the treatment, just the main points to get the spine and shape of the thing. I like to nail down the structure and fill in a few bits of interest to remind me why I wanted to write this thing and the rest I work out organically as I’m writing the treatment. I find this mixture of preparation and on the job creation works best for me. Afterwards I go back to the board and fill in a card for every scene.
The preliminary carding helps me see, with visual aides, where the gaps are. There’s always a bit I haven’t really thought out properly, usually a bit covered by a ‘hi jinks’ ensue type phrase. In this case the gap is a whole quarter of the film. There is nothing going on except one murder and surely that can’t be right? Surely the murders should be getting more frequent towards the end, not less?
The midpoint is when the characters realise there’s a crazed murderer stalking them and all hell breaks loose. The end of the second act is when the characters decide to fight back. Damn it, they’re just not taking this shit anymore.
So what the hell are they doing in the meantime? According to the one pager they’re involved in a deadly cat and mouse game throughout the house and grounds. But now I come to look at it, what the fuck does that mean? If they’re in the grounds, why don’t they just fuck off home? ‘Too far to walk’ is not much of a reason when there’s a knife happy lunatic on your trail.
“Quick, run away!”
“Fuck off! I’m wearing heels and it’s two miles to the nearest village.”
“Is it! Lordy, we’d best go back inside with the homicidal maniac and make a cup of tea.”
Doesn’t ring true, does it?
That’s actual dialogue from the script, by the way.
So I’ve been staring at this story abyss all day and several things have become clear:
- If you stare at things for too long, your eyes stop working. This has something to do with the blind spot in your eye where the optic nerve is. The reason you don’t normally notice a big fucking hole in your vision is because your eyes move about a lot and your brain cleverly fills in the gaps.
- I should stop googling stuff about blind spots and get on with the treatment.
- A character has completely disappeared. She turns up for the finale but seems to have done nothing in-between whilst everyone else is running around screaming about a murderer. Perhaps she was cleaning the oven?
- The characters should just get together in one room and wait for the baddie to come to them. Then they should fuck him up.
- Maybe the baddie should have a gun to prevent all the characters waiting in one place and ganging up on him?
- I need all of the characters to spontaneously lose their mobiles and their ability to open external doors or smash windows.
- I need to rethink this. A lot.