Monday, January 19, 2009

Beat it out, bitch

I'm going to share a little screenwriting secret tip with you because, as the incomparable Robert McKee scolds in his seminal Story seminar, NOT ONE OF YOU WILL DO IT.

What, pray tell, is the secret to storytelling?

Beat it out, bitch.

Or the verbage I commonly employ, "I'm Beating out ______ (fill in movie title)."

It's no accident that PISTOLERAS is my best script. I studied over fifty spaghetti westerns while writing it. The draft that won two contests was my seventeenth and had been workshopped twice with actors and audience.

I'm now on lucky Draft Eighteen. Even if I don't have to rewrite it for casting and locations (HIGHLY UNLIKELY), the twentyfirst through twentyfifthish drafts will be written with Todd in the editing room over six months of sweat (assuming THE COMMUNE is any indication).

Some easy-street lotto ticket, eh?

As Bill Cunningham admonishes you all: DO. THE. WORK.

I'm currently outlining a broad comedy I'm going to begin writing in my mentor's class next week. I can't say what the title or premise is, because she's convinced I could sell it as a pitch in a room tomorrow. But I will tell you...

In the last week during my sick time, I've watched twelve genius comedies and beat them all out. I have over forty pages of single-spaced notes on them: reversals, C plots, blindsides, inciting incidents. Favorite lines. Image systems. Transitions. Every film's blueprint, diagramed and analyzed by me.

That is how you write a great script. It's no different than immersing yourself in a foreign language. Drown in focused celluloid until it infuses every cell of your body and you know your sub-genre's quirks backwards and upside down in the fourth dimension.

Stop bitching. Beat it out. Do the work.

Simple as that.

And if you happen to love that you're up at four am watching TRADING PLACES? That your life rocks that your work was to watch and do book reports on four films that day? So much the better.


David Turner said...

Ma'am, yes, Ma'am!

Anonymous said...

Well said! Let's hear a Hally-Lew-Yah for doing the work. Thanks.

T said...

Very true. I watched the pilot episodes of twelve different one-hour dramas before I started outlining mine. I have stacks of outlines of favorite movies, sitcoms and dramas. I think I should change my middle name to "Outline"

Kid Sis said...

Yea!!!!!! Congrats, guys. Awesome.

Hugo Fuchs said...

Research is the backbone of anything done right.

Nicely worded article, Lis. I'm suprised that lots of people don't, and some won't, do the damned research. Then again, there's the ones that think they're entitled to break the rules without know what they are and how to use them.

My brain needs some downtime right now, so I borrowed Raiders and Star Wars. I wonder if that'll spark off something in the subconcious.