Numbered Shooting Script. 133 pages. Dated March 1998
The action spectacular that needs no introduction (but let’s give it one anyway, just to be polite). A genre mashup that combines the color-shifted visual stylings of the Wachowskis and the gravity bending action sequences of a great anime. The reluctant hero, the thumping soundtrack, the bullet-time effect; The Matrix redefined action movies as we exited the 20th century. For anyone that wants to write action, reading this was a no-brainer. So, what do we get?
The PDF I read claims to be the shooting script. Comparing it to the final product, I believe it. The dialogue, the action, everything lines up perfectly with the theatrical release (of course, it could have been cleaned up after the fact). Only one plotline was cut as far as I could tell (which we’ll get to later). Since the Wachowskis were writing AND directing the film, this isn’t a huge surprise. They had a clear vision and it shows on the page.
Right off the bat, the vivid descriptions stand out. Letters on a screen are “shimmering like green electric rivers.”
Not writing is more of a psychological problem than a writing problem. All the time I’m not writing I feel like a criminal. It’s horrible to feel felonious every second of the day. Especially when it goes on for years. It’s much more relaxing actually to work.
Candy corn is one of the most polarizing treats in existence. Want proof? You were either intrigued or repulsed after just reading the title of this post. There’s no middle ground. Sides taken, let the candy war begin.
Nowadays every treat has variations, flavors and holiday versions. From Mint Oreos to Caramel Irish Creme to Crystal Pepsi. Everyone likes to try out a twist on the original. That brings us here.
Intrigued by this new abomination, and firmly in the “candy corn good” camp, I decided to conduct an experiment. Gather friends, coworkers, candy and an audio recorder. Compare the candies labeling themselves as candy corn flavored with the real deal. Simple.
The Blacklist, for the uninitiated, is an annual cultivated list of Hollywood’s most liked screenplays. Industry insiders pick up to 10 scripts making the rounds that they really like, the Black List compiles the ones that get the most mentions and releases a list for everyone to peruse. Some notables you might recognize: Juno, 500 Days of Summer, In Bruges, Slumdog Millionaire, The Hangover.
Monday they revealed their game changer: aspiring screenwriters can submit their screenplays for review. $50 gets you an evaluation (if you get a low score, maybe the script wasn’t as ready as you thought it was). $25 a month gets your script into their database so that industry professionals (who can use the service for free) can search/sort by what they’re trying to make. For example, if someone is an executive for a company that makes low-mid budget crime dramas, they could narrow it down to the highest rated scripts that fit that criteria. Simple.
I’ll admit right now that my scripts are a long way from being ready to be submitted. And that’s ok. I’d rather have a great product that people can enjoy a year from now, then a half-assed one that no one is going to care about (and that will give me a less than stellar reputation). There have been a lot of thoughts online about this new service and what it means and whether it’s worth it (time will tell). Hell there’s even an interview with the Black List creator and an anonymous and bitter puppet. The commentary that caught my attention most was by Amanda over at Aspiring TV Writer:
[quote style=”boxed”]I have always maintained that the path to being a professional film or TV writer is simple (though not easy): 1. write a great script, and 2. find someone important who likes it – and in my experience, most writers think that #2 is their problem when it’s actually #1.[/quote]
Essentially, don’t worry about what to do with a script once you’re done, instead think more about if you’re done. Even if I never use the service, it’s helpful having this little reminder that it’s easier to get my script out there than it was just a few days ago. Accepting that the burden is on me to be excellent, not on some nameless executive to finally realize how brilliant I am, is quite a relief.
Melancholy electronic is the most apt genre I can fit this into. What other album has a depressed robot voice serenading you? You’ve probably heard at least one of his tracks on the Battle Los Angeles trailer. Beautiful and sad. Definitely not an album for a bright summer’s day.
This album is for those epic scenes. Clashes between titans, blood and guts, triumph and defeat. Heavy on chanting, drums and rising and falling. This album pumps you up, readying you for the fight ahead. Touches of Gladiator and maybe a hint of Batman for good measure. Probably not that useful for dialogue heavy scenes or romantic comedies. Unless your rom-com has battle sequences. In which case, can I read it?
Sometimes it’s just an instrument that pulls you in. The high and sharp tones of a flute. The waver of a trumpet. With Zoe Keating, it’s the cello. The hypnotic strings vibrating across your spine. This is for those contemplative stretches in your fiction. For when your character is on a journey and they don’t quite know where they’ll end up. And maybe, neither do you.
I swear not everything I write about has to do with insects. Just this one. And, um, this other one. And possibly this.
The Setup: While exploring the many square feet of my backyard, I nearly run into a spiderweb at eye level. This is a common occurrence. I can be seen, on the regular, walking with my arms flailing about in front of me as I make my way around the property. Dog paddling in the air. It’s dignified.
Just as I spot this particular web and stopped, a dragonfly fails to see it and became entangled. Its wings flap furiously but it is unable to break free. It looked a little bit like this:
Ok, it looked exactly like that.
Dramatic, but I chose to take no sides in this battle of arachnid vs flying insect. After a short consultation with my significant other, I learned that was the wrong choice. So back outside I went to save the less creepy insect from his new role as supper. Hooray!
Upon my return to the scene of the crime the dragonfly was still as frustrated as ever. Don’t worry buddy, the highly advanced human is here to help. Snip. One of the 3 anchors of the web cut. Snip, there goes another. Now it’s just the dragonfly dangling from the top of the garage, just out of reach. I’ll need a longer stick to knock it down. Of course, just as I’m searching the ground, looking for the perfect stick to finish my journey and become Sean, insect savior, something else happens: WE HAVE A NEW CHALLENGER.
The owner of the once effective spider web before me is descending down the remaining thread. Rapidly.
I move faster, looking for a stick to cut off that last strand. The dragonfly notices the spider too and tries again to break free. I finally find a small branch on the ground, lift it up and throw it at the tiny target. And miss.
The spider, about the size of a silver dollar, compact hairy and dark, reaches the dragonfly. It does what everyone does when a spider lands on you: it flips its shit. Wings beating at an incredible speed, the dragonfly makes a last ditch effort to avoid being eaten. The web rocks back and forth. SLAM. The vibrations jostle the spider loose, knocking it to the ground. It lays motionless where it fell. The dragonfly does a small “take that” flap of its wings and relaxes.
Ok, wow. This bug has earned it now. I grab the scrubber from the bbq brush and cut the dragon free. It celebrates its freedom by dropping to the ground like a rock. A foot away from the unmoving body of the spider.
So it seems that having wings covered in spiderwebs doesn’t make for an easy getaway. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to clean a bug’s wings without accidentally snapping them off (and I doubt the dragonfly would voluntarily let me give it a bath). So I go inside for a consult.
Long story even longer, guests arrived, hugs, conversation, yadda yadda. 15 minutes later I go back, fully intent to spritz the dragonfly with a gentle setting from the hose. Because every problem can be solved with high-pressure water. When I go back outside, I don’t hear any wings flapping. In fact, I don’t see the dragonfly anywhere. Curious. I keep looking. I also don’t see the spider (who I had presumed deceased) either. Oh.
So I guess what I’m saying is: Don’t get involved in the affairs of insects. It’s trouble. Hell, maybe the spider learned the errors of its predatory ways, made up with the dragonfly, and they eloped to an island to live in sin (the dragonfly barely above the waves, the spider on his back, his hair blowing in the wind). Or they both went to their corners, called it a day and moved on.
Or a bird came along and ate them both.
I wrote this script as part of an online course at the local city college. I got to be taught by a professional, on a flexible schedule, with deadlines that forced me to write consistently. Perfect. I realized I needed a kick in the pants to actually take my story somewhere beyond the one paragraph introduction that sat on my computer for years. That’s an important detail: know what you need in order to get something done. Structure, guidance, encouragement, etc. Work within that framework until the momentum takes you from idea to idea, script to script, job to job. Just getting into (and finding) that groove at the start was the hardest part for me. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Here’s the typical flow for an idea to become a beautiful butterfly of a script: Brainstorm –> Logline –> Summary –> Outline –> Screenplay
This is a combination of my own process over the years (writing nonsense) and tools learned in the screenwriting classes I’ve taken (all 2 of them). I should also point out that I have a degree in Film Studies, so some of the language/structure/flow came more naturally to me than my classmates for these courses.
The only deviation this particular script took was that it started out as a book for the NanoWriMo competition. I didn’t get far (only a few paragraphs really) and that’s where it stayed for years.
I’ve completed my first original full length screenplay. In this case “completed” means that I’ve finished one terrible first draft and that it has many more drafts to go before it could be considered “good”. Still, I’m pretty proud of it.
As this was my first original script (I have previously completed a page-one* rewrite for a competition), it seems only fitting to look back and figure out what I’ve learned, what I’ve botched, and what the hell I thought I was doing. Not necessarily in that order.
I’ll be posting my “Lessons Learned” over the next week. Hopefully they’ll prove useful/insightful/distracting to even non-writers.
*A page-one rewrite is one in which you take the basic premise (it can be the characters, the setting, dialogue, whatever) and then go back to page one and just write your own version of things. In that case I kept the setting, the premise, added some characters, added some action scenes, and changed almost every single line of description and dialogue. It was just easier than hacking away.
While making dinner the other night, we discovered that the tray we were roasting our sweet potatoes on looked remarkable “70s-ish” with all the brown and yellow colors. So I snapped a shot, extracted the colors, and this palette is what you get. Feel free to use it however you see fit. I might throw together a poster using these with some of the new typefaces I downloaded today as well.
Lint almost killed me the other night.
Not in a “Haha, I had no idea lint knew so many ‘Yo Momma’ jokes!” kind of way. Killed as in physically dead.
To the explanation booth!
Our laundering devices (you may know them as a washer and a dryer) are located outside, under an awning, backed against the detached garage. They are exposed to the elements. Spiders and raccoons are common visitors (tho not together, not since the war). An old and decrepit shelving unit sits next to the dryer. It mostly serves as a place to throw excess lint from the trap (because I’m too lazy to walk 30ft to the trashcan).
This has built up over the years. So much so that one entire shelf is lint. A multicolored fluffy wonderland.
I venture out there to put some newly washed clothes into the dryer, as is my custom. Given my carefree nature and disregard for social norms, I throw open the dryer door with reckless abandon. Ok, so I opened it a bit too enthusiastically (I love dry clothes). The door swings open, smacking into the old bookcase (take that!). And then, a soft buzz.
A buzz? Looking closer at the shelf, I notice a container of some chemical agent. Maybe it’s just letting off pressure from my abrupt jostling.
Instead of dissipating, the buzzing builds. Louder and angrier. The lint is mad at me.
Out from the castoffs of a million dried towels burrows a furry insect. And then another. And then 5 more. Then 20.
Fucking BUMBLE BEES.
They come out into the crisp night air to get a good look at the assclown that thought he could disrupt their slumber and get away with it. A few take flight. At this point, three thoughts are going through my head (in this order):
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1) Do bumble bees sting?*
2) Insects are cold-blooded. How quickly will they die in the night air?*
3) Can someone edit my obituary so it doesn’t say that I was killed doing laundry?*
So I close the doors to the washing machines and dryer (distraction tactic!) and run for the house. They won’t take me this night! Of course, I was ducking and swearing and swinging my arms around like a fool while I was doing this. Dignity was not an option.
Oh, I should mention; I’m quite allergic to bee/wasp stings. I had angered the wrong insect.
But all is well. Sure, they’re still living in the lint, and now I do laundry wearing a hazmat suit, but maybe this is the opening salvo in peace talks between our two peoples.
“I’m sorry I hit your house with the dryer door.”
“It’s ok, we just think about what honey REALLY is and laugh our stingers off.”
*Turns out the answer are 1) Yes, as much as they like (the stingers don’t fall out). 2) They have insulation so that they can venture out into the cold, the tricky bastards. and 3) They’d keep it. It’s just too good of a joke to pass up. Once in a lifetime.
I’m 2/3rds of the way through my first original screenplay. I’m at the end of Act II. I’ve beaten and bruised the spirit/body of my main characters and they anxiously await to see how it all shakes out (as am I).
I’ll have a summary of how it’s going in the next few days. Wish me luck.