First Script – Debrief Part I – Getting Started

The Process

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.


Brainstorm – This is ongoing. I have several Evernote notes for each project. One is random thoughts, another character bios, another for dialogue snippets, etc. I also find that freewriting (more on this in another post) is quite helpful. Put yourself in front of the computer and start typing. Don’t stop. See what roads your mind wanders down regarding your story.
Logline – This was necessary for the class, but I don’t think it’s required in general. It’s a 1 or 2 sentence summary of your script. Short, sweet and catchy. The idea being that if someone sees your logline, they should be able to see at least a version of that idea as a movie, envision the poster, etc.
Summary/Treatment – 300-500 words (or 1-2 pages) of what happens in your script. Which is a basis for…
Outline – A detailed breakdown of the major scenes (by Act). For example, this script had 11 bullet points in Act I, 19 in Act II (2 of which I didn’t use), and 11 in Act III. This is your base of reference. Some people say they can wing it, but I’m not one of them.
Screenplay – The meat.

Actually Starting

This is the biggie. Actually writing. One can spend an eternity in “research” and “character tweaking”. But after a certain point, you just have to suck it up and write pages.
I often succumb to this most devious of procrastination techniques. It’s not getting started, not because you’re lazy, but because you’re afraid. Afraid that your effort will be subpar, that your work will be laughed at, that you’ll fail at the thing you most want to do. Because hey, if you don’t try, you can’t really fail, right? You’ll still be able to say “Well, I COULD have done it.” Don’t let this bullshit strike you down. Don’t do it. It lies to you. Listen to Yoda if you won’t listen to me.

There is no guarantee of success, but since when has life been about acting on just the guaranteed choices?

Next installment: Doing it. (hehe)