Nothing to do in April, as the cold winds begin to roll in and you feel it’s almost socially acceptable for you to wrap yourself in a massive doonah and disappear for months on end, until forced once more out of your little cocoon by the hot weather?
Yeah. That’s how I felt mid-March this year. So I thought I’d try something different. I decided to try out Script Frenzy. What is Script Frenzy, you may ask? Well, it’s to screenwriting what Nanowrimo is to novel-writing. Essentially it challenges you to write a 100-page script – TV, film, stage – in the month of April. Sounds like fun, right? I thought so, while I was pondering how I was going to celebrate the long winter nights that were fast approaching. And so I decided to take a leap into previously uncharted writing territory. Essentially, this was my thought process...
1.) I need something to do. What would be better than challenging myself by trying out a new form of creative writing? Clearly, trying to write a novel right now just isn’t happening. Who knows? Maybe I was never meant to be an author. Maybe I was supposed to become a world-famous screenwriter with Oscars lining my shelf, cruising down the streets of Los Angeles with Ray Bans on my head and a Starbucks latte in one hand. Yeah..
2.) I know all about movies! I mean, I watch a lot. So... I must know about them, right?
Yeah. Apparently film, like so many of those things which appear so simplistic and elegant to the untutored mind, is actually insanely complex. There’s so many rules and conventions to follow that it makes your head spin. Also, as I’ve learned, a scriptwriter is NOT a director and apparently, directors don’t appreciate upstart screenwriters telling them, down to the very last detail, how their movie should look. Of course I’ve always been the sort of person who likes to occasionally mess around with conventions in my writing, but apparently with scriptwriting, there’s a line. What sort? Well, to answer that we must examine my third train of thought...
3.) It’ll be easy to write; I’ll just type it up in Word like my Nano novel! No expensive software or dodgy downloads required!
Oops. I took one look at the style guide for MS Word and nearly fainted. Apparently there’s a strict standard when typing up scripts. Have a look if you don’t believe me. Formatting that in Word is an absolute minefield. So what did I do? I broke my sacred rule about not downloading programs onto my laptop, in an effort to keep it free of spyware and other bugs. And I have to admit, Celtx is amazing. I mean, it solves all of your formatting problems. You go from fighting with Templates in Word (“Why won’t you just change to Courier font, WHY?!?!”) to creating gorgeous professional-looking scripts in seconds. Swish! Best of all? It’s free. My attitude towards writing programs is generally, “show me one thing it can do that MS Word can’t.” But when I first began using Celtx I wanted to run down the street singing. It made me feel like a movie star, like a non-neurotic and glamorous version of Nicholas Cage in Adaptation. Only female, of course. And with less flannel in my wardrobe. Not only was it simple, it was actually fun! Which reminds me...
4.) It’ll be FUN!
Like I said, if you don’t have a scriptwriting program, formatting a script in Word is one of the most frustrating exercises you can go through. And if you do manage to tame the Wild Word Beast, there’s always the sorts of experiences you may be familiar with from Nanowrimo. Brain blanks which last for days, lack of motivation, surly, difficult characters that refuse to comply with your requests.... Not to mention dialogue, which I always secretly felt I was pretty good at... until I realised that I had to write people talking almost all the time, and it’s not good when you can’t even distinguish the male from the female characters.
And yet it’s eleven days into April and I think I’ve finally hit the turning-point. Now that I’ve kind of come to grips with scripts and how they work, I can actually focus on the story I’m telling. And to tell you the truth, even if none of the points above turned out quite like I imagined they would, the last one almost turned out better than I could have hoped.
Writing a script can be a lot of fun. It’s one thing to sit down and watch a film, and quite another to sit down in front of your computer and realise just how fine-tuned a process it is, from one tiny person coming up with a great idea for a story to the movie showing up in cinemas across the world. And of course I’m not thinking of even hoping that my first script will one day turn into a film, but it is fun. As a writer I think it’s great to challenge yourself from time to time, and one way is to experiment with different genres or, in this case, different art forms. Writing a script requires imagination and vision, and it’s a great exercise in creating realistic characters and believable dialogue. So April, give me the best you’ve got. I’m ready to write a movie.