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Caught Between Two Screenplays

Screenwriting has become a means of letting creatives channel their innermost thoughts and ideas to life. As a multi-tasker who deplores routine, scriptwriting became the best choice for a writing career. My animation background has allowed me to visualize the scenes and characters as I craft them through words. Merging visual representation with written words became second nature to me as I thought of all the possible script ideas.

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This week, I was faced with something I haven’t dealt with in a while – nothing to do. Since finishing my first act, I found myself pondering my next move before Fall quarter began. I thought about pushing forward with my second act (but then my independent study would be fruitless), and I still need some feedback on my first act. I’d hit a crossroads as I finished revising and rewriting some of my first act earlier than I expected. I knew there was more work to be done, but I needed an unbiased set of eyes to know how well my work is being translated. I thought about working on some pieces I had started a while back. But I was in screenwriting mode and wanted to try my hand at writing another idea I’ve been playing with over the past year or so. I felt a little guilty about starting a new project as if I was cheating on my steady girlfriend with a fun-loving side chick. At the same time, I felt being a free-spirited creative afforded me the advantage of hopping from one project to another. I needed another project to channel all my writing mojo at that moment.

 

Being a Black man writing a screenplay about Black women in a white patriarchal world could be daunting and otherworldly at times. My new project was the total opposite as I began writing a potential children’s series that’s been bubbling for years. This screenplay focused on two brothers and their daily misadventures in their backyard (think of Little Bill and The Backyardigans had a love child). Creating this new effort has sprung open the door to creating more original ideas. My ideas need to be fully formed and ready when my big moment arrives.

I’ve spent the past few days creating whatever my heart desired. I hadn’t done that is a while (it was quite refreshing). Opportunities presented themselves in ways that surprised me. These could be the right direction for me and my future. I still have some loose ends to tie up with school before it starts. My thesis journey has become more and more realistic as my break begins to wind down.


Come back next week for more on my journey to creating my Master’s thesis.

Don’t be a stranger! Leave a comment below.

Working Out the Kinks in the First Act

Writing has always been a discipline that allows the artist to re-shape their vision at any point with no regrets. Screenwriting became an art form for me as I constantly went back and forth about my chosen profession. I’ve enjoyed pondering new ideas and approaches when it comes to scenes, characters, and dialogue. I’ve loved being able to take a story and create turns and twists with each word.

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After taking a breather from my thesis, it was back to business as usual as I began to revise my screenplay. Proofreading has always been a tedious process for me as I spend hours scanning over every phrase and word.  I read over every line and description trying to find grammar and spelling errors. But that’s only part of the story as I read every piece of dialogue trying to perfect my script. I revised and rewrote any and every line as an act of sharpening and defining my characters in a better light. My characters’ words have aided in creating the personality and thoughts I need for this screenplay. Looking over the scenes allowed my creative nonfiction skills come into play as I allowed the city of Atlanta and the places to be its own character in each scene.

During the revising and editing process of my screenplay, I found that some scenes and dialogue weren’t working for me or my vision. I began the process of adding and taking away scenes to flesh out my screenplay. Streamlining my dialogue goes in hand with this as I tried making my script more show than tell. I wanted my first act to be at least halfway there when I start independent study this Fall.

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After my thesis break, I continued my visual work while focusing on my writing. Creating visual content allowed my creative writing to be more fulfilling. While I missed some big opportunities this week, I found myself opening to other opportunities I never saw coming. I’ve begun looking forward to the input from my professors and other writers within the next few weeks. My thesis journey has become more and more realistic as I make screenwriting my calling card.


Come back next week for more on my journey to creating my Master’s thesis.

Don’t be a stranger! Leave a comment below.

Letting the Work Breathe

Being a creative has been both rewarding and draining at the same time. As a multi-faceted individual, I found myself getting bored doing the same task day after day. As a writer, I have my feet in two camps: the traditional “writing every day is the only way to perfect your craft” mindset and the modern “constantly thinking about writing is just as good as doing it” attitude.  Storytelling has been one of my creative loves, but it has been daunting from time to time.

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After spending two months trying to squeeze out my first act, I needed a break from my screenplay. As I mentioned before, working on my first act had been a struggle for me as I worked backward to create this well-rounded setup for my established second act.  From the moment spring quarter ended, I had set my sight on fleshing out my work for thesis in the Fall. I struggled to push myself as a screenwriter while I constantly went back and forth over the decisions I was making as a writer. As a Black man trying to write a musical dramedy centered around a group of Black women, I questioned whether I was the right vessel for this work. I wanted female characters that were nuanced, well-rounded, relatable, and realistic in relaying an important message in a world of #MeToo and #TimesUp. It was mentally taxing on me both as a writer and a person. I was striving for perfection but draining my creative tank at the same time. Writing the last words of act one was both satisfying and tiring as I let go of my work. It needed to breathe. I needed to breathe. The break has allowed me to think of new ways to approach my screenplay when it comes to my revisions and rewrites.

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While on my thesis break, I decided to focus on a previous short story I had written as well as some personal and client-based visual work. Not focusing on my screenplay allowed my creative tank to refill in a serious way. As I mentioned last week, Getting critiques from other writing students and some writer friends has become the next step. I’ve looked forward to the input from my professors and other writers in the Fall. My thesis journey will have its ups and downs as I strive to create my calling card as an aspiring writer.


Come back next week for more on my journey to creating my Master’s thesis.

Don’t be a stranger! Leave a comment below.

Working the Setup

The key to any decent screenplay is creating a good setup in the first act. As an aspiring screenwriter, the first act is my way of setting up tone, relationships, and plot so that everything comes to a head in the second act. All the drama and conflict is planted in the first act. But this is exceptionally hard since a good portion of my second act was already in motion.

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In a previous post, I alluded to the fact that working backward can be a little hard especially when trying to make a smooth transition from the first to the second. The past month or so has been an exercise in world building and character development. It has been a struggle to push myself as a screenwriter to create something different while thinking about my various influences. Added stress comes from the fact that I’m a Black man trying to write a musical dramedy centered around a group of Black women. I want to be nuanced and well-rounded while still being relatable and realistic to the story I’m trying to tell. I’ve written for female characters before, but this seems to weight heavier as I craft this piece with full awareness. I want to a female-centric screenplay where males are secondary to the main story. In crafting this screenplay, researching the issue of Black women in the music industry and watching a variety of biopics and musicals have helped me to flesh out the story. Hopefully, getting some more input from women of color and musicians will smooth out my screenplay once I get into my second act.

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Having finished my first act this week, I’m going to let it sit for a bit before I end up doing revisions. My next step is to get a critique from my fellow Scaddies and some writer friends before Fall quarter begins. By getting a head start on my thesis, my independent study will be more fruitful as I look forward to the input from my professors and other writers as I inch closer to finishing my Master’s degree. My thesis journey is more about creating something tangible and realistic than working on a writing assignment.


Come back next week for more on my journey to creating my Master’s thesis.

Don’t be a stranger! Leave a comment below.

Rewriting Your Screenplay

After all the revising and editing, something might be gnawing at your mind and spirit – does this screenplay work for my vision. This thought can pop into your head after reshaping and editing your screenplay. In today’s blog, I’ll on rewriting your spec script to match your true vision.

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Rewriting can be a daunting task when you try to rework what you’ve spent months even years working on your passion project. This allows you to escape the creative box you’ve painted yourself into. It’s important to have your work for whatever occasion arises.

During the revising and editing process of my screenplay, I found that the format and structure I used in my screenplay wasn’t working for me or my vision. I was trying to make a half-hour dramedy to an hour-long drama. It lacked the intensity and hilarity I originally envisioned for my first project. I needed to reclaim my original premise and characters I planned all those years ago.

Now, as I begin to think about my concept, reshaping my script is going to affect every aspect of my overall package. When the time is right I will be prepared.n-screenplay-628x314

 

The goal of rewriting your work is to help prepare you for the endgame – optioning your idea for film, television or the web. Just remember to keep your eyes on the prize.

In reading this post, I hope you will feel better about the rewriting process. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

As I end my run with The Screenwriting Forum, it has been a pleasure writing this blog. The amount of information and advice I shared in this experience helped me to grow as much as it did my readers. I loved the community that has formed from this blog. And I hope to continue this positive and encouraging environment as I moved on to my new blog.

Come back within the next few days for my new venture.

Submitting Your Screenplay

After registering your screenplay, the next task is to submit your screenplay to different outlets.  In today’s blog, I’ll speak on how and where to submit your work.

Submissions are instrumental in getting your work acknowledged by the entertainment industry.  It’s important to let people outside of your family and friends see and read your screenplay.

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Remember to register with the WGA East, WGA West or international here to register your script. Don’t forget about your logline and treatment because most of contests and competitions will want them before seeing your script.

For any screenwriter worth their weight, entering your screenplay into various contests and competitions is a must. It signifies your script is ready to be seen by individuals in the industry. Getting veterans to see your script is key to making gains into the industry.

Here are some fellowships, contests, and competitions for you to consider:

Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting

Big Break Screenwriting Contest

CAPE New Writers Fellowship

The CBS Writers Mentoring Program

Disney│ABC Writing Program

Film Independent Episodic Lab

Film Independent Project Involve

Film Independent Screen Writers Lab

FOX Writers Lab

Nickelodeon Writing Program

NBC Writers on the Verge

ScreenCraft’s Screenwriting Fellowship

Sundance Episodic Story Lab

Sundance Feature Film Program

Sundance YouTube New Voices Lab

Tribeca All Access

Universal Writers Program

Warner Bros. Television Writers’ Workshop

With my own screenplays, I have submitted my work to various contests and competitions. It’s too early to tell what feedback I’ll get, but the fact that I submitted is a great start.

As I rewrite my spec script, I keep the idea of submitting to different outlets in the back of my mind. Now, my rewrite will be representative of my true vision as a creative. So submitting to contests and competitions will be more rewarding.

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The goal of submitting your work is to help prepare you for the endgame – optioning your idea for film, television or the web. Like last week, keep your eyes on the prize.

Hopefully, reading this post will submission process less anxiety-filled. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week for a surprise.

Registering Your Screenplay

After reshaping your story bible, the next task is to register your screenplay and all its assets. Registration is key in creating a viable property in your screenwriting future. In today’s blog, I’ll speak on how important registration is.

Registration is instrumental in solidifying your finished script as an intellectual property for your creative gain. This comes into play when submitting your screenplay to contests or optioning for a film/television deal. It’s important to have ownership of your work for whatever occasion arises.

With that said, let’s talk about how to register your screenplay.

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For any screenwriter worth their weight, the Writers Guild is the destination for copyright and trademark of your work. It signifies that you have an intellectual property worthy of being something one day. You have to have your own back as a creative when it comes to your script.

Here are the links to the WGA East and WGA West for my U.S. readers. For my international readers, here is another link to find what guild you can register with.

 

 

With my own screenplay, procrastination and perfectionism set me back awhile as I tried shaping and molding my work into what I wanted it to be. Registering my screenplay happens to be the biggest hurdle I had as a screenwriter, but eventually, my confidence in my writing leads to a certificate from the WGA.

As I rewrite my spec script, the thought of re-registering my script has come to mind. Now, my rewrite and reshaped story bible will be representative of my true vision. When the time is right I will be prepared.

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The goal of registering your work is to help prepare you for the endgame – optioning your idea for film, television or the web. Like last week, keep your eyes on the prize.

In reading this post, I hope you will have a better understanding of what ownership means to any screenwriter with a dream and some decent words. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week as I speak on preparing your screenplay for submissions.

Packaging Your Screenplay Part 2 – Revising and Shaping Your Bible

Once the logline and treatment have been revamped, you can focus other aspects. Any screenwriter with a vision will want one for when their big moment finally arrives. But once the revising and editing process has slowed down, revisiting the bible is a must. In today’s blog, I’ll tackle a screenwriter’s best friend – the series/film bible.

If loglines and treatments are the mission statement and slogan for your vision, then the story bible is the handbook of your well-crafted vision. It’s the foundation of your screenwriting. Your bible sets the tone for your story will be for the next 90 minutes or 5 seasons.

For me, my story bible has shifted quite a bit since I first wrote my pilot. The same premise has remained in tack, but episode orders, plotlines and more have changed as my needs for the overall story have. Remember to always keep your premise even as your story shifts from time to time.

With that said, let’s explore how to repurpose your story bible.

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Retooling a story bible can be a daunting yet rewarding task as you want the bible to be in sync with your pilot. With that in mind, a series/film bible is described as:

a reference document used by screenwriters for information on a television series’/film’s characters, settings, and other elements that keep the content consistent throughout its course.

With loglines and treatments are short and concise, a story bible tends to vary in length depending on what stage in the process you’re at.

There are two schools of thought in television and film about story bibles. As mentioned by Screencraft, there are more traditionalists like screenwriting master Jacob Kruger who puts it as:

What they’re really asking is proof that you know what you’re doing, and that your series pilot not only has a fabulous premise and collection of castable characters we’d want to spend our time binge-watching, but also has the kind of engine required to run for at least five years.

He feels many producers and studios still have the mentality of world-building as king. He suggests the tried-and-true structure listed below:

  • A series logline (including all the elements from your original pitch).
  • Short character bios for each character detailing who he or she is along with their wants, and what they will do to get it.
  • A short overview paragraph describing the story arc of the first season.
  • Summaries of each first-season episode, including a title and a nutshell description for each episode by restating the characters’ wants and needs and the rising conflicts.
  • A short summary of seasons two through five (with short being the keyword; leave the producers and executives wanting more).

On the opposite end, there is producer/script editor Lucy V. Hay who feels the traditional method can be boring and long. Hay champions brevity as she states, “Knowing this helps you focus your vision and your pitch to the right network.” She suggests this four to five-page format:

  • A one-page pitch
  • One page of character profiles for all characters
  • Short synopses of all episodes following the pilot
  • A page or so detailing the format (who the returning characters are, intended channel, intended slot, and so on)

 

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Courtesy of Bang2Write

I have to admit I fall more into the traditionalist lane as I craft TV scripts with a series being the goal. I love the idea of world-building and giving background to every aspect of my script. While it is a challenge, I love having the vision to be fully planned out before someone sees my hard work.

The revising and editing process can make it hard to stare at your meticulously planned bible and say “I need to start over.” That moment can be a heartbreak for any writer especially your average screenwriter. It means you have to go back to the drawing board and go through the shaping and plotting all over again.  But it’s okay because you have shifted your vision, and your story bible needs to reflect that. You can still keep the bones while you lay on the flesh.

I’m going through the process as I write this blog. After rethinking my spec script, I figured out some of my issues are related to the bible I create. Now, I am reconstructing what my episodes and modifying my series trajectory.

When redoing your bible, you have to keep your screenplay in mind. It has to reflect what the themes, characters, plot, settings, and etc. are now rather than the previous revision(s). As I have gone through the revising process, I have found myself looking back at the story bible every time to see if it still captures the premise of my script. Now as I make some changes to it, I have to let the past go as I reshape my vision to its true form.

 

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The goal with this writing staples is to help shape and mold your vision to what your endgame is going to be – optioning your idea for film, television or the web. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Hopefully, reading this post will relieve your anxiety about tackling your series/film bible. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week for registering your screenplay and preparing it for submission.

Packaging Your Screenplay Part 1 – Revising a Treatment and Logline

Once free from the creativity drainer known as writer’s block, the preparation for shopping and optioning your screenplay will commence. Even before writing your screenplay, two key elements are needed – a logline and treatment. But once the revising and editing process has slowed down, revisiting the logline and treatment is a must. In today’s blog, I’ll dive into redoing your logline and treatment for your big moment.

Loglines and treatments are like the mission statement and slogan for your vision. They set the blueprint for what your story will become once you begin writing/typing your script. Even though your story might change course here and there, your logline and treatment are there to keep you from veering too far off course.

For me, my logline and treatment have remained the same since I first wrote my pilot. Of course, there have been some minor tweaks along the way, but pretty much the same premise has remained in tack. Remember to always keep your premise in mind when redoing your logline and treatment.

With that said, let’s explore how to repurpose your logline and treatment.

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Logline

Retooling a logline can be both amazing and challenging. As the definition states,  a logline is

a brief (usually one-sentence) summary of a television program, film, or book that states the central conflict of the story, often providing both a synopsis of the story’s plot, and an emotional “hook” to stimulate interest.

Being short and concise is the key to crafting a great logline. So once you’ve come up with one, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

The revising and editing process can make it hard to look at your well-crafted logline and think “this doesn’t speak to the story I have now.” That moment can be a heartbreak for any writer especially your average screenwriter. It means you have to go back to the drawing board and go through the brainstorming process all over again.  But it’s okay as now you understand your plot and characters better. Writing the new one will be a little easier.

When redoing your logline, you have to keep your screenplay in mind. It has to inhibit the plot and characters as they are now not from the previous revision(s). Just remember to keep the setting, characters, inciting incident, conflict, and goals in mind. As I have gone through the revising process, I have found myself looking back at the logline every time to see if it still captures the premise of my script. Every revision causes a tweak to the logline in some form or fashion. Keep calm and go with the flow.

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Treatment

Long before the first word of your screenplay is typed or written, your treatment plots out how your story will come together and take shape. Treatment follows its definition to a tee:

a piece of prose, typically the step between scene cards and the first draft of a screenplay, longer and more detailed than an outline that reads like a short story, but describes the events as they happen in the present tense.

The treatment allows you to write your screenplay without worrying or over thinking every little detail. Trust me that’s a godsend for a type A personality like me and my racing thoughts. It provides structure while allowing for wiggle room where needed.

The revising and editing process can throw your well thought-out treatment for a loop. It feels like your world is coming to an end as you go back to start tweaking dialogue and rearranging scenes to best fit the story in its new form.  But it’s okay as now you understand that all the moving parts are now working in tangent with each other. Writing the new one will be an undertaking but so worth it.

Like your logline, retooling your treatment make you refer to your revised screenplay. It has to follow the story’s new course instead of the previous one. As I’ve gone through the revising process, I found myself tweaking the treatment as I rewrote and edited my script. The same vision I had, in the beginning, did not reflect the current state of my screenplay. Every revision trickles down to the treatment in some way. Just remember to keep your vision in tack.

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The goal with these two writing staples is to help shape and mold your vision to what your endgame is going to be – optioning your idea for film, television or the web. Keep your eyes on the promised land.

Hopefully, reading this post will aid you in rethinking and revising your treatment and logline. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week for more on deconstructing and reconstructing your film/series bible.

Writer’s Block Part 2 – Finding Relief

After dealing with the symptoms and causes of writer’s block, writing a screenplay can be a stressful situation so why add this foe of all writers into the mix. In today’s blog, I’ll dive into some resolutions to help deal with this plague.

Dealing with writer’s block can be a major stressor to any screenwriter. Sometimes, all you need is a changeup or some personal time to get back into the creative flow. When I was writing my pilot, I found myself staring at a blank computer screen for moments at a time. I would back away from the screen and watch some Korean variety shows to get back in the fold.

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In that spirit, I’ll give you some tips on breaking out of your writer’s block.

Research

If you find yourself questioning some of your writing decisions (characters, settings, actions), research can a huge aid in breaking through writer’s block. Looking up culture aspects of a character’s background or real places for your fictional world can great in pushing through and developing your screenplay. During the writing process for my pilot, I spent half of my time reading books and looking up pages and forums online to get a better breadth of my characters’ various backgrounds.

Change of scenery

Any writer who’s been handcuffed to their computer or notebook all day will tell you that changing your environment will open up your creative world. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking a walk outside. You can go grocery shopping, meeting friends for lunch, seeing the afternoon matinee, etc. Any chance to be out and about in the world is a great opportunity to get inspiration. My favorite thing to do is going to a shopping center or grocery store and observe people as I run my errands.

Reading outside of your medium

Screenwriting is amazing, but sometimes, you can get into a little rut with the format as your creative well begins to run dry. Reading outside of your screenwriting territory is crucial in keeping the creativity flowing. Find a nice book. magazine, or blog site to get some inspiration for your characters, plots, settings, etc. My usual reading selection goes between historical fiction, mystery, graphic novels, and memoirs. I can always find inspiration in those mediums.

Tap into other creative outlets

Besides reading outside of the medium, you use other creative outlets to inform your script and its world. Being an artist allows you to be a multifaceted individual so embrace it. Anyone who is thinking about or in the thick of screenwriting usually has a background in some other forms of writing. But there’s also other forms of art that can get those creative juice going. Before becoming an aspiring screenwriter, I got my Bachelor’s degree in animation along with having a background in every aspect of the fine arts.

Try other activities

A piece of advice is not all your activities have to be creative-focused. Sometimes, you have to let your mind go blank and enjoy some mindless fun. After a day of writing, you need to unwind in some way. Video games, film, television, etc. Just embrace it all. I spend my free time going between video gaming, listening to music or catching up on my favorite TV series and podcasts online.

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When there seems to be no relief for writer’s block, a breakthrough happens, and the words begin to flow from your fingertips to the computer screen or notebook.

Hopefully, reading this post will help in getting out of the fog known as writer’s block. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week for more on creating the full screenwriting experience.

 

 

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