It’s been a couple of months since I’ve blogged about anything, but in that time I’ve been working on a script that I’m going to submit to the BBC’s Script Room, which is the station’s forum for unsolicited scripts. So in other words, I hope I have a good excuse….
Anyway, the past couple of months have reminded me of something that I’ve always struggled with in my writing, and that’s starting and ending the piece. The interesting thing is that I’ve had this experience no matter whether the piece is fiction or non-fiction.
Getting to the latest draft of my current screenplay has made me think about why this might be the case. When you start your screenplay, it’s the culmination of many months of research and preparation of building your plot, your characters and the world they inhabit. It’s understandable that when you sit down in front of your computer/laptop (or pen and paper if you’re old school), then you feel the pressure: you want to do your idea justice.
What I’ve discovered is you just need to put something down on paper. If you remind yourself that, in all likelihood, what you’re writing will change, then that should take a lot of the pressure off the first draft. After all, it’s only draft one, and you are extremely unlikely to produce anything that is ready to be filmed (or submitted/published) at the first attempt.
As for endings, it’s the feeling of taking an idea that you’ve developed and taken to the writing stage, and now it’s over. The writing process may have taken over much of your life, so completing your script may leave you wondering what you’re going to do to fill the time.
However, although a screenplay may be finished in one sense, in another, the idea isn’t. The screenplay is only one part of your story. The production stage will bring your words to life, not least when shot choices are made, or when actors interpret your dialogue. There is also the possibility that the production stage may require alterations to be made to the script. Although rewrites during a shoot can at times suggest a production is in trouble, on some occasions it’s in response to a sudden flash of inspiration from the writer/director, or a suggestion from the actor.
On that note, I’d advise being open to any suggestions from your collaborators, be they actors or directors. As someone who is hoping to write and direct, it’s probably easier to change the script, whereas it can be a ‘challenge’ if you’re a writer when someone changes your work. Sadly though, that’s often the lot of the writer (especially in big studio films), which is why aiming to write and direct, thereby maintaining creative control of your work, is worth considering.
So, whether starting or ending a script, writing a screenplay is a challenge. However, it’s only one part of the filmmaking process, and when the cameras start rolling, it will all have been worth it…