What you're about to read is definitely a Cole's Notes answer. It's a question I get asked every so often, but my response is always the same. I'm sure others do it differently, but this is my routine. For me, every project I've ever started got going with a plot point or situation. Never have I started with a character. I've spoken to some writers who've been inspired by character. I'm not one. Every single thing I've written has started like this and I don't see myself changing anytime soon. Why? Because it works for me. I will add that in the end, to have a successful story you do need both plot and character, but for me, when I start, it's always been plot based.
Once I have the initial plot point I want to explore I then ask myself how do I want this story to end. Once an ending has been conceived I then work in some characters. I'll start asking myself 'what if' and before I know it, I'll have a list of characters, not yet fully developed, but ready to be tossed into this hell I'm about to dream up. After I have some characters, I'll work on developing them a bit further, and by that I mean giving the main characters some internal and external conflict. After all, movies need conflict. Without it, you have nothing. If you plan on writing a script without conflict don't. Just save your time and go write greeting cards.
After I have a good group of characters, and a plot that has an ending I'm happy with, I then begin with building ACT 1. For those newbies reading this ACT 1 introduces everyone and is known as the 'setup.' After I've introduced everyone and have given the audience all it needs to know about what the movie is trying to accomplish, I then proceed to plotting ACT 2 - confrontation. Basically, in ACT 2 what you're doing is tossing crap at your main characters, and if they're somehow able to dodge it, you then drown them in crap. The whole point of ACT 2 is to push your main character to his/her limit. After you've tested your main character(s) though out ACT 2, you're then off to ACT 3, or otherwise known as the 'resolution.'
ACT 3 is your story's ending. This is where you need to wrap everything up and more often than not, have some sort of happy ending. Again, the most important part of writing is knowing what to write. I accomplish this by plotting out every scene on 3 x 5 cue cards. Why cue cards? Because you can easily change, or re-organize them if something doesn't work. It's simple. You have a blueprint of your story in front of you, and once you're done plotting your entire story on cue cards, all you have left to do is actually write. Not so hard sounding is it?
As a writer today, technology has allowed me to work in ways writers years back couldn't imagine. The tools have vastly improved, but the process of writing has not. You still have to sit down in front of your computer, or your pad of paper, and write. Someone much wiser than me once said, and I use this phrase often; "I hate writing, but I love having written."
Enter an app called Penultimate. It's for the iPad, and since my iPad was originally purchased to be a productivity device, I thought I'd give it a shot. And it didn't take long for me to figure out it's wonderful! I've also recently purchased a stylus pen, and I must say the two pair wonderfully together. The smoothness and responsiveness are spot on, but the best part... it syncs with Evernote. If you're a writer you've surely heard of Evernote. If not just click here and download it FREE to all your devices right now! You can't call yourself a serious writer without Evernote. Seriously.
Penultimate is great for jotting down ideas, sketches, storyboarding and just about anything else that requires visual representation. I can't draw worth beans, but find myself easily amused attempting to sketch using this app. Probably because it's so simple to erase and correct your mistakes!
The apps that keep coming out are insane. They get bigger and better everyday. It's actually scary, but sometimes wish I had the ability to write apps. I bow to those able to do so. But hey if you so happen to be one of these app-creators, I'm about to give you your next million dollar idea, and at no-charge! Create an app that writes stories for writers. All they would have to do is ingest story points, characters, settings and any other crucial story element. That's it. That's my app idea because after all, the hardest part about writing is actually sitting down and writing.
The show was like it is every year. A few fantastic musical numbers, more than a few average musical numbers, and too many fashion statements.
I thought Beyoncé did a great opener. My worry with starting on such a high note was that the show can only go downhill from there. And for the most part it did. Pink did what she did last year, and I again found myself wondering 'how the hell does she do it?' Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr disappointed - my theory is that CBS wanted to save their best stuff for the special they're showing on the Beatles in the coming weeks. Macklemore's thing with the weddings didn't do it for me. Sure a lot of people cried during this performance, I didn't buy it. But my favourite number from last nights Grammys was the show Daft Punk put on with Stevie Wonder. I just wish I could say the same for the ridiculous outfits they wore!
I don't know what it is about the Grammys and fashion, but it tends to bring out the weirdest of weird. Nothing personal because I'm sure if these artists wanted to they could easily get dolled up and blinged out. But they don't. I'm not sure why, maybe it has to do with 'connecting' with today's youth and promoting the fact that you should always be yourself. I dunno, I'm old-fashioned I guess, because you'd never catch me showing up to an awards show in robot helmets and jump suits. I save mine for weddings.
The Directors Guild of America handed out their annual awards last night with Alfonso Cuaron bringing home the Best Director prize for motion pictures.
I for one was a big fan of GRAVITY. What I am not is an Academy voter, but it seems like I don't have to be because history tells us that even the Academy can't screw this one up. With Cuaron's big DGA win, all signs point to him taking home the Best Director statuette at the Oscars. Case in point - in the 65-year existence of the DGA Awards, only 7 times has the winner of the Best Director Award at the DGA's not taken home the Oscar. So what I'm basically saying is for all you out there who participate in Oscar pools, picking the Best Director category theoretically should be a freebie for you. And I for one am not disappointed.
GRAVITY is an epic. The Academy Awards love to honour epics. The film broke grounds in SFX, and its sound design made the theatre going experience one of the best in 2013. I'll also go on record and say that I'm not the biggest fan of 3D, but GRAVITY did it right. The story was fat-free, and the performances, mainly that of Sandra Bullock, were convincing. Plus the film received some extra bonus points from me due to the fact that its running time was an appropriate 91 minutes. In this day in age that's nearly unheard-of.
So congratulations to Alfonso Cuaron on his big DGA win. And I'm almost certain we'll be saying congrats again the day after the Academy Awards are handed out, but then again stranger things have happened.
For the complete list of DGA winners click here.
Canada is a large, beautiful country. If you haven’t been I highly suggest you someday pay a visit. When people think about Canada, the cities most likely to pop up in an Internet search are Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver. Though those cities are fantastic, I do not live in any of them. And when I talk about my script RED LIGHT and its success being part of '50 Kisses,' it is the fact that I do not live in a large metropolis that makes me most proud.
I live in Thunder Bay, a city of just over 110,000 people located in Northwestern Ontario. We’re known for living beside the largest fresh water lake in the world, being the hometown of Paul Shaffer of ‘Late Show with David Letterman’ fame, and we’re also well known for a pastry called the persian. When it comes to filmmaking, I’ll admit we aren’t on the map, but international projects like ’50 Kisses’ helps bring smaller communities into the picture.
Technology has not only shrunk the world, it’s also given artists the ability to create quality work no matter where they live, and in many cases at a fraction of the price. Writers can be in Canada, while their scripts are being produced and communicated about all over the globe. In the case of RED LIGHT I was fortunate enough to see produced films from England, Australia, the United States and Russia. Had it not been for ’50 Kisses,’ chances are the only produced version that would have seen the light of day would have been my own. Seeing my written words envisioned by other filmmakers was a great experience. An experience I owe to ’50 Kisses.’
I remember the day I found out RED LIGHT was chosen as one of the fifty winning scripts. Instantly, I looked at where all the other scripts were written, and it was to my disbelief that no other scripts were chosen from anywhere else in Canada. RED LIGHT was the only Canadian script to make the cut, and I live in a town of just over 110,000 people. I mention this proud fact in all screenings I attend on behalf of the film, and often tell other filmmakers that in today’s digital age it doesn’t matter where you live. Just tell the best story you can with what you have available to you.
It’s been years in the making, but finally ’50 Kisses’ will be released. From day one it was the intention of the ’50 Kisses’ team to have a global, feature-length film produced. I would like to congratulate all those who worked hard and helped turn this project from an idea to a reality. Furthermore, I cannot forget to applaud all the other writers, filmmakers, musicians, graphic designers and production personnel who all worked tirelessly for the benefit of ’50 Kisses.’
In closing, I’m excited to announce that I will be making the trip to London for the ’50 Kisses’ big-screen premiere. And upon my return home I will surely speak to my family, friends and filmmaking peers about the premiere, but moreover, about how I was the only Canadian screenwriter to attend.