I’ve come across a certain situation a lot. It’s this one situation that I wish
wouldn’t come up as often as it does. It’s the situation of people thinking I’m wrong. Cocky? Pompous? Yes. Hands down.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always right. Actually, I down right hate it if I’m right. That means the other person is wrong. It’s uncomfortable. Especially when you’re talking to someone older than you. Like your tax attorney. Or sister.
And I’m already wrong, because I’m not talking at all about independent
Two years ago… Wait, four years ago (see, I’m not right), I decided to give
screenwriting an honest try. I had shot a few short films when I was younger but then dropped it all and moved on. As the years passed for me, I always wanted to come back to filmmaking, but not as a director. As a screenwriter.
Screenwriting doesn’t require a camera or actors or a crew. Just words on the
page and your imagination. For where I was at that point in my life, it’s all I could do, and honestly all I wanted to do. There’s one problem though…
There is an art to screenwriting, to telling a story through the film medium. The rules of screenwriting can be off-putting or even scary to a novice. I hadn’t learned any of those rules and frankly procrastinated to learn it. Why do I have to READ these books and screenplays? I just want to WRITE.
Sounds foolish. Sounds LAZY.
I hit the books, read a lot, and wrote my first feature spec entitled ‘Once Upon a Time in Los Angeles,’ which has just made it to the quarterfinals of the Nicholl Fellowship. I wrote that script 4 years ago. I’ve gone through 10 drafts, and countless hours. The lesson I learned the most from writing this script was what I was doing wrong when I was younger when directing those short films. It’s a huge problem that was staring me right in the face. The problem was:
Or lack there of. Sounds simple. Obvious. It’s not like I avoided it when I was younger, but it just wasn’t as much of a priority as my camera, locations or actors.
The more and more that I got back into the industry and watched independent films, shorts, and web series one thing became clear: I wasn’t alone. Story is the biggest problem independent filmmaking has. Any filmmaking for that matter.
When the script is overlooked or rushed, that’s when you are wasting everyone’s time. Don’t take my word for it. What great independent films can you think of off the top of your head? Here are a few that come to my mind: Mean Streets, Reservoir Dogs, Donnie Darko, Evil Dead II, Memento just to name a few.
Why do those films stick out? I’ll agree that the directing, acting, and
Cinematography definitely adds to why it sticks out, but without story none of that other stuff matters. I’ll keep watching those movies over and over for one reason. The story.
That gets me thinking about something else. Why can’t this important element be applied to an emerging segment of independent filmmaking? Web series.
People are eager to grab a camera and some friends to shoot whatever they
possibly can because it’ll be cool without giving much honest thought into what they’re shooting. What is it we’ll be watching? Why would we want to watch this?
Do we care? Most likely, NO.
I see more camera snobs than anything. It’s important, but it’s not everything.
So, I’ve decided to take my own advice and act on it. After writing a couple
feature specs, I wrote something that could be made with the change in my
pocket. It’s called “Laps,” a 10 episode web series about a guy trying to get in shape for the first time ever, exclusive to the iPhone/Android (www.lapsapp.com).
The script took about a year to write in between projects. Draft after draft. Writers groups. Feedback. Once the story came together though, so did those other things like actors, crew, and camera. And I bet it will be the same for you.
Chad Diez currently has a feature script entitled ‘Once Upon a Time in Los
Angeles’ in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Nicholl Fellowship. Also, he has written and directed ‘Laps,’ which won the Best Webseries category at the 2011 New York International Film Festival, and can be seen on your iPhone/Android beginning August 28th: www.laps-app.com.