Over the course of a few months I have been writing a movie, LoveTouchHate. LoveTouchHate is the story of a man, Bradley, who transfers love with his touch. Every time he touches someone, he brings himself pain because everyone instantly loves him the second their hands meet, and he never gets to know anyone in his life. (Here is a link to our fundraising site that tells a lot more of the story).
As you may or may not be able to imagine, this was a frustrating, lengthy, and oftentimes painful process; not only because of the very dark emotions I was exploring each day imagining Bradley’s isolation, but for all the normal fears, complications and anxieties we face as writers.
During the writing of LoveTouchHate and previous scripts, I read many books and researched information on the subject of pushing through to get that project or script done.
The following are a few things I learned:
The first thing, which no film school professor or colleague ever told me, is that the true pain in the butt of scriptwriting is going from concept to rough draft. I am sure many of you have experienced this as it certainly is not anything new to anyone who has attempted to write a script. However, that does beg the question: So how does one push through to get to that rough draft?
(I am going to paraphrase some wonderful books on the subject and then add in my own empirical experience. The book I found most helpful is The War On Art by Steven Pressfield with a distant second runner up being Stephen King’s On Writing)
The most important thing to get that !@#$% script done is to separate yourself from outcome.
Which is a round about way of saying do not listen to your fears or fantasies. How does one do that though? In my experience and within examples of the books mentioned above, it is from drowning out my fears of writing a horrible script and my fantasies of selling this brilliant piece of work.
Instead, I focus on loving the work I am doing.
Now, I realize the term “do what you love” is a cliché every self-help author seems to expound. What they do not tell you though is that you really need to figure out what work you SPECIFICALLY love. You have to identify the actual thing that you have fallen in love with (I mention this because I often talk to people who really love watching, viewing, maybe critiquing movies, and they would probably be much happier as critics for a website or newspaper over being a film maker as making and watching are nowhere near the same thing).
If specifically making films is your true love, that still raises a big question: how do you find something that is so powerfully passionate to you that it drowns out all the fearful thoughts in your head? There are books that try to help with this (a better one being The Courage To Write by Ralph Keyes) but ultimately it requires a lot of soul searching and learning about yourself. (This is where I interject my opinion and firsthand experience and say, don’t be afraid to experiment with your life and discover who you truly are. AJ Jacobs has made a career out of life experimentation and his books could be useful “idea starters” for you). This might lead you to find what has been truly missing in your life, or what you have been covering up, or simply help you to discover new things about yourself and your world.
Another great way for me to get rid of my fantasies and thoughts of failure is to approach writing a script as if I will be making a movie that is “interesting” over perfect. That is to say, I come up with an interesting and novel idea over the perfect one that is going to win every audience member over. This way, in my mentality, I am not making a perfect movie and therefore do not have to face all my tormented thoughts on succeeding or failing; I am just exploring an interesting concept for a film. It will not be perfect, but it will be something that interests me thematically and cinematically to explore, I tell myself. Maybe this notion is kind of mentally tricking myself, but I find it works very well for being productive and getting a script written to a rough draft stage.
Being more passionate than your fears and/or fantasies is probably the only thing that truly matters to getting the script done. But superficially there are a few typical norms I discovered from reading about other creators (culled from books such as Mastery by Robert Greene and articles like this one on Woody Allen.
The first thing all creators seem to have in common is that they have a schedule and they stick to it. As in they sit down every day for a good chunk of scheduled time and do the writing. Everyday. Even when they feel that their work is crap.
Of note, the work is probably crap to them, but they will re-write…and true to the adaptive nature of screenwriting, the material will probably equal out to everything else they have produced in the end. Material that starts off on a B level probably stays on a B level, and material that starts off on a D level gets re-written to a B level. (I have purposefully stayed away from saying “material on an A level” because thinking your ideas have to be perfect will freeze you in your tracks. Besides, now that you are writing everyday, it does not matter as much if the material is perfect. You will be better tomorrow and get em’ on the next one!)
Another common trait of creators is that they do not allow criticism until the work is “ready to be criticized”, which usually means after the first or rough draft is complete. This criticism refers to thoughts from themselves or from others.
Finally, a third common trait among most creators is that they set deadlines either by page count or by a “the script will be done by” deadline. (I personally usually do an “outline finished by so-and-so date”; then an “Act I by”; and then a “re-write by” so it gives me a little flexibility within each day, but I still have to have the work completed by a certain date).
There are a plethora of books on this subject but the essence of most of them is the information above. Hopefully my research of said books and my scriptwriting heartaches can help you finish your problematic script.
Michael LaPointe helms the multimedia company, Pointe Media, which has garnered numerous accolades and clients through the years including being featured in 25 film festivals worldwide and providing content for WB/Reprise Records, Redken, Showtime, and many others.
CHECK OUT MICHAEL’S PRIOR FILM COURAGE ARTICLE