– 5 min –
Well, this was bound to happen at one point. Although I have found my ideal work method to process the screenplays we have to read, it was getting all too much. The tempo of a new screenplay to read, make a synopsis and logline and write a little report on your learning of it, every 5 days, it’s simply too fast. For me anyways. And on top, you still got your screenplay to transcribe, one page a day. I find it too much. It might not sound a lot, only 1 hour a day, but we’re not baking cookies here. We’re not reading some funny articles in a magazine or read an amusing novel or comic book. (Now, in all fairness to this course, and I haven’t shared this yet, I am not at my fittest at the moment and also was not when this course started. Which could and probably does affect my processing-all-this-workload capabilities and my need for more breaks. So, everything I am about to say might be clouded by this too.)
Reading a screenplay thoroughly, not just browsing or scanning through it, as I saw one student commenting, and on the side making summaries of what you’re reading, plus writing down what you’re learning from it, it is work for your brain. And doing that day in day out, without any day off, it’s not good. Not for me, not for anyone. And those who say they read through a screenplay (which is an average of 105 pages) in an hour, they’re not really reading it, it’s impossible. And I believe it is better to spread it over a few days, instead of saying ‘let me read the whole thing in one go’ and then the next day write the synopsis also in one sitting and then have a few days off. No, I don’t believe that works well. You’re rushing through it, you’re not even letting it all sink in what you’ve actually read, let alone start noticing the structure and other things. And after all, the teacher did warn us to spend only 1 hour a day, so we wouldn’t burn out. I now read the screenplay in about 3 days, with making little summaries of every 10-15 pages or so, sometimes more, whatever feels like a chunk, in about an hour a day, sometimes a bit more, 1,5 hour, and then on day 4, I type a synopsis, already leaving out things from what I wrote in the little summaries, also trying to stick to the one hour, usually no more than 1,5 hour and then leave the result overnight. Unless it’s about 600 words or so, then I usually edit it to the required 500 words right away. And then on day 5, I edit it with fresh eyes, and the logline and report don’t take long. So, in this way it would fit perfectly within those 5 days. Except it leaves no room for ‘interruptions’ of normal life (and I put that in quotation marks, because what I actually mean is normal life). And that’s what started to ‘happen’.
I think saying you’ll have to make sacrifices to do this, also as a screenwriter, is true, but not to the point of risking your own health. And even though I was sticking to 1-1,5 hour a day, I was starting to burn out. Becoming sick of it. I was no longer eating, sleeping and drinking, I was starting to vomit screenplays. And that’s not what you want. They haven’t invented weekends for nothing. Even for students. It’s really important to have a balanced life and have room for real relaxation without deadlines constantly breathing down your neck. And yes, in the beginning of the course, we were all doing more hours per day to try to keep up. It took me quite a while to get into a good rhythm and actually be able to do a script in 5 days without going way over the amount of hours a day. I still spend a little more than 5 hours in total on the whole thing now. So, this could have something to do with it too. I actually think it’s not doable. Not in the beginning at least. Technically, within this regime, you only get to spend 4 hours and 10 min on one script, because you have to leave 10 minutes a day for your transcribing. Sounds insane, no? I mean, who in their right mind does that? When I told a friend about the 5 day thing, she assumed I meant working days and we had the weekend off. When I corrected her, she looked at me like I was crazy. And it is crazy. You have to be a little nuts to go along with it, to do this. And superfit, which I am not. But then again, who is?
So, I actually took a few days off of it. I did continue transcribing, because that doesn’t involve much thinking. And those days off did me a world of good. And after that, I also didn’t care anymore so much about making the deadline right on the dot. Which I did all the time up till now. Also because I was reading on the FB page of so many students being even a couple of scripts behind. And here I was, worried about getting 1 or 2 days behind. I was now going to keep my own pace, and leave room for breaks, when needed. After all, no penalties until being 30 days behind or when you quit, which neither I am planning to. And no, I don’t think last week’s post influenced getting sick of it, burning up. Nobody goes for 180 days straight without any regular breaks. Not even a 100 days, which this first phase is. Even when it’s studying something for only 1 hour a day. It’s still studying, stretching your brain, which needs breaks from studying too. I wonder why I am trying to defend myself so much and the fact that I really do think that the tempo is too fast, at least for the average person, even a highly educated person, which I consider myself. Or am I influenced by my not being fit? I will share these thoughts with the teacher. I’m guessing with quite a few behind, so it seems, it probably won’t come as a surprise. And it is an experimental program, doing it this way, of which you also learn what works and what doesn’t, so feedback is important. What he’ll do with it, I don’t know, but I do think I’m not completely wrong with this. There are many factors to take in. Your age, your personal fitness, your normal daily schedule, your circumstances, your ‘unexpected’ crises to manage, your previous experience with reading screenplays, knowing movies. I don’t know how he came up with the 5-day tempo and which he took into account. I do know that we were not supposed to spend too much time on the reading and writing, which most of us did do in the beginning. And who knows, that might be what actually tackled us and caused so many of us to get somewhat behind.
One other thing I just thought of: it simply might not be for everyone. An MBA for instance isn’t. The content of this course isn’t on that level of difficulty, but the tempo sure is. I know quite a few people who have done an MBA and that program isn’t considered sane, not for anyone. Most of them needed quite some recovery time after finishing that gruelling program, but in which they also learn so much, that too is insane. Perhaps I should consider this the same. And perhaps he too has raised the bar this high in his mind. It certainly wasn’t meant for the average person. Hadn’t thought of that yet.
Anyways, I decided I will just continue, but without letting the constant-without-a-break deadlines push me. And I have never felt better and never processed the screenplays better either and not even such a change in the amount of days per script. And I am not that much behind really. One screenplay at the moment, just finished the homework of script 12 instead of 13 (of the 20). So, upwards and onwards we still go, be it a little slower aka a more sane tempo at this moment (in my view) and I…don’t…mind!