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I cannot believe it, but we made it! To the end of Phase 1, that is. Which is the toughest by far, I am told. Don’t ask me how I got there, those last miles truly were the longest, although thankfully the last scripts to read weren’t. We were spared an uphill finish. I won’t lie: Phase 1 was brutal. Tough. Gruelling. Exhausting. But since I already elaborated on most of that in some previous posts, I won’t go into that too deep anymore now. Because it was also a lot of other things. Amazing things. Things I never expected I would learn, adopt, improve on and would simply now just know. In only 100 days, well, a few over. That’s nothing. It’s a little over 3 months. You sneeze and you’re there. It’s a meteorological season. We all know how fast those go. But also how much can happen in one. How intense some are and can be packed with a lot of marvellous things. This being one of them.
It is truly a transformation. At least for me it is. I am not the same person I was before this. Ok, that sounds awfully philosophical and psychological. But it is true. Some major changes have happened in my brain. A lot of new neural pathways were made. And because they were being used over a 100+ days, they became stronger and stronger and are now set. Hardwired. Part of me. They say that learning a new habit takes 40 days. Do something new for 40 days and then it’s part of you, the new habit has set and you’ll be able to keep it up. This is twice over and then some. I can tell you lots of things I learned and I will, also briefly summing up things I already shared in some previous posts, but the most important thing is, that most things I cannot really explain to you. At least not in a way that it will then ‘click’ and become part of you, like it has with me through these 100+ days. There really are no short cuts for this. I just know, because I have been immersed in it for so long now. Because it does feel like long actually, but not in a bad way. Compare it with learning how to ride a bike. It’s hard. Especially the concept of balance. How do you teach that? I mean, technically explain that? It’s a feeling more than anything. And you will just have to do it, practice it, often. And then one day, you just can. Not perfect yet and you still got a lot to learn, but at least you can balance your bike and ride without falling (so much). It is what I said before about learning a new language by going to the nuns, living with them for a while and hearing and speaking nothing but that new language. And you will learn fast and in-depth and when then trying to explain how you learned it, you won’t consciously know that. And there is no way to explain the technical part of that. Sure, I could explain it to you scientifically, on neuroscience levels, but that won’t help you to replicate it, other than you yourself will have to do it, experience it, undergo it.
Here are a few of the many ‘practical’ things I learned and some other things I shared in the Immersion FB group after finishing Phase 1. These are not in the order of importance or favourites, by the way, and really are only the tip of the iceberg.
I now know:
- Most of the screenwriting formatting, by heart. I could write it in Word for instance or any other text editing program, export it to screenwriting software and it will be correct.
- How to write description and action lines. Although they differ from script to script, there is a consensus in them. Especially how not to write them.
- That your description and action lines will and should reflect the tone of your story and through that can hook the reader immediately (or the opposite!), also by using associative descriptions.
- How to write a synopsis and logline by industry standards. They’re not perfect yet, but I know the most important ingredients of them and am becoming quite proficient in them. I already wrote about the importance of learning how to write a synopsis in this previous post.
- The gargantuan importance of the opening scenes (which I wrote extensively about here).
- That putting in a (not too obvious) line of dialogue, in the beginning, what the story will be about, the heart of the story, will be picked up by the audience/reader subconsciously and give them a little hook.
- That the audience/reader really is smarter than you think, you don’t have to spell it out too much or too repeatedly, they’ll get it. Really. (Actually I already knew this, but there was one screenplay in particular that thankfully was cut about 20 pages when made into the movie, for this reason, which reconfirmed it for me).
- It helps to have one of the characters express what the audience thinks or feels or wonders about the protagonist, especially if all the other characters seem against him or her.
- There are successful writer/director films. And even a new writer can have success quickly. Don’t be discouraged by your lack of experience/flying miles.
- That writing what you know, from personal experience and/or what you’re passionate about, what’s close to your heart, will not only be easier to write and breathe through the script, it will also have more impact, be more convincing, because you know what you’re talking or passionate about and that’s not ‘made up’.
- The importance of understanding and embracing the principles of good story structure. It exists to help your story, not to constrict it. Don’t fight it. Use it. And break it, if you want, but then know what the heck you’re doing.
- That you should write a story as lengthy as you want, to get it out of your system, then after you can start rewriting, editing. Don’t worry about the length at first, you will kill precious ideas if you do.
- You should have your script proofread always, and always by someone who doesn’t know anything about the story. (This too I knew, but was again reconfirmed by one of the scripts we read).
- That the best way to understand all these things, is to read scripts, read scripts, read scripts! Good scripts, that is.
- That the only way of keeping this active and to keep learning is by doing, not by reading books or articles about it. Yes, you can read some books and articles about certain related topics, but you’ll have to keep applying those things by doing. Every day. EVERY day.
Man, did I know nothing before this! Ok, not entirely true, but it’s true that the more you learn, the more you realise how little you knew and how much there is still to learn. But when I now look on the screenwriting page on FB, there are so many questions asked there, that are no longer questions for me. I now know the answers. Or samples of scenes or synopses or loglines, that I now know are not right. But of course we still have quite a way to go.
Now that this screenwriting language has really become part of our DNA, we now have to apply it in Phase 2: Reverse Screenwriting. In which we will get to pick a movie from a list of 20 supreme, many Academy Award winning, no too available online, scripts, specially selected by Karel, and write its screenplay from the movie. So, we watch the movie and describe what we see and hear. The seeing not literally, but in the way a screenwriter would do it. You pretend to be its screenwriter. By no way should you even try to match that level, how can you even? And how can you possible know what exactly he or she was thinking, how he or she wrote things, especially the description and action lines? But you have now seen how it’s done, in 20+ scripts you just read and processed in Phase 1. It has been embroidered in your brain. You know this stuff now. And because you know how important it is to set the right tone of the story in the way you write, you take that with you as well.
The strange thing is that although I am somewhat anxious about this new stage (because are all these things really stuck in my mind and do I really know how to reproduce them now), deep down inside, I know that I know how to do this. I just have to tap into it and just do it. And I have about 20 scripts by my side from Phase 1 to look back into, how ever many times I want. And Phase 2, just like Phase 1 is exercise. This too is practicing. And by no means is it expected to be perfect or how it should be or was written. With this too, by doing it a lot, you will become better and good at it. I’m reminding my former perfectionist here. And then, at the end of Phase 2 in 50 days, when we’ve completed this very special version of the screenplay, we will get the real screenplay, so we can compare and learn even more.
So, there you have it. A lot happened in this one season. And I look forward to the next!