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So, now that I know that I know how to do this, it was time to indeed jump in and just start doing it. Well, pretending to be the screenwriter that is, in this Phase 2: Reverse Screenwriting, which I briefly touched upon in the previous post. It actually took me quite a few days to decide which movie I was going to pick to write its screenplay from. After all, you will be spending 50 days with one movie. You better like it. But you also want to take into account that this is a learning exercise. The instructions in this phase are that you should pick a movie that has a similar genre or events that you will want to write in Phase 3: Creative Screenwriting, in which we will write our very own screenplay. That makes sense. No point in taking apart a movie to the bone that you have no connection to at all or isn’t the least kind of movie you would ever want to write.
I’ve made it no secret that I have a slight preference for crime thrillers and the such. But I do like good humour too, black humour being my favourite. What I really like is a combination of those. And lo and behold, there was a Coen Brothers movie on the list of 20 we could pick from. They are masters in combining crime and cracking up. So, I picked that one. I won’t tell you which it is, I have given enough spoilers of scripts in here as it is. But then again, he might change the scripts as the course progresses. My own screenplay, the one I have been trying to write since the beginning of this year, is not a combination of the two. At least, I wasn’t planning on it. But my original ideas for it could also be way out of my league at the moment. I am starting to think that now. Maybe it’s something to attempt after I have written some ‘easier’ scripts. But no point thinking about that now, it was time to start pretending to be a real screenwriter!
Before I started, I rewatched the movie again. I had seen it once, maybe twice before and I have it on DVD, as I do most of the Coen Brothers movies. This was not going to be an easy one, I already saw many scenes and actions that put me at the edge of my learning. But luckily immediately scripts we had read in Phase 1 popped into my mind, in which I had seen these kind of actions. It really is embroidered in my mind!
And…it’s SO much fun! It’s actually the first time I’m writing with actual screenwriting software, Celtx, and it does something to you. Writing it in this format forces you to write within that screenwriting frame of thinking immediately. It’s weird how that just happens. Of course, you can go way off the charts in it too, but because I am a visual person, that goes against what I have seen in the past 20+ scripts. I have read that some students are simply transcribing what they see, but I for one am trying to put myself in the shoes and mindset of the writer, or writers plural in this case. What they had in mind, were thinking, how they wanted to write this movie. And what we have learned from day 1, setting the tone of the movie in your writing. Meaning that if you are now transcribing a drama, your tone and writing will have to match that. And with a black humour crime movie the same. So, that’s what I am trying. And I have let go of the idea that I will be able to match them completely and of course I don’t know how they actually write, I have not read any of their screenplays yet. It might not be at all what I think it will be. You gotta keep in mind, they also always direct their own written movies, well, most of them. So, this might influence their way of writing as well. But it also doesn’t matter. This phase is about putting into practice what I have seen and learned in Phase 1 and not about trying to match the writing style of these writers or any other writers.
I think what will happen in this phase, is that I will start to discover my own writing style. How I would write such a movie, or movies in general. I will never forget the script of the pilot of Breaking Bad. And its writing style, matching the tone of the series verbatim. But Vince Gilligan, the show runner, has taken quite some liberties there too, but I really do like those. And I’ve got the feeling I will take some of them with me in my writing style as well, up to a certain point.
This reverse screenwriting is in fact so much fun, that it’s hard to stop writing, once you start, but I don’t go over too long. An hour and a half at the most, the instructions are still the same, one hour a day. Because although it is fun, it is tiring as well. You are putting your creative mind to work. You are coming up with ways how to describe something. It’s not original, the story is already there and happening right in front of you, but you still have to come up with a creative way to describe that story. I am so glad I picked this movie. There is not one day that I don’t smile, after being done for that day, even when I’ve had a hard time trying to write a particular scene. It’s actually both the movie and how much I am liking this, that puts that smile on my face, I think.
I wasn’t expecting to like it this much. Maybe because I still had all these doubts lurking in my mind whether or not I could actually do this. By no means am I now saying I can do this, meaning I’m actually good at it, but it’s a good sign when I enjoy something this much, knowing myself and the high expectations I have of myself. I have lowered them a lot, but the fact that I am still pretty content with myself, speaks volumes. I actually printed, what I have written so far, in a PDF and that was amazing! It so looked and read like a real screenplay. And of course I also had to laugh out loud at lots of rewriting needs. I am no expert, but I do now see when something just doesn’t look right, reads right, apart from a few grammar and formatting mistakes left and right. Isn’t that interesting? Did I ever tell you that this is how I learned to read as well? Probably most of us. But at a certain point with some words, I didn’t how to write them, but I did know when I had written them wrong, because they simply didn’t look right. Anyways, there is no shame in them, this is a learning exercise. There are no grades and perfection is forbidden. Even attempting to be. And at the writing pace I am going, I will have a couple of days to spare to go back and do some rewriting, just like you would with a real screenplay. So, there you go.
I could go on and on how much I really like this, but I think you get the idea. It really is the perfect exercise to do after being immersed in 20+ scripts, seeing how it’s done, and now getting your feet wet and being able to pretend to be a screenwriter first. Kudos to the inventor of this method. We are enjoying it, a LOT.