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WRITING THAT SCREENPLAY IN 20 DAYS. OR LESS.



Alright, here is the story, morning-glory.


At the beginning of October I had the glorious idea of researching development programs of bigger organizations, all in the spirit of furthering my reach as director. I had a collection of these programs saved on my computer already, so it was more about figuring out deadlines and if there are any coming up in the near future? Could I possibly apply to one?


So I looked through a bunch of them. I’ll include a complete list at the end here. Most of them were not happening any time soon or they only happen every two years and it’s not the year right now. But then I come across the Screenwriting Development Program of Film Independent.


Film Independent is a great organization looking out for independent filmmakers all over the world. Their headquarters are here in Los Angeles and notably every year they organize the prestigious Los Angeles Film Festival. Aside from the screenplay development program, they also have directing, producing, and other programs that support young filmmakers.

So the screenplay competition had a set deadline for October 22nd, 2018. That was about 20 days from the day I found it.


My first reaction was to look through some old screenplays I had written, to see if maybe I could refresh some of them. Or maybe polish them for the deadline. But then I thought, wouldn’t it be crazy to challenge myself to write an entire screenplay, from scratch, in 20 days?



So that was it. That was the beginning of very strange couple weeks.


And by a couple, I mean two weeks because from day T-20 to day T-14 I procrastinated… That’s right! I procrastinated because I figured why not spice it up a little…


But then, panic kicked in. I reassured myself once more, for good measure, that I was absolutely certain that I meant business with this challenge. I was gonna hand in, whatever I had with that deadline! Even if it was a cover page!


So with that threat I began taking notes. I began writing things down. Brainstorming.

Quickly I had a few pages of ideas together. The challenge was to use my brain but at the same time not to allow it to interfere with the process. It was important for my brain to not begin asking questions about budget and logistics. This was only gonna hinder the process.

The next step was to create a rough plan of how I could find my way through this.


First, I settled on one of the ideas that seemed the most compelling in the moment. I knew that, in order to make it through, I just had to pick the one idea that gets me the most excited rather than the one that was doable or actually shootable. After all, it was a screenplay competition.


The next step was to apply a rough plot outline. There was not time for any more than that! I used Blake Snyders beat sheet to get my thoughts organized over the course of a day.

And then it was time to grind it out. I did the math. At that point in time, in order to submit in time, and to have two revision days for myself, I had to average 12 pages per day for a 100 page screenplay.



That’s the point when it got really scary! I had no idea how to write 12 pages per day! But then I began and honestly if it was just about writing and laying down pages, you could finish a screenplay in a day! Easily! It’s your brain that gets in the way!


It was absolutely exhausting but every once in a while, I managed to find little nuggets of gold. They could be scenes or characters that brought my excitement back for the material. So very soon I developed this idea, that all I had to do was just to work hard through the times when it was difficult, knowing that soon I’d encounter an exciting nugget again. And that’s how I managed to make it through. One page and one day at a time.


Now at the end, I was definitely lagging behind, I couldn’t quite keep up with my ambitious schedule but I ended up with an 85 page screenplay, that had a few great characters in it. It was definitely my voice, had my characteristics in it, and I had one more revision day to spare to work through it. I submitted the work on time and checked it off my to-do list.



I won’t hear anything about it from Film Independent until way into 2019 but that’s not the point. I had just written a screenplay that made sense and had great potential in 20 days. What else is possible??


What a fantastic challenge it was! And even though it didn’t exactly work out as I had planned, I finished it. I delivered it and I’m proud of myself.


Motivation is garbage. Put your head down and work.


If you are at all interested in reading the screenplay, email me and I’ll share it with you :)


All my best,

Thomas


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