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Pre-Production
Introduction
| creating | writing | planning

A lot of people say, "Wow, that was so cool, we should make a movie out of that." Bullshit. Every cool moment does not make a movie. Cool moments are like the steamed carrots on the side of a chicken dinner, you didn't come to eat the carrots, you came to eat the chicken. That's what your audience came to do, eat the chicken. Wait...no... they came to eat the story. No...I mean they came to watch the story.

Stories that belong in a movie have a definite structure, without a structure people feel like they are wasting their time. This is most evident when watching things on cable access. You will turn the TV on and see a beautiful picture of a bird flying around a canyon. You think something will soon happen to engage you. The camera pans out. You watch for another 10 minutes. Then the camera zooms in. The end. Fudge. You feel like you just lost 10 minutes of your life. You get up from the TV pissed off wanting to light something on fire. Don't fall into the trap or make other people victim to the trap of shitty video. While there are many types of visual story telling, here is a three step process to help you start story forming an idea.

Story Forming

Step 1: Start with a problem.
To generate an idea for a story, start with a problem. A problem can be a need, a want, or personal characteristic. It is anything that has the potential to be resolved. The problem could be real or completely fictional, it doesn't matter. Now ask yourself if somebody would want to solve the problem you just created. When the movie is written, the problem doesn't have to be solved. But the question is would your audience care if the problem to be solved. If the answer is yes, move on, you just generated your first idea. If the answer is no, then start over and repeat step 1.

Step 2: Give me my main character.
Now that you have created a problem(conflict), you can decide who or what has the problem. But more importantly, you have to decide who should be in charge of fixing the problem. The person who is ultimately in charge of fixing the problem is your main character.

The main character can go about many different routes to arrive at the resolution. Sometimes it could be he has to start doing something, or maybe he has to stop doing something. Regardless of what it is, the story will focus on his actions(or lack of action) to determine the outcome of the story.

The obstacle character is the one given responsibility for challenging the main character. For instance in the movie "The Fugitive" it easy easy to recognize Dr. Richard Kimble(Harrison Ford) as the main character and(Tommy Lee Jones) as the obstacle character. In the movie Star Wars it is easy to recognize Luke Skywalker as the main character, but who is the obstacle character? Most people would guess Darth Vader, but in fact it is Obi One. Obi One is the one who challenges Luke to "Use the force".

With a main character in charge of attacking your conflict you have just created something with a backbone. Your have thought up of something that 80% of the Internet and cable access doesn't have: a storyline.

Step 3: moving towards the resolution.
You will now think about how the story will progress to a certain goal called a resolution. The resolution doesn't have to be positive. Your resolution could be the main character doesn't accept the problem and the problem ultimately destroys the main character. The outcome can be written as positive, negative or for the audience to decide, but make, or at least hint at, an outcome.

Spinning New Ideas

When it is time to get really advanced there are a few computer programs on the market to help foster your creative ideas into something that people would want to watch. One program is called Dramatica (List $399 Screenplay Systems) This program takes note cards to the next level. Dramatica's major premise is "the Grand Story Argument". The argument suggests that their is a certain way large audiences respond to films. Dramitica guides you into that "way" by prompting you with questions based on other questions. When you are done answering the questions and filling in the blanks, you will theoretically(according to Screenplay Systems) have a complete idea on what to write. It works, but it isn't for all. Dramatica has a very steep learning curve that can be very time consuming and confusing. But even if you do not master Dramatica, using the program will force you to think more deeply about your story and how all stories are written. Dramatica is a a great program, but is not easy and will not come up with a story. If you decide to use it, be prepared to spend some time learning the program.

Creating an Outline

Now that you have a complete story form it is time to translate it into an outline. One way to start is by drawing a diagram.

The diagram you see was actually formed by Aristotle( Poetics), in his attempt to make sense of why some plays succeed while other's fail. This diagram still holds true today. While your screenplay may not be exactly to this form, this diagram can be used for the foundation of dramatic structure.

Using the Tension Vs Time diagram, create story points from your story form. Map the story points to the diagram.

From your story points and diagram, start creating scenes that fit into your story points until you have a complete outline. Obviously there is a lot more that goes into what has been mentioned here. Hopefully this will get you started and thinking about how to create stories that people will want to see. Once you have finished your outline, it is time to gather up all those cool moments in life (we called carrots earlier).

next >> Writing your idea on paper.

Introduction | creating | writing | planning

 

 

 

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