After coming up with the “next great idea,” you must start actually writing that sucker.
Here is the scenario. You get a clever idea and say “Eureka!” You sit down and type away. Story be damned! Who cares about character arcs and the like? Plot? Meh…
Well, that is at least what a lot of the silvered screen stories do.
I cannot. I am not that gifted…I like to take a process to write.
Nothing can start without an idea. Movies do not just get made magically. Novels do not get written in an afternoon. It all starts with an idea. We all have them daily. These trivial things will pop into our head and mostly pop back out just as quickly. It is what you do with these ideas that matters.
I HATE, absolutely HATE, writing myself into a corner. It is not fun. I would rather plan this sucker out. Figure out the problems and solve them when there is not that much work in it. Then I can get to the fun stuff – drafting the story.
What is the first step? Well…technically, it is the second step. The very first step is getting that idea…ok. I got it. NOW I want to make it sellable. I want to make it something that someone, anyone would want to read or watch.
It is the TV Guide one liner. Remember TV Guides? It was that little weekly magazine that listed what was on each week. That was back when there were less than 100 (gazillion) channels. I even used to collect the covers! (Hey, I had a weird childhood).
The cool thing about the TV Guides (besides the awesome covers and the great Fall preview each year) was the one liner that would explain what the movie or episode was about.
It would say who the main character was and what the problem was. Sometimes, it would even suggest how they solved it! Here is one:
An out of luck boozing attorney sets off on an impossible case against an evil corporation, testing both his morals and his emotions.
Anyone seen The Verdict? Sounds familiar. Does it make you want to see it? Maybe… (I love that movie)
You can also look at this step as “How to decide what movie to see when you are standing under the marquee and your friend asks you what the movie’s about.”
Whew. That is a little long.
Let us boil it down just a little. We can ask that same question above in just a few words: What is it about?
THAT’S IT! That is what people really want to know. How many times has a friend suggested a movie and then you ask what it is about? They tell you and then you say, “Meh…what else?”
HOLY COW! A group of maybe 300 people slaved for months or years on a project for you to take just a second to decide whether or not to watch it. Scrolling by it in Netflix I too easy. Horror film. Cool poster. What is it about? Forget it.
See how important that is?
You better make sure that “what’s it about” is really good!
If you skimp on this part, you may as well throw the next 6-9 months away and do nothing…because that is essentially what you are doing. If you start out with crap…you will end with…well, you know…crap!
I spend a lot of time on this phase. I throw out a TON of different one-liners. I send them to my collaborator and see what he says. I ask my kids (they are usually the target audience anyway). I beat the CRAP out of this phase. Sometimes there may be 20 different versions with just a SLIGHT variance to the wording. I must nail this phase.
Here is the one for Beaten Path:
A group of adventure-seeking campers decide to test a local wives’ tale by venturing off a wooded path only to get slaughtered one by one.
Makes me want to see it. Of course, I am just a little biased.
That one-liner took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get right. Adam Rhein and I went through at least 50 or more before coming to this one.
This one-liner is also the first line of the pitch. When you get lucky enough to gain a meeting with movie execs and producers, the first thing they ask is, “What do you got?” (great English, I know). What they are really asking is what do you have that I can sell. That one liner better be good.
It does not have to be knock your socks off perfect (very few are) but it does have to be good. It must grab them so the next thing they say is, “Tell me more” or they may ask a question about it. That is a great sign. You want to garner that interest so they KEEP wanting to know more.
It is all soooo amazingly easy yet so ridiculously hard.