Category Archives: MDA2100 – Screenwriting: The Short Film

Screenwriting Term 2 – Second Draft

Second Draft Script – Man to Man [2nd Draft]

With this draft, I had the opportunity to have it read out in front of a larger group which was good as I could glean a higher variety of feedback from my cohort.

The changes I made were my lead character’s name (from Philip to Joe) as I felt the name Joe suited his character better. I had added more reference to Jason’s sister Ella and also I removed the whole music subplot with Jason and just had him give up on basketball partly because of his father. A subtle change I made in this draft was every time I had Joe walking somewhere, I would describe that he walks with a limp, subtly hinting that he suffered a serious injury in the past. I wanted it to be subtle and not have a character explain Joe’s past in detail as I wanted to avoid expositional dialogue as much as I can. I did not want a repeat of the dialogue I wrote in my earlier drafts of Pain where characters explain to each other things that both of them already know.

Response from this draft was generally positive. Most of my cohort did not understand any of the basketball terminology as I suspected, so they felt they may have missed something in the drama. I was aware of the possibility of this when I was writing my first draft and therefore structured the drama in a way that even though you may not understand the terminology used, you can get a sense of the dynamic between the characters. One example would be the practice scene in my film where Joe has a go at Jason for not running a play they way he was supposed to. Even though Joe complains at Jason using basketball terminology the general gist of the scene is that Jason does something that he wasn’t supposed to do which results in Joe shouting at him. I think I conveyed that as well as I could; granted it’s hard for someone who is unfamiliar with basketball to visualise this scene, but if this scene were to be filmed then I suspect it would be clearer to the audience.

One major criticism that I got was that I emphasised the point too much about the presence of Ella in the story at the beginning which makes the last scene lack the impact that it would have. I agreed with this, initially I did not want to include too much of Ella as in the event that I do decided to make this film I know that casting Ella would be extremely difficult, finding a young black actress who can play basketball convincingly.

Another criticism I got was that someone said that in my script you don’t really engage emotionally with the characters since it’s such a weighty story but it’s told within the confines of a ten page screenplay. Someone mentioned that my script would be better suited as a feature length screenplay, a sentiment I agree with. I still wanted to include the music subplot with Jason (or perhaps a different subplot as I was told the music thing was cliched) and wanted to explore Joe’s backstory a bit more but I couldn’t do so within a ten page screenplay. The very fact that I felt that the stories of my previous two screenplays that I’ve written for this term were better suited for a feature-length treatment says something about my predisposition toward writing stories. Perhaps I’m not suited to writing short screenplays as my ideas always have too much weight to them to explore within the confines of a short screenplay, especially a short screenplay with a page limit.

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Screenwriting Term 2 – New Script Draft

First Draft Script – MAN TO MAN [1st Draft]

As I tried to come up with a new idea after struggling with my previous idea, I decided to return to my roots and write a story set somewhere based on my personal experiences. As a result, I came up with the idea of a basketball coach who tries to live his dreams through his son. The idea for this script partially came from the film Whiplash I viewed earlier in the year which I absolutely loved. I wanted to translate the dynamic between J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller’s characters in Whiplash into the setting for my script and see where that will take me.

whiplash_ver2_xlg

As it happens, writing this draft was extremely easy as I was easily able to call upon my own experiences playing basketball in the UK and translate some of them into my story. This made me realise that writing stories based off your own experience helps speed up the writing process as you don’t need to research around the subject as everything is there in your memory.

Initial feedback on my script is that the story was very good and very contained, having a clear arc and that I wrote it with real authenticity as the technical language and basketball terminology seemed genuine. The main piece of constructive criticism I received was that it wasn’t clear whose story it was, Philip’s or Jason’s. Initially I intended this to be Jason’s story as he wants to pursue a career in music rather than basketball but the ending of my script, as people pointed out suggested otherwise, as it infers that it is Philip’s story.

Now I was torn between two choices: Jason or Philip. I decided to make it Philip’s story as I really liked the ending of my script and felt that it was really a poignant end to the story. This made me learn another thing about endings, different to what I learned from my previous script idea, that endings of a film say a lot about whose story it is you’re telling.

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Screenwriting Term 2 – Second Draft Feedback

Second Draft Script – PAIN [2nd Draft]

The general consesus from this script was that the concept of the story was great and the opening was really strong and visually interesting but that the dialogue throughout the rest of the film is very expositional at some points and lacks dramatic tension. Also, I was given feedback that the character of Erica was unnecessary and that I should merge the characters of Olivia and Erica into one in order to make the story of the script more focused. I found this feedback very informative as I looked through my second draft and made a note on which dialogue scenes were expositional and which others were lacking in drama.

Little did I know that this would make me see the inherent problem in my script: It’s not short film material.

As I kept slaving away and trying to come up with a third draft which I was happy with, I kept finding myself relying on flashbacks to convey key information on the backstory to the audience, also I could not come up with a good enough ending that I felt was satisfying. In my experience watching films, I’ve always held the belief that you don’t know what a film is really about until you get to the film’s ending. The problem with my script I found is that I didn’t know exactly what my story was about. On one hand it’s a story about a mother’s desire for her vengeance and how that leads her down a dark path and on the other it’s a story about a man and how he has to pay the consequences for the choices he made with Catherine (my main character Olivia’s daughter). It soon made me realise that these types of stories cannot be told within a ten-page screenplay, in fact these are stories that warrants a feature-length screenplay to do them justice. As a result, I decided to completely scrap this script idea and come up with a new one.

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Screenwriting Term 2 – Script Development – Draft 1

First Draft Script – PAIN [1st Draft]

As I was taking a break from writing my final draft for the script I submitted last term I decided to write something else in order to take my mind away from what I was writing at the time. As a result, I came up with Pain, a short thriller that takes place nearly entirely in one location and centres around a mother’s desire for revenge for her daughter. The idea for this short film actually came from a video game called Grand Theft Auto V in which there is a torture-based mission in it. I wanted to write a story that centred around a torture scene thus I came up with Pain.

Here is a video showing the mission from the game:

The script itself has a lot of torture scenes in it and after completing this draft and returning to it I couldn’t help shake the feeling that I just wrote a script with a lot of torture porn in it. Also the ending for this draft was too predictable and uninteresting so I knew that had to change. Even after I pitched the idea to my class, they too agreed that the ending needed to be rewritten in to something more interesting.

Therefore prior to the workshop sessions where we present our scripts to be read, I decided to rewrite this first draft into something with a story more focused on the characters and with a better ending.

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Screenwriting Workshop 3 – Third Draft Feedback

Screenplay here – THE CLEANER [3rd Draft]

I had to make a lot of compromises with this draft in order for it to fit into eight pages, as a result most of the jokes and gags that were in earlier drafts have been unfortunately cut out. This was commented on during my feedback session and people expressed regret that I had to cut it all out.

I also changed the dynamic of the opening of my script and tried to make it more visual by showing what my main character, Dominic, was doing prior to him calling Fat Charlie for assistance.

I can’t say that I am fully satisfied with this draft of the screenplay; since my screenplay is a black comedy I feel that for it to be what I really want it to be, it needs to be longer so that I can fit in all of the jokes that were in before and perhaps invent some new ones. I feel that the essence of black comedy comes in the dialogue between characters and the dialogue within my earlier drafts is what made my script too long in the first place.

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Screenwriting Workshop 2 – Second Draft Feedback

Screenplay here: THE CLEANER [2nd Draft]

Before going into this workshop group I already knew that my script was too long. My second draft ballooned to ten pages long due to all of the extra dialogue I wrote. Part of the feedback I got from my first draft was that it needed more inconsequential dialogue in order to keep with the same tone of black comedy that I had established. This may have led me to overwrite in a sense and now I was in a position were my screenplay literally had two pages of extra dialogue.

Some of the feedback I got was to, obviously trim down the dialogue. Someone made the point that I had a lot of expositional dialogue that could be removed. I also had a running gag where my character Fat Charlie refers to my main character Dominic with the wrong name on several occasions, but people thought that this type of humour was inconsistent with the rest of the script. Another gag I had in this draft was to do with religion as the two characters get into a debate about religion.

While many people thought it was funny, I was told that it felt a bit too “added on” and that the only way to make it work was to make religion be intrinsic to one of the characters. I thought about this a lot and couldn’t think up of a way to make faith intrinsic to the character without making the character come off as a religious caricature which I personally would find a dishonest representation of a person who belongs to the Christian faith in modern day society (like myself).

There was also some concerns that Dominic was too crap at this job, but I immediately dismissed this point as Dominic being crap at his job is the whole point of my story.

My next draft is going to be rather difficult to tackle as I have to decide what to take out what to keep and I’m also thinking about restructuring my script to make it more visual as I am starting to get concerns with the amount of dialogue in it and whether I am overwriting my characters.

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Screenwriting Workshop 1 – First Draft Feedback

Screenplay here:  THE CLEANER [1st Draft]

After having the first draft of my screenplay read out at the first workshop session, I was overall very pleased with the feedback I received from the group.

The general consensus was that my script had a good twist at the end and that the black comic nature of the dialogue was entertaining, but that it also had similarities to Pulp Fiction. This was something I knew would be pointed out very early on as Pulp Fiction did serve as an inspiration when writing this screenplay, but the truth of the matter is that my main inspiration for this film was from an episode of The Sopranos where Tony Soprano helps clean up the murder of Richie Aprile after his sister Janice kills him – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X6AaNbZZfQ

It’s fair to say that I am influenced by Tarantino’s writing style so I wanted to write something that would allow me to emulate that style in my own way. Throughout further drafts of this screenplay however, I guess I will try to differentiate my screenplay as much as I can from Pulp Fiction.

A few points I received to consider was that the death of my main character at the end, being strangled with a belt, was too messy and that it would have been better if my main character’s neck was snapped.

To be fair, the inspiration for my character being strangled by a belt was from The Godfather in which Luca Brasi is strangled in a bar by a piece of string:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GqYYlqkPdM

There was also an issue with the phone call one of my characters, Fat Charlie, makes toward the end of the film in which there was divided opinion on whether it should be more cryptic or not. My intention with that was to make it that the audience knows what’s going to happen to the main character Dominic from what they hear in that phone conversation, creating a sense of objectivity in that they are expecting Dominic’s murder to happen. It was never my intention to make the ending a “twist ending” per se. I guess with this information on board, I will perhaps try to tweak the dialogue during that sequence.

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