Last weekend I attended the 45th Annual Worldfest – Houston International Film Festival. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of other screenwriters from all over the world. It was great to congregate with other writers, and comical that we all have the same questions…
“What are your methods?”
“What are you working on now?”
“Have you had any luck in finding an agent or having one of your films optioned?”
All these questions made me think, am I in the right business?
Can I continue to write knowing that the possibility of someone making one of my movies may be on the same level as being struck by lightening?
Ultimately the answer was… YES.
I really enjoyed the Awards Gala and meeting other filmmakers, but in thinking about writing this blog post I realized the one thing that keeps me going is creating my next story and my next set of characters.
At my core, I just want to write.
And I love the medium I have chosen.
Of course I would love to see one of my screenplays on the big screen (but I may have to learn how to operate a camera to actualize this). * smile *
I guess what this last weekend made me realize was that I enjoyed the film festival, being awarded for my work, and that is enough for me. And I was thrilled that my screenplay ‘The Spectacular Spectacles’ received a Gold Remi at the 2012 Worldfest. I actually feel lifted, like the pressure is off. I’m going to continue on my way, keep writing, keep entering film festivals and let my work speak for me. I love my work.
So let’s touch a bit on one of those questions that were so frequently asked at the festival. “What are your methods?” I feel everyone probably has their own writing method and their own ways of coming up with new story ideas. It’s interesting to me that we always want to know how someone else’s process works (probably because it can be daunting to first get started on a new story). For me? It’s more questions. What do I write about? Who will me characters be? I’m currently between projects and asking myself these very questions.
So where do I start?
I have a file that I always keep with me on my phone and computer, titled Screenplay Ideas. When an idea strikes me, I jot it down and file it away until I’m ready to start a new project. When I’m ready to start a new screenplay, I go through my ideas, choose one, and begin a rough draft paragraph based on what I think would make this idea a good story. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t -- in which case I choose another idea and begin again. Hopefully, in the end, this process leads me to my next screenplay. * smile *
But… I never want to force it. So if it doesn’t feel right, I move onto another idea.
Once I have a rough draft paragraph that I like, I do a rough outline. From there I’m ready to begin writing. Knowing that the first page is important -- because it’s the first page everyone will read! -- I usually try to skip it my first go around. There are cases that my rough draft page one will make the cut, but I just don’t want the pressure when I start.
With that all said and off my chest, I thought I would include some samples of my screenplays for those of you who may be interested in screenwriting. As I’ve said before, the format is everything. There is no deterring from it. Once you learn to work inside these parameters creativity can take over. Know your characters; love them for all their imperfections. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and write something unexpected. If it feels right…write!
Here we go…
I chose to include the first page of my first “finished” screenplay ‘Split’. I feel it is a good example of how to set up scenes that don’t contain dialog, and how new characters are introduced before they begin their dialog. With it being the first page, my intent is to give some brief background on events that will be prevalent to the story as a whole.
INT. WOMAN'S WOMB
Fertilized egg begins to separate into two identical eggs. They begin to grow and form two unborn babies.
EXT. OIL FIELD, TEXAS, 1985 - DAY
Two five year old twin girls, MEGAN and MADISON WINSTON are playing around one of the oil rigs while their father, WILLIAM WINSTON, 35 and MIGUEL PIZANO, 35 work with the crew. MADISON is dancing, spinning and climbing around on the equipment. MEGAN is digging in the dirt and looking at rocks under a magnifying glass.
EXT. MEXICO CITY, 1985 - EARLY MORNING
Destructive 8.1 earthquake hits and destroys most of Mexico City.
EXT. OIL FIELD, TEXAS, 1985 - DAY
The ground shakes and oil begins spewing out of the rig, covering MEGAN and MADISON WINSTON. The crew, WILLIAM WINSTON and MIGUEL PIZANO rush to contain the flow. MADISON runs for shelter while MEGAN stands enjoying the rain of oil until her father picks her up and carries her off.
EXT. BENITO JUAREZ INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, PRESENT - DAY
Black luxury car pulling from the curb of Arrivals. Follow car away from airport, through Mexico City to a five-star hotel.
This is the eleventh page of ‘The Spectacular Spectacles’. We’re right around that very important ten-minute mark of the movie. I chose this page (so as not to give away the hook) but to show how one might switch between locations and time periods in history. This would also work for flashback scenes. If my character, Spencer, had been traveling a further distance than from outside to back inside the house, I would’ve included the word MOVING between the scenes.
INT. BARN, LATE 1800’S – AFTERNOON
Mr. Murphy slides the barn door open and shows Spencer where he would like the hay stacks to begin. Spencer quickly goes to work as Mr. Murphy heads into the house to unload his supplies. Working hard, Spencer’s mind begins to wander, without even thinking twice Spencer removes the glasses to wipe the sweat from his brow.
INT. GRANDMOTHER’S BASEMENT, PRESENT DAY/1980 – AFTERNOON
Instantly swept back to the present day, Spencer sits alone in his Grandmother’s dark basement. A stream of sunlight pours in through a tiny basement window. Spencer bounds up the stairs, leaving the glasses lying on the floor.
EXT. FAMILY FARM – AFTERNOON
Spencer bolts out of his Grandmother’s house, taking in his surroundings. The house and the barn both show the wear of a hundred years past. Running to the side of the barn he finds the same farm implements, rusted and sitting unused for decades. He runs his hand along the side of the barn, amazed. The crash of lightening and the sound of thunder startle Spencer and wake him from his moment of daze. Rain begins to pour down on top of him and he races back to the house.
INT. GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE, PRESENT DAY/ 1980’S – AFTERNOON
Spencer rushes back towards the basement stairs, being stopped short by his Grandmother, with towel in hand.
At least it’s raining! Having any
luck in the basement?
Spencer nods vigorously trying to break free of his Grandmother’s rub down with the towel. She sets him free and he hurries down the basement stairs. His Grandmother smiles, as if she knows something.
There you have it, a sneak peek into the world of screenplays.
For those of you who’ve been following these posts, thank you so much! I hope I’ve been helpful to anyone who might be interested in writing a screenplay. If anyone has any questions or ideas and would like to read more about screenwriting, please let the Ninja Peas know. I would be happy to guest blog again on the subject. Happy writing!
xoxo - Kristall Burke
Kristall Burke lives outside of Austin, Texas on beautiful Lake Travis. She's a stay at home mom of two kids and is celebrating 15 years of marriage with husband, Bryan. In 2006 she was awarded a Silver Remi for her screenplay ‘Split’from Worldfest Houston - The International Film Festival. And in 2012 she was awarded a Gold Remi for ‘The Spectacular Spectacles’.