Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The script HAS to be great

So maybe you're convinced that you have a great script (or idea) to base a feature length film on. It's everything the world has been waiting for in a movie and you have a burning desire to direct this, your first film, and thus show the world your genius.

Now what?

Maybe you already work in film or television and maybe you know everyone you need to either help you make your film or help you get it made. Maybe you have no connections to film & television but you know some really smart people eager to get involved with making your film.

Either way, as you start to think about HOW you're going to get your movie made, remember, the world is full of people with bad ideas, good intentions, and BIG egos, AND - You don't want to end up finding out that YOU are one of these people.

As I've mentioned, producing a feature length film is a monumental task. It requires a LOT of planning, the right personnel, a great script, a lot of time, and generally some money.

One thing I'd like to point out in regard to the screenplay is - YOU (the filmmaker) do not need to write this. Many, many filmmakers and Indie directors have it in their heads that they need to write their own scripts. This is probably the most prevalent bit of self sabotage I see most commonly with aspiring and first-time filmmakers.

Since filmmaking is probably one of the most collaberative ventures in the arts, why not break yourself of the thought (right away) that you need to write your own screenplay OR (another noob approach) do EVERYTHING yourself? If you direct a hit film, NOBODY will care if you didn't write the script. If you direct a film that goes nowhere, based on your own script, then it's ALL on you. There ARE people who love nothing more than to write, and film scripts in particular. Some even have a knack for it. I suggest an aspiring filmmaker or director think long and hard about whether to seek out a good script as opposed to writing one themselves. Don't waste your time, a crew's time, your investor's money, and a lot of good will just because some of your friends and your mother said they liked your script and you think you are an awesome unproven writer and director.

Don't-do-it.

Whether you write a screenplay or you have someone write one for you, once you have one that you want to make into a film, have people read it. Spend the hundred bucks and send it to Scriptshark. Get as much feedback as you can from unbiased sources and if you get consistent indicators of certain things that should be worked on, work on it or have it worked on. It's common for a screenplay to go through numerous re-writes and revisions. Even professional screenwriters go through this process. If you think you can go into production with a barely revised script for your first film - think again. If you don't have favorable feedback from a select group of savvy readers whose opinions matter, in the form of excitement, then your script most likely needs work.

Once you get into (or beyond) production, it's FAR more difficult and expensive to go back and re-shoot scenes, or shoot pickup shots than it is to have the script work as written in the first place. If the story doesn't work on paper, it's highly unlikely that a first time or inexperienced director will somehow bridge that gap in filming. There's no magic that takes place during production that can make up for a weak script. Take the time to procure or to fashion a great script even if it takes a year, 2 years, or more.

Don't shoot anything until you have a great script.

The script HAS to be great.

copyright (2008) Chris Santucci

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

First Time Filmmakers - GET HELP

Seriously folks. I can't stress enough that you GET HELP when embarking upon the monumental task of making a film. Making a (feature length) film is like building a house and there ARE certain standards and time-proven methods for carrying out such a thing relatively painlessly. Why try and reinvent the wheel?

If you WERE building a house, you wouldn't run out and start haphazardly nailing a bunch of boards together would you? Why try and go it alone when you're a first-timer and you have very little idea HOW to (really) do it in the first place? Do you want to be a hero? Do you REALLY want to end up like the thousands of filmmakers each year who blow their life savings or max out credit cards or blow their rich friend's money on a 2 year long project that results in a film that nobody will ever see?

Start Here - 1) Make your script as good as you can. If you're a first time writer/hopeful filmmaker, get your script in front of as many people as you can, preferably NOT friends. Make it as good as you can with the means that you have available. Read scripts written by professional writers (available free), and try to make your script not only well written, but compelling, interesting, unique, and above all - NOT boring.

Then spend the money and send your script to a service that reads and provides "notes" and "coverage" on scripts. Then seriously think about acting on the feedback you get and MAKE YOUR SCRIPT AS GOOD AS YOU CAN. If you are bent on writing your own script, that's fine, BUT, DO NOT show it to family, friends, or close acquaintances. Follow the above suggestions and then you can decide if you even have a script worth sinking at least a year of your life into making into a film.

AND. If you're keen on making a film, don't be like SO many other filmmakers who think they HAVE TO write their own material. I know quite a few filmmakers who languish in "development" and fund-raising hell with wimpy scripts that they have written because they can't get anyone excited about it. If you REALLY want to make a film, DON'T fall into the trap that so many do - thinking you can (or have to) write a script that will make a great movie. Find out if you have what it takes to write a compelling screenplay BEFORE telling people you're making a film and BEFORE you waste a lot of time and money actually making a weak script into a film that nobody will want to see.

copyright (2008) Chris Santucci