All through high school I participated in tournament of the minds, and I doubt anyone outside of Australia will know what that is so I will explain. You are put into groups of 6 and are given a problem you have to solve in a ten-minute script. You have 6 weeks to solve it, write the script, make costumes and props etc. everyone in your category has the exact same question. So how do you stand out?
You had to find your own interpretation of the question, put your own spin on it. Have different types of characters and different locations. What this experience taught me is to constantly try to find a way to make my work unique. One of the questions we had was we had to write a song that would solve a social problem (and yes all of our scripts were extremely corny, deal with it). We did it as a talk show with the instruments because the musicians had died on their cause. We all dressed up as an instrument. And surprisingly we got honours that year and it had a lot to do with the way we approached the question. I got to watch a couple of the other schools performances and they were all very similar just set in a different location, ours stood out as being different and unique.
Think about a chick flick. They are all essentially the same thing, a love story, so what has the writer put into it to make it stand out against the others. Think about Brides maids and 27 dresses. Both wedding movies about the brides maids, but still manage to be completely different because the writers found new ways to look at it.
Pitch me a movie about a love story that involves a death, and I’m keeping it simple to see what you can do with it. Email me your pitches and I will do a blog post showing why some are more effective than others.
Things to consider:
There are million different ways you could have someone die, why have him or her killed by a random person, and why have them killed by a gun or a drunk driver. Take it a step further. Make it mean something
Try to find a new take on the love story, which I’ll admit is hard, but that is what will make your story stand out.
If you are not a veteran at writing movies it can be a massive mountain to your pushbike, but that’s okay. When you write a movie every scene is important, and if you are not use to that level of detail it is easy to turn your brilliant (and your ideas are good) into a mundane story. There are a lot of movies that are made and do not capitalize on the details. Details take your movie to another level. So how do we start?
Read. A lot. And watch a diverse range of movies and TV shows. The more diverse your taste the greater influences you have on your work. Combining different genres and style can give your story a new take. Think of your favourite movies, I can guarantee all of them have incorporated references to other content. It’s something small but it increases the quality of your work.
Start by reading short stories and practicing adapting them into a short film. Why? It is easy to loose focus or miss moments that could have been stronger when you are working on a 100-page script. Short films are restrictive in that you only have so much time to tell your story. Writing the short films gives you practice at paying attention to the small details and it will help you to make every word and every location count. Why have a scene in a coffee shop when there are millions of unique and different locations you could have the scene that can add greater depth to your work.
And I’m not saying forget about your movie ideas. If you have ideas about a movie, great! Write them down and give them time to develop. I cannot stress how important it is that you actually WRITE DOWN YOUR IDEAS. Because I can guarantee you will forget half of these amazing moments and parts of your movie if you are only remembering them. WRITE THEM DOWN!
So there are thousands out there wanting to be a writer, and the fact is very few can make something out of it. So why not you? If you want to make it, you have to practice at being different. When writing its easy to go to the stereotypes and the same old story, most of the time you don’t even realise that is what you have done. So what is the point of this blog series? I want to share everything I have learned from screenwriting and watching the greats strut their stuff. Surprisingly there is a lot to learn from watching other people, the trick is teaching yourself how to put it into practice, that’s where I come in.