About a month ago, I finished the first draft of my screenplay, and am now about half way finished with my second draft. There were a lot of lessons learned in the past month, including: make sure actions sequences are relevant to the characters' growth, be willing to take a break from your work and come back to it later, read many screenplays, and assume the role as the student (learn something new and question your work) when ever you reach a landmark. But, the lesson I want to talk about is the most recent one I learned. Many people teach this lesson, including Robert McKee and Blake Snyder. But, it was when I was reading "Pixar's 22 Rules to Phenominal Storytelling," that I picked up on it. You see, I had a problem. I had a really awesome character that dragged the story down. Of course, I didn't realize this until I had to write a big action sequence that served as a filter for everything wrong with my story, including this one character. The action sequence had to do too much in too little time. It was the introduction to no less than two major character. It served as a growth scene between the protagonist and one of the major characters. It was a fight scene, a rescue scene, and an escape scene. The scene that would take up only a few pages lead to the biggest writer's block I had. How to fix it? Well, I had to get rid of this awesome character. But, she was hip! Her dialogue was great! She was going to be iconic! She, wasn't crucial to the progression of the story, nor did she serve any purpose that a major character couldn't serve. Ultimately, I combined her character and dialogue with a major character and rewrote the last twelve or so pages. This did a number of things. First, It liberated me to see the progression of the story differently. Second, It made a major character more interresting. Last, It allowed me to introduce this major character earlier, and allow the relationship between her and the protagonist grow before the action sequence. This made that one big action scene easier to write and digest, since these two character already had a chance to grow, something that can be done much more easily without a bunch of action going on. So, what's the lesson here? I think it goes beyond eliminating or combining nonessential characters. This rule applies to any idea, when that idea becomes more important, or "cool," than the story or project you're working on. Story, like any artform, is about playing and experimenting with different ideas, which can't happen when you restrict yourself to a single idea. So, ask yourself if the idea truly helps with the goal of the story, if it's essential to what you want to achieve. If not, it may be time to eliminate it.
Cameron Martin — Shreveport Film Connection
More Blog Entries from Cameron Martin
In the latest chapter I've worked on, from the Film Connection text book, I was asked to describe my "philosophy of working with actors... Read More >>
Last night, I finally saw the second "Hobbit" movie. Seeing as how this blog needs another entry, I thought I'd make today's subject about the action sequences in "The Hobbit" and other films, including "300," the other "Matrix" movies, "Akria," and the first "Captain America" movie... Read More >>