Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Oopsy...in my excitement of the Andrew Stanton presentation I realized that my next post was supposed to be about putting all of this together into an outline. My bad.

As you can see to the right I have completed the outline. It came out to around twelve pages. Not bad. It's a quick read with enough information to get across story, plot, character etc. I have read a bunch of outlines and for the most part they can be boring. Lots of information. I try to make mine a fun read. Give a sense of the tone of the movie but not so much detail and frills that it takes away from the purpose of the outline: Executive Approval.

After I was satisfied with where the cards were on the big board I sat down in front of it with my laptop and started to write. I don't want to say transcribe, because that would mean that everything on the board was perfect. Far from it. While I write I try not to look at the board. Instead, I just write from memory. This serves me two purposes. One, it allows me to write in a more story telling fashion and not so "card to card" feeling. And two, if I am writing and forget a card but the story still works it tells me that maybe that story point or idea wasn't necessary to the movie. So out it goes. Kind of a natural editing process. Granted, it could be my terrible memory and I forgot to write an important plot point or character arc, in which case, I review all the cards once I am done and double check cards against outline.

The outline, like a script, will go through many rewrites. My first pass is just to get all of the information out. Then, I can go back through paragraph by paragraph and line by line. I might look at a paragraph and see if there is a more entertaining way to get the point across or perhaps tell the same information in less words.

I like to give my outline act breaks as well as a mid-point header and also number each scene or sequence. I also try to break up paragraphs into short chunks so there is more white space on the page much like one might only have two or three lines of description in a screenplay. Makes it open and airy and less daunting and less dense of a read.

The screenwriting team of TERRY ROSSIO and TED ELLIOT have a great website called WORDPLAY. It has a bunch of great columns on screenwriting and also one on WRITING TREATMENTS AND OUTLINES. I recommend checking it out and maybe even printing out the columns and including them in your arsenal of "how-to" material.

Until next time,


Saturday, September 22, 2007


I had been having trouble with my main character and his involvement in the plot of the story I sweated so much in creating. Every trait I gave him seemed to negate my story. It was like trying to cram a square peg into a round hole. He was also less interesting and less funny than the secondary characters. I was banging my head against the wall trying to figure this out and then I had the serendipidous opportunity to attend a presentation by the amazing ANDREW STANTON of PIXAR fame!

Andrew said a lot of amazing things (if you ever get a chance to go to his presentation or even get a DVD of the event I highly recommend it!), but the one thing that stood out to me since it was foremost on my mind was regarding character and story. He spoke of the story and plot giving you information on who your main character should be. I was feeling pretty good because that's exactly how I was working mine. Then he said some interesting things about developing character. Most of which I was doing as well. I was two for two with this guy. Then he said something that floored me. He said that developing and getting to know your character will ultimately change your story and you have to be willing to throw away all those amazing scenes that you created if your character doesn't fit in them. LIGHTBULB!!! I realised that I was so married to my story that I didn't allow my character to inform me on how the story should change.

Needless to say I went home and reworked my main character without considering the story. I am happy with how he is coming out and even more happy as to how he is changing the story. I am sad to see certain scenes go away because they don't fit anymore but conversely i am extremely happy that the scenes that stayed as well as the new scenes are character driven and not driven solely by the plot. And isn't that what we are all after?

So, the catch 22 is that developing your story will inform you of who your main character is and developing your main character will tell you that your story is wrong.