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Script Frenzy 2009

March 9, 2009

banner-for-blog1Hands up those who have heard of Script Frenzy?

For those who have never heard of it, Script Frenzy is the younger sibling of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) run by the Office of Letters and Light. In its 3rd year, Script Frenzy allows writers to take their talents and challenge them in a whole new writing arena – 100 pages of script in 30 days. Those who are registered from past NaNo expeditions can use their existing NaNo user name to log in and register.

Last year, buoyed my success at my first ever NaNo, I decided to give Script Frenzy a crack. Writing and directing a film has always been a secret fantasy of mine – a hang over from a teenage love of fiction and music videos. It seemed like a wonderful invitation and opportunity to explore a style of writing almost completely foreign to me.

The timing wasn’t so great though. We chose to take a driving holiday through Tasmania for the first two weeks of April and then another week with my father in Victoria. Let’s just say I could have saved myself the hassle of lugging my laptop around. I wrote 17 pages, which in retrospect seems pretty amazing given our busy holiday schedule and the early bedtimes. And writing those 17 pages taught me a lot about what not to do this year if I want to sail gracefully over the winner’s line.

Consequently my 2009 Script Frenzy campaign looks a little different to last year. This time I’ve coerced invited my long standing writing partner and Write Anything’s Sunday columnist, Paul to be part of the madness. Yes! Script Frenzy allows for collaborative partnerships. Individual writing totals contribute towards the final page count for the single project. Pretty nifty – especially for fledgling script writers, such as ourselves – if we ever work out how to actually register said unnamed project.

The two other major mistakes (other than going on holiday) I’ve also made allowances for. Firstly Paul and I are in the process of nutting out a bare bones story line and some characters in the lead up to beginning. Considering it is a collaborative project – probably sensible. Last year I based my script on one of my short stories, but had no idea about one of the main characters, or the larger context in which the snap shot of a story occurred. I ended up creating the wrong characters and subplot lines for the story. The result was a jarring and embarrassing hash of ideas and dialogue. But it was nicely formatted!

Secondly, having just finished reading Stephen Norrington’s fantastic two part article, Who’s Afraid of Formatting, I’m not getting myself tied up in knots trying to write with perfect formatting. Last year I wrote directly into Celtx, which got the formatting correct after days of getting my head around just how to use the program. What happened was, the story never flowed and I lost any momentum there may have been. It felt contrived and strained.

After all – writing in the first instance should be about writing – not making it look nice and palatable for a studio. Norrington writes:

Formatting only matters when your script becomes a paid-for project-in-development and the bean-counters need labels and numbers … for your first draft, stuff formatting and start typing.

Advice heeded. If only I had have known to just write last year – maybe that 17 page count could have looked nastier but had more substance. Norrington suggests 40 pages of prose style writing equals, loosely, 100 pages of formatted script.

I’m looking forward to getting down to bare basics – of toying with dialogue, of keeping the action short and sweet (as opposed to sweating out descriptive narrative which has never been my forte), of exploring an interesting story that has macro and micro contexts and further developing my capacity to work in a collaborative environment. Plus I’m excited that I’ll be one step closer to realising that dream of a movie!

Script Frenzy begins April 1st.

So who’s in for Script Frenzy? And any ideas for what you might write?

  1. March 9, 2009 8:28 am

    I’m planning to do ScriptFrenzy. I participated last year and got about 35 pages done but couldn’t complete it due to bad timing. My daughter won in the YWP last year and is planning to do it again. Not sure if my wife or son are planning on it.

    I am considering writing a musical about office life, but I don’t have much more than that right now.

  2. March 9, 2009 5:37 pm

    Sounds wonderful Rob. It’s good to know that there are other WA regulars who are planning on doing it.

    Was it the first time you’d ever written a script? And how did you feel about the process of writing.

    I never completely got my head around the idea of writing the bare bones of a story – but with Norrington’s tips – I’m feeling better prepared to ‘write a story’ rather than ‘write a script’.

  3. March 9, 2009 7:39 pm

    I have written several scripts and had several comedies performed on stage (the most recent of which was written this past September and performed this past November).

    The key thing that I’ve found is that as the scriptwriter you need to leave more to the director’s imagination. In other words, unless a prop or quirk to the scenery is pivotal to the dialogue, don’t set your heart on it being available at the time the script is performed. Also, if your character’s can’t describe a scene in words, chances are the stage crew can’t build it or paint it for a stage play (screenplays loosen that rule a lot thanks to computers and special effects).

    As for the process… I tend to get hung up on getting the formatting right when I am writing a play. I don’t tend to get stuck so much that I can’t get the writing done because I’m spending all my time formatting, but formatting errors irritate me enough that I get distracted by them and distraction is something I can’t afford during these events. In the end, I’m writing characters who tell a story and that trumps the formatting, but it’s a personality quirk that I have to at least try to get the formatting right the first time.

    Good luck with your script!

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