About 3 weeks ago I wrapped on my latest short film ‘Beehive‘, which I wrote, self funded (executive producer) and filmed.
Now that the chaos of pre production and the shoot has finished, I thought it would be a good time to go over how I made ‘Beehive’.
So over the next few weeks I’m going to go through the process of how I made the film. I hope you come along for the ride.
You can’t make a film without an idea and to say that Beehive came to me naturally is an overstatement but at the same time a little bit true.
I struggle with writing. I have always found it hard to write a script and even more to see why it isn’t working. I have a pretty good understanding of scriptwriting theory having studied at The International Film School Sydney under Duncan Thompson. When I read other scripts I can break it down with ease. But for some reason when it actually comes to writing a script of my own, breaking it down, developing character arcs, needs vs goals, subtext, turning points at the right time, cutting out exposition – ALL THE THEORY – I just can’t see my scripts objectively.
So the main reason ‘Beehive’ happened, was because I wanted to push myself to write a script and overcome my anxiety of writing. I was aware of my weaknesses and bad habits, so I set out to overcome them. So here are my top 5 things that I did to do that.
1. Experience lets the creative juices flow
Firstly, I didn’t want to get locked in to one idea. I wanted to be able to let my idea grow.
I get inspiration when I immerse myself in a whole array of things,watching films I don’t usually pick, dancing, theatre, hanging around coffee shops, listening to a variety of music and generally keeping my eyes and ears open; listening and watching people. It’s the small conversation I hear on the bus, the crazy article I read in the newspaper they give you on the train, an interaction I witness in my apartment car park. After awhile little moments add up and slowly they all fall together into a concept, or become that missing link I needed for a turning point or the ending I couldn’t come up with.
2. Write, write, write, write, write
Once I had a story concept I threw together a draft. It was almost like verbal diarrhoea. I tried to switch off my care-factor and spat out all the ideas that had been festering in my head. I wasn’t neat or tidy I just got it out there. THEN I went back through and did revision after revision.
3. Brainstorm and tear it to pieces
One of the best things I did was talk about it with people. That doesn’t work for everyone, but for me it gets my creative juices flowing. I can bounce ideas around and get an impression of how it’s shaping up so far. It also means that I am accountable. People will kick me up the butt if I haven’t kept it up. It pushes me to keep writing, because it feels more real when people know about it.
4. Understanding feedback and suggestions
I learnt a valuable lesson a few years ago. One of my teachers, cinematographer Josef Demian, said “As a writer/director you can source ideas from anywhere and take on as many suggestions as you like as long as you accept that if you take on that idea, you own that decision.” So if the film doesn’t work out, it isn’t the guy in class’s fault for the suggestion, it’s yours for taking it on board.
I always found that tip helped me become a discerning writer – a very, very important characteristic to me as a person who likes to talk to a lot of people for feedback.
People are always going to throw you their two cents. But it’s not their idea and they aren’t going to have to live with it if it is a bad one. They also don’t know it as well as you.
The other tip I have is talk to people if that helps you, but not too many or else you run the risk of confusing yourself and losing sight of your idea. It’s a trap for an inexperienced writer.
5. Stop writing
I’m an obsessive, perfectionist and control freak (yes, I’ve put it in writing). It’s a dangerous cocktail for a creative person because it can mean that eventually the more you work on something the further you push yourself away from actually getting it done. Make sense?
I was tweaking every little bit of my script. Is that the best verb? Should I put a direction here? Is that the most suitable blocking? Should I punctuate that differently? What if I try to get it so each paragraph ends without spilling onto the next page…
I was so obsessed with writing a great script and a getting positive feedback that I was holding onto the process and not moving on to pre-production. Eventually the time comes to hand over the script to a director or producer so that it can stop living on the page and actually become the movie.
I’m not saying that I am the best writer in the world, just a person who had a fear of writing that finished a script and made it into a film. Hopefully it’s great. If not, I’ll take on the lessons I learnt from this experience and apply them to that project.
So start writing, because until it’s on paper, it’s just an idea.
If all you have is an idea, write a paragraph about it. Then you have written a paragraph, which is one step closer to two paragraphs and a page etc.
Stay tuned for my next update on the making of Beehive.
Learn how to write a script
There are so many books, websites, Facebook pages, courses where you can learn how to write. Of course, once you get the theory it all comes down to your imagination. But on the technical side here are a few suggestions. (For your imagination – do what I do and reach out to experiences as they can only feed your creative mind).
If you are starting from scratch or want to brush up on skills, have a look around for a short course, even online course.
The Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) runs short courses in a variety of subjects all year round. They are often very affordable and you learn skills from industry professionals. They are a great way to get started.
UCLA offers live online screen writing classes. I haven’t experienced it myself, but it has some pretty great reviews. Perhaps it would be good for you.
These books take a writer who has the basics, to hone their craft and get their film made.
The best writing book I ever read was “The Screenwriter Within – New strategies to finish your screenplay and get a deal.” by D.B. Gilles. Just read it, that’s all I have to say.
“Save The Cat – The last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need” by Blake Snyder is highly acclaimed. I’ve been aching to read it, but ironically, “The Screenwriter Within” felt like the last book I needed (for the time being). I will read it because you can always learn something new, if not, perhaps just thinking about writing will inspire you 🙂
Script writing software
Working on a tight budget? ‘Celtx‘ is a free scriptwriting program that has all the basics you need to write your breakout film. You can use it on a computer, laptop, tablet and even phone. So you have no excuse not to be writing wherever you go!
If you have a few extra bucks (quite a few bucks) Final draft is an industry standard. If you are afraid of switching over from Celtx, never fear, you can import your Celtx files into Final draft with ease. Final draft can be a little daunting, but is very very good. Did I mention industry standard?
Tired of your friends comments. Want someone with experience to help you. Become a member of a writers guild, such as The Australian Writers Guild. Not only do they have great resources, one of the perks is that you can get your scripts assessed, registered, have consults. It’s not free, but if you are serious, it’s a seriously good idea.
You can also source people who work as freelance script assessors, such as Sydneys Karel Segers. These individuals are professionals in the field and can offer some great advice. You may find it a more personal experience.
Script Frenzy is an exciting event which encourages and supports writers. They host an international event to encourage writers to write 100 pages within a month. During that time you can log your progress, read up on Script frenzies writing resources, and get to know other writers. Plus it’s free.
The Writers Studio Facebook page is just one of the writing pages I follow. They have a website too but I find a blog or Facebook group are great as their updates can spontaneously prompt you to think about writing, encourage you and offer helpful suggestions.
The Writers Store is an online company dedicated to supplying resources, advice, information to writers worldwide.
If you liked this post please ‘LIKE’ my Facebook page and ‘FOLLOW’ my blog. I keep them up to date with; projects I’m involved in, reviews & tutorials and share interesting tid-bits to make you smile.
“With my head in the stars, a twinkle in my eye and a love for cinema and nostalgia, filmmaking is a fun, creative way to express myself.”