Famalam – The Journey

As the deadline for our FMP draws nearer (less than 24 hours!!!) I have been reflecting on the journey that my screenplay has taken.

I’ve had multiple episodes over the past month with stress and anxiety because I wasn’t even sure if what I was writing was worthy of a pass.

But I look at what I was writing at the start of the year, and I compare it to what I have now, and I couldn’t be happier.

For the first three months of the course I worked on an idea that I had been planning months in advance of starting the course. I wrote the treatment for the idea for our Major Project Treatment, with the module leader telling me that he was very fond of what I was working on.
And then I received my mark. It was dreadful. It was slammed for being far too unoriginal and under developed. So, naturally, I did the most logical thing that would cause me the least stress possible. I binned it!

Where my classmates were now working on the first draft of their scripts for an idea they had been working on for months and maybe even a year, I was starting from scratch.

I knew what type of story that I wanted to tell. I just didn’t know how to find it. So I did what all the great writers do. I drew from my past. And thus FAMALAM was born.

The initial draft followed a group of twelve year old boys attending an all boys school who were sexually maturing and chasing girls. The script was rude, crude and very over the top. This was much like my childhood, and I was drawing on characters and events from my past to write the script.

The main thing that came back to me from my first draft was that my stories focus was too unclear. A group of boys chasing girls just wasn’t enough. But then my tutor pointed out that this seemed to be more a story about friendship, and this is when he helped me find the title for the film. FAMALAM.

This one word helped me re-focus the entire story onto one single thing. Friendship. Friendship that is as strong, if not stronger, than family. And so with this in mind, I smashed out the second draft.

The original draft followed a group of ten boys, because I wanted to include all of the characters from my real life friendship group. But I realized that ten was just too many, so I had to cut the main group down to just five.
Fortunately I was able to keep hold of three of the other characters, and I had great fun in turning them into the antagonists against the protagonist group.

Once my second draft was complete I took a step back to examine it. The core story was there, following a group of boys and watching their strong bond.  But I had focused far too much on the unique interaction between the five characters in the group. Each scene was drawn out far too long because I wanted to show exactly how unique this friendship group was (the way they interacted, acted etc.)

In focusing on this too much, I completely neglected the structure of the story too. This is when I researched various structures to try and find one that I felt would fit the idea perfectly. In my previous post I discussed finding that very structure.
And so, with a structure in place and a clear goal to concise every little detail of the story down, I began the next draft.

That next draft is what I am staring at now. Sort of. It’s been the slowest, most agonizing and painful creative process I have ever gone through. Each day I would only be able to work through five pages before my brain stopped. Then  every time I started the next five pages, I went back to the previous five to make little changes here and there. I was cutting down ten page scenes into one. Showing a characters personality in one line instead of fifty. Moving scenes to fit into the new structure that I was following. Trying to make up new scenes whilst keeping my ABC story in mind. Tweaking characters habits and dialogue to make them more unique from one another. And all the while trying to include elements of the premise throughout the script. Elements that you see in friendship, like always sticking together, standing up for one another, going on adventures together etc.

But s**t, I’m right at the finish line now! And I’m looking at this script thinking “I’ve turned a COMPLETE mess of an idea into a solid, simplistic, original screenplay” in the space of about four months. My tutor was worried that I would not meet the potential that this idea had, and maybe he will be right. It’s for whoever marks it to decide that. But looking at the journey that this idea has gone through makes me more satisfied than any grade I end up receiving will.

Masters done.

Turning Into The Home Straight

Today (I am writing this at 1am) marks the three week mark until I have to hand in my FMP. Famalam the screenplay. The third draft is slowly coming to a close, and once I’ve finished it I shall delve into whatever I can to help me with my fourth draft. I’m hoping to do one a week.

But as my time on this Masters course comes to a close I would just like to share a couple of thoughts. It’s been no secret to my tutors that I’ve really struggled through this year. I probably chose to do this course at the wrong stage of my life. But I so also believe heavily in making the most of the short amount of time you have here, and waiting a few years to see if I could find my passion just didn’t appeal to me.

By taking the risk and doing this course this year I struggled to cope financially,  so for the majority of it I have held down a full time job at a cinema. Doing a full time masters alongside a full time job is just not plausible. But hey, I’m on the home straight, and I’m charging all the way home.

I’ve definitely wondered this year wether I mistook my passion to be a screenwriter for a passion to tell one particular story. I wrote a screenplay in the final year of my degree that I had been desperate to tell for years. So naturally I put my all into that project and got my rewards. It was so much fun.

But this year that fun has taken a hit. I have to put some of that down to both the job and me realising that maybe I just wasn’t ready for this course.  And sometimes I think am I even good enough to be a writer? (I know they all say that). But I’m not posting this to flag up any negatives. This course has been one massive positive for me. It’s helped me realise what changes I need to make in my life to better me for the future. It’s given me the confidence to say “you know what, fuck it, I CAN do this”. And despite all the struggles, including the current one I am having in transferring this wondrous idea in my head onto paper!! I am on the verge of leaving this course having found my own voice as a storyteller, and having become a much stronger person within myself. I’m going to do my best to make FAMALAM the best it can be for the deadline, because I know this could be amazing.

So yeah, I’m probably not making much sense with this post. Like I said, I’m turning into the home straight, having just ran the majority of a London Marathon, so my brain is a little frazzled!! Words have less meaning than they used to!

Screenplay Structure

The biggest issue I’m having with my screenplay at this stage is the structure of it. I have plenty of material and multiple narratives running through the script, but the structure falls flat in places.

During my final year doing my BA in Film and Video I write my first screenplay, Tom Sayers, and for that I found Voglers 12 steps very useful. We’ve gone over this and many other theorists structures over the year, but none of them are fitting into my current project.

However, I came across this article highlighting the five turning points in a screenplay and what happens before and after each. I’ve found that this is fitting into my idea more so than any of the others that I’ve studied, and my tutor agrees.

Once I’m able to fit everything into this structure, I’m hoping the logistics of the script will come naturally to me.

Here is the article I’m working from:
http://www.storymastery.com/story/screenplay-structure-five-key-turning-points-successful-scripts/

Screenplay Inspiration

Last week I handed in my second draft of FAMALAM for feedback. It’s been a bit of a mad one writing this script because I had spent a year on a completely different idea, only for my treatment to get slaughtered for being, well, shit.

So I wanted to write something that I could draw on from my past and have real fun with. A creative risk that I’m hoping will pay off. The film follows a group of pre-adolescent boys who attend an all boys public school. We see them as they are entering sexual maturity, and the lure of girls is their number one focus. But at the heart of the story is a tale about how friendship can be even more important than family. There’s a magical realism tone to the film that I was told to use more for my second draft. A twelve year old boys imagination can run wild and so some of the scenes in the script cross the threshold of reality to try and emulate that. I’ve used few films and television shows for inspiration, for tone, story structure, dialogue etc. I thought I would go over some of these now.

Dead Poets Society

Mainly for the fact that this was set in an all boys school. I mainly drew on the fluidity of dialogue between multiple characters. This was set in a private school whereas mine is set in a public one.

Sandlot Kids

A golden movie about a bunch of young boys who just wanted to have fun and play baseball. I drew upon the tone of the film as the film does not take itself seriously. There are also elements of magical realism, for example with the giant monsterous dog that keeps eating their baseballs that turns out to be a very big but very friendly pet dog to a blind man.

Inbetweeners

If ever you wanted to meet a real life bunch of boys like the inbetweeners, then meeT me and my mates. So much of the situations, dialogue, banter and just everything about the boys resonated with me and friends. All of the characters in my screenplay are based exclusively on one of my friends from this group. Our banter was crude and sometimes over the top. Our popularity wasn’t anything to shout or moan about. But at the core we were and are a real family of friends.

ILL

Haven’t been able to do too much work the last week or two as I’ve been on and off with illness/anxiety issues and also still having to work full time for money to eat. On the mend now, shall post updates when I’m deeper into my next draft, hopefully next week

Gregynog

GREGYNOG 2K15! For the next three days and nights I will be spending my time locked away in Gregynog halls, writing with my peers, exploring the wonderful grounds and having a tipple too many.

We arrived Friday, just in time to catch lunch, before heading off for a couple of catch up sessions on writing software and developing your slate.

Seeing as we are nearing the end of a screenwriting masters, a session on final draft seemed a tad pointless, but hey ho!

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Developing our slate was an interesting session to do. We we taught about how we need to represent ourselves, by having a shirt, eye catching bio about our writing careers so far. We also discussed to importance of having a big working slate if we want to get any paid work. By that I mean, make sure we are are working on multiple projects at a time.

That’s it really. I then had a chance to explore some areas of the castle (not outside, it was belting it down).

after a few drinks in the evening, we all met up in our tutor groups to spend the entirety of our Saturday reading our first drafts, giving feedback and making changes. It was a wonderful experience to be a part of. All us writers sat in a room, deep in the heart of somewhere very secluded, talking about our ideas and struggles, really inspired me. It really got the creative juices flowing.

for my own personal feedback, everybody seemed to enjoy my premise and what I’d written of my first draft. But it was clear that I was lacking direction with the story. I didn’t know what my focus point was, nor my sub stories. That all changed the moment Jesse helped me come up with a title for the script. FAMALAM. The title alone helped me refocus my entire story. As I Near the end of my first proper draft, I will share a more in depth post about what that story is.

But as a whole, the weekend was a great experience. It’s helped me realise the importance of staying in touch with my classmates beyond the course, so we can meet up and have more sessions like the one we had on Saturday. But for now, I must get back to my only other module, short script, which is due in tomorrow! I shall also post about that project once I have handed it in. I leave you with pictures of Gregynog ! (I’m using an iPad for this and it will not let me move the pictures so they are just going to stay stuck in the middle! Except for this library. What a lovely little place)

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Welsh Museum/Update

A quick update!

This Easter has not been anywhere near as productive as it should have been! Working full time has really taken it out of me, so I’m hoping to sort something out that will see be working MUCH MUCH MUCH less over the summer as I tackle my major project.

Regarding the major project, I haven’t put too much pen to paper for it, but I have developed a strong set of characters and do have a clear storyline.

But before I make a start on that treatment and script, I have to tackle a short script for my other module! The idea must be based around the Welsh Museum here in Cardiff, which I have found very difficult to do. And so, tonight, I am going to write out a draft screenplay based on an idea I’ve had, and just see what happens! I think that is a pretty decent way to go about a bit of writers block! Wish me luck, or may I rest in peace xxx