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Screenplay Writing

Summer 1998 - Research

I suppose the one book that really did it for me was "Rebel without a Clue" by Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez scraped together 6 grand, borrowed some cheap-ass film equipment and shot a full-blown feature in Mexico with (mostly) his friends. After reading this, I went, "That did it! If HE can do can I." I figure I already have an advantage over him because I have a lot more production experience than he had at the time, and I've already got some decent equipment from my biz. It was interesting to see HOW he got his film in the door at the major studios and how it ballooned from there.

Another one was "Slacker" (the book about his film) by Richard Linklater. He basically went out and did the same in Austin, Texas. It was interesting to note that once his production got under way, he felt a kind of momentum that swept up the production and pushed it forward, almost as if--once he launched it--it was out of his control.

I found some book about the making of "Night of the Living Dead." It had explained how George Romero was in demand as a local TV commercial director, and that he was very apprehensive about directing this film because it would take him away from his paying clients! (What would George be thinking to himself at that final heart monitor if he DIDN'T pursue this film?)

"Feature Filmmaking at Used Car Prices," by Rick Schmidt, suggested that you borrow everything and try not to pay for anything (if you can help it).

"Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes", by John Pierson, was a great study on how to market your film once it's in the can. It appears that only half the battle is to complete the film. Getting it seen (and paid for) is a whole separate ball of ballgame wax.

Took out all the books on screenwriting from the public library. Here's what you gotta know

Act 1: Put your hero in a tree.

Act 2: Throw rocks at your hero.

Act 3: Get your hero out of the tree.

Got it.

Another good line was: "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage!" OK, I'll buy that. (Don't people pay good money to take courses on this crap?) Oh yeah...everyone also seems to say, "Write what you know."

September 29, 1998 - Started version 1.0 of screenplay.

Okey dokey...write what I know. I know computers. I have been using them for a living since I started my biz back in '92. Had an Amiga 2000 with a video Toaster card, started on a B&W Macintosh SE, upgraded to a color Mac IIcx...been upgrading ever since.

I was on AOL long before they let all those PC users on there. I can remember telling people about AOL at the time. "You can CHAT with people from around the world! There's these little message boxes that appear with a message to you!" Most people looked at me and went, "So?" As the technology matured, you had other ways to communicate with people online, and not just through a text only chat channel on AOL.

The Palace is Internet software that allows you to have an avatar or picture represent you within a virtual environment. From there, you can still chat with people on a text basis, but you can do more with the avatars, like change faces, expressions or even disrobe. girlfriend Therese turned me on to the Palace when we first met (through an AOL dating area). The thing I noticed about chatting on the Internet or through avatars on The Palace was that you could easily pretend to be someone else. I liked I figured I'd work that in somewhere in this script.

I've always been a lousy pick-up artist when it comes to women. I've had some weird experiences with the usual methods of meeting or approaching women. So I figure I'll toss that in somehow; my previous plight should be good for a laugh.

I've also met a bunch of legit hacker-types/software pirates in my travels. They certainly were an interesting lot. These guys really seemed to have total control over the technology that seems to baffle the rest of the world. I've met quite a few hackers who call themselves "Count Zero" (from the Gibson book Neuromancer).

OK, so at this point I'm leaning towards a boy-meets-girl story. The first rule in indie film production is to make a horror film. (Apparently they sell the easiest.) Screw it, I'm gonna write what I know. Comedy is what I know. Side note: most of my girlfriends have regretted this attribute of mine in the long run. I can't seem to view the world in a "normal" way, let alone say romantic things with a straight face.

All the boy-meets-girl stories always seem to have the same slant. (Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back.) Wouldn't it be cool if boy meets the perfect girl at the end, and if the audience KNEW they were perfect for each other, you wouldn't even have to be bothered going through the motions of watching them fall in love. You'd just know!

This slant was sorta done in the film "Next Stop Wonderland." When I saw that the movie was leading up to this, I was kinda worried that I would be seen as just redoing the same theme. (Which I'm sure has been done before.) In "Next Stop Wonderland", it seems that both characters are established first as being perfect for each other...then through a coincidence, they finally meet. I hate movie coincidences. I'm going to try to avoid using them.

November 15, 1998 - Finished full script (version 1.6, first draft)

Finished the first draft. I used many things that I experienced from my 20's when I was trying to date women while going out with a few gangs of assorted friends. Real life events: a friend of mine actually placed his hand on a woman's face in a bar. "Rob" does this in the script. I only got one phone number from a woman at a bar. (She knew me from high school, she wore fishnets that night and she hung up on me when I told her she was the first woman who ever gave me a phone number in a bar.) I might've had a date with a transsexual I met through the personals. (I'm not sure...I was too paranoid to ask.)

Here's how it looks: Biks, the main character, will be played by me, the director. John MacLeod will be Biks' friend the computer nerd/system administrator/hacker guy. John Horrigan will play Todd, the obnoxious guy who gets all the outrageous lines. Jim will be played by somebody: the average Joe who just works in the office.

I like what I've come up with for the Biks, John, and Todd as characters, but feel that I could do something better with the Jim character. (Mr. Joe Average.) It feels right to have 4 guys together, especially when they are going out a club to pick up women. (4 guys fill all the seats to a car, right?) I hate to "waste" an actor on a role that is just "filler."

January 2, 1999 - Started version 2.0 (2nd draft)

Jim is changed to Geoff. A friend of mine, Geoff Briggs, wants in on this project. I've known him since my Norwood cable days. I know I can rely on him to be there. I'll give him the role of Jim, the "average" office guy. Wish I could've put more "juice" in his character.

Now that I've gone over the script and have started to flesh out a schedule in my mind, I'm starting to have second thoughts about putting myself in front of the camera, while trying to find competent help behind the camera. It's an unbelievable amount of work to pull this sort of thing off. I KNOW that I'll be wanting to peer through the camera, fiddle with the lights and make sure the sound is good. I have no idea who I'll be using for the female roles, because I haven't really hung out with too many female actors. This oughta be interesting: who I find when the time comes.

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