One of the things that most perplexed me about screenwriting was introducing my main character. Often, I find myself intimidated by getting seemingly one shot to introduce the protagonist that is supposed to lead us for the next hundred minutes of precious time. You don’t want to get it wrong, but after reading so many scripts, you wonder whether there is actually a “wrong.”
Tonight I finished the first draft of my first feature length screenplay! All 127 glorious pages.
The end of the year, that is. As mentioned before, I’m currently creating a basis of research on understanding women in society, as an audience, and as consumers. In addition to that, here’s what my next 6 months look like…
Two things happened this fall, that made me further understand who I’m writing for, and what I’m writing exactly.
1. I was talking to my mom about my docket of script ideas I want to tackle in the coming year, and I said, “Basically, none of my protagonists are male or over the age of 30.” Interesting, since my mom is an acclaimed young adult writer who focuses a lot on young women and girls. The legacy lives on!
2. My husband and I were brainstorming the b-story for the next screenplay I’m going to be working on after I finish my current script, and then my television pilot. In doing that, I realize that almost all of the projects I’m most driven to are comedies with dark elements to them: corruption, death, addiction, and unconventional relationships between people.
Both of those epiphanies happened in one week. It’s inspired me to go on an in-depth journey to further understand my audience: females ages 15-30. It’s such a large span while still being an often neglected or misunderstood segment of people. And what’s great is that there are so many different life events within this group: high school, college, first grown-up job, getting married, having children, first love, getting your license, the dreaded quarterlife crisis, your first apartment, all-things-dating, learning about who you are as an individual, and so many other things we all experience. And among all of that, we’re so varied in our lives, beliefs, experiences, and tastes.
One of the serious lessons I learned from my summer at UCLA was that defining your audience is part of defining your personal brand. One of the reasons I’ve become more motivated toward this career switch is that I’m fed up with the kind of programming that’s out there for young women. So, starting this December, I’m going to work on a little extended research in understanding who young women are now, what they want, what they don’t want, what entertains them, and what motivates them. Hopefully out of that, will come some badass awesome material and a better understanding of my own people: people with vaginas, and the men who roll with them.
Whoa. Last night, I passed the 60 page mark. I still have tons to write, and re-write, and re-re-write, and so on, but I’m pretty pumped about it. So pumped, I’m posting this photo, because it’s cute.
I’ve been outlining a screenplay for about six months. Sure, it’s yet another coming-of-age movie about an outcast girl and her BFF, and finding love in high school. But it’s my coming-of-age movie about an outcast girl and her BFF, and finding love in high school, dammit.
It’s very loosely based on me and two of my best friends in high school. Last month, I sat across a table from my dude BFF, and laughed uncomfortably until I could actually say the words: “I’m writing a screenplay about…us.” Then I continued to ask him horrific questions about going to the prom and losing his virginity. Believe me, I want to barf just thinking about it. But it’s my duty as a writer to do these things.
What I think has been most gratifying about the outlining experience has been that my story has evolved to be so much richer than my original concept. The characters are bigger than just Michelle and her girl BFF ogle the varsity soccer team to pass the time, and she wanted to go the prom with her dude BFF. That’s where my concept started, but it’s so much bigger now, thankfully.
But now I’m FINALLY in the writing phase, and I’m obsessed with my screenplay. It’s all I can think about. If I’m not actually paying attention at my 9-5 job, I’m thinking about punching up lines, and figuring out sharper plot points. I practically run home so I can start breaking a new scene before dinner. I lose sleep at night because I keep dreaming about scenes, which causes me to wake up with a million thoughts racing through my mind, until I somehow eventually back asleep…and my husband accidentally smacks me in the face with a pillow.
Writing is not easy. I know this because I write all day at work. But there’s something about this that makes me want to sit in a cave for three days, not eat, not sleep, not even pee, until I finish writing this. But alas, there’s work. There’s dinner. There’s my stupidly human need to urinate. Oh well.