Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just how well do you need to know your characters?

I'm rewriting a script that's been through quite a few drafts, and my characters no longer feel like characters. No, they feel like really old friends. Or maybe enemies, because they don't make life easy for me. Frenemies. They're shifting in front of my eyes, changing into something that might be better, or maybe worse. Either way, they're unrecognisable from the first-ever draft.

I'm not a writer who likes to know what her characters eat for breakfast, how they felt about maths in school and what their phobias are. Unless they have a phobia of clowns, and the script is about a pyscho clown. Or they hate their father, and the script is partly about someone being a bad dad. Some back history is important, sure, but in general I don't need to ask myself whether my hero ever suffers from dandruff or how he votes.

What I do like to do, and this has been one of the most helpful things I've ever tried, is to cast my characters in my head while I'm doing a treatment. Then, when it comes to writing the script, I write dialogue for that actor. If my hero's sidekick is a big, lazy joker guy, I imagine Seth Rogen playing the part and write for him. These days Seth would probably be playing the hero, but still, it helps to have someone in mind.

And it's not just stars. I often "cast" character actors in my head, people I've only seen in bit parts but who have the right look, or the right speech pattern. It helps to make the roles sound different, and hopefully one day it will make the Hollywood table reading pop!

Movie characters aren't like real people. They're braver, crazier, cooler and better looking than us. But having real actors in mind for your parts can make the difference between dialogue that sings... and a script where everyone sounds the same.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Technology = new problems

I was watching the movie Road Trip this week - there's a blast from the past - and it struck me that the whole premise would be unworkable now. For anyone who hasn't seen it, the movie concerns Breckin Meyers' character, a college student who has accidentally sent his girlfriend a video tape of him getting frisky with another girl instead of the romantic tape he meant to send her. Doh.

Of course now, chances are that he would email her the wrong clip by mistake, or accidentally post it on Facebook. The girlfriend would discover his cheating pretty much instantaneously, cutting out the need to drive cross-country with Seann William Scott, blowing up cars and getting into hilarious scrapes along the way.

And this is far from being the only movie that would be ruined or rendered impotent by new technology.

Nowadays Tom Hanks wouldn't need to be sleepless in Seattle - he could Google Meg Ryan and follow her on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn before they ever met up.

Eddie Murphy wouldn't get very far in Beverly Hills Cop 2 - his boss would be ringing him every two minutes and establishing via GPS that he was not in Detroit.

Janet Leigh would never stay at the Bates Motel after reading the reviews on Trip Advisor.

Okay, so I'm being slightly facetious. But there's no doubt about it - mobile phones, the internet and social networking have made the job of a screenwriter that bit harder. We need to push ourselves more, to think of new scenarios that won't be spoiled or solved by a character simply pulling out an iPhone.

Romantic comedies, for instance. Yes, in some respects it's now harder, in that it's not believable for a character to remain ignorant of their love interest or lose contact with them for half the plot. But you could argue that social networking has made the whole process of  courtship and dating more of a minefield than it's ever been. Maybe you can use this as part of your story? Maybe it will be the story in itself?

Same with horror films. Yes, the heroine can now dial for help on her cell instead of running screaming for the nearest payphone. But what if the killer now stalks her via creepy texts and mobile messages as well as in person? What if her online date isn't all he seems? New technology can increase horror and tension if it's used properly.

Ultimately, this is a brave new world - and as writers we have to make the best of the opportunities that tech provides, or risk going extinct. Embrace the future, or remain stuck in an internet-less past. It's our choice... and there's always period flicks!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Allowing your characters to drive the plot....

The pre-pre-production prep for Tiger is rattling on - I'm going to see a possible location this Thursday evening with the director and the DoP. We've cast one of the child roles and have a few leads on some female teenagers who could do the other role.

The fundraising quiz has been organised, as has the networking party at Four Dame Lane on 2nd February. So now it's just a case of getting some prizes together - and hoping and praying that enough people show up to both events!

Apart from all that, I'm in the middle of a fairly extensive rewrite. So extensive that I've thrown out most of the original script and am starting with a semi-blank page. Now, I knew how the new script would start, and how it would end. But I had no idea what was to happen in between!

My tactic - and this is the only way I know, but I'm open to other people's ideas - was to try to identify a possible mid-point for each of the main characters, and then work on getting them from the start to the middle and from the middle to the end of the script.

Also, it helps to put yourself in the shoes of each of the characters and ask: what would they do next? How would they feel and react about the situation they find themselves in? This will help drive the plot, which should be coming about at least partly because of the characters' decisions and their personalities anyway.

If you get lost, ask your characters. They'll know which way to go!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012 dawns, and things are looking up!

So far, 2012 has been a big improvement on the last few months of 2011. On Wednesday, I got a new job, starting next week! This was despite the fact that the interview was in Belfast, it was windy and pouring rain, and I had the head cold from hell. I coughed so much during the interview that I had to leave twice to get a glass of water.

But it didn't matter - I got the job and I'm back on track. It's a sign! Roland Emmerich was wrong - Armageddon is not on on the horizon. In fact, it's going to be a great year.

In addition, the arrangements to bring Tiger to the screen are coming along well. The two lead actors have been cast, we have a possible location for the shoot, plus a small but experienced crew has been assembled. I'm co-producing the film, mainly out of necessity! (When you can't get a producer, produce it yourself).

We now just need to cast the other two roles (young teenagers) and fundraise the money needed to make the film.

To that end, there are two events lined up - a fundraising quiz at the Teachers Club on Parnell Square on 25th January and a networking party at Four Dame Lane on 2nd February. I've held quizzes before and successfully raised a lot of money with them, but this is my first time being involved with a networking party. The director has done a couple in the past, however - they're a good option because they get movie people together AND raise funds without a huge amount of effort.

I'll report back on how the two events go and how much we raise - fingers crossed we can get close to three grand together as this will completely fund the shoot, allow us to pay everyone and cover post-production.

I'm really looking forward to the adventure of making this little movie - and for what the rest of 2012 will bring....