The big screen writing experiment has started!  Katie and I touched down in Los Angeles after an 11 hour flight on Saturday, 9th March and had a day and a half to settle in before it all started! Want to know what the experiment is? If not, read on to find out what has happened in the first week!

Alan Donegan with Final Draft open on a blank Screen Play

Alan with a BLANK screenplay document in front of him in Santa Monica, LA
The start of the creative process.  Nothing but a blank screen looking back at you!

Where do you even start?

I was lucky to have been given a clear starting point by my gorgeous wife Katie. Back in 2014, she gave me a course for my birthday entitled “How to write a movie in a month”.  Whilst she was playing football (soccer) on Sundays, I devoured the course and started to write down outlines and ideas.  I just never found the month to write the actual screen play. So this is me carving out the time to come to LA and make it happen.
Day 1 Report
Started the day early and was in the cafe to start at 8am! I have decided I will get more out of the project by re-reading the course first and then learning to use Final Draft, the screen writing software, properly! 

Picture

Today I spent three and a half hours reading the course and making notes, 1 hour watching YouTube guides on how to use Final Draft and I was getting ready to go!  I was itching to write but……..

Slowing down to speed up

My mum always used to say to me, “More haste, less speed.”  I never really got it when I was young, I just thought it was annoying!  Now I get it. Sorry, Mum. 

If you dive headlong into something without some idea of what you are going to do then you end up creating more of a mess that takes you longer to undo than if you had learnt first and implemented second.

There is a counter argument to this that I see at Rebel Business School all the time where people have been thinking and planning an idea for years without ever implementing!  I am not there yet!

There is a middle ground where you are prepared and ready to go, you know what you are going to do, and you have done the groundwork ready to start!

For me the groundwork is 3 fold:

  1. Read the course to prepare.  There is an art to screen writing and I have never done it before so I need some guidance on getting it right!
  2. The movie industry seems particularly anal about its formatting.  As you are probably aware if you have read any of my articles on here, I don’t really care about spelling or the formatting – I care about the message! So job number 2, which is completely against my personality, is to learn the software/style/formatting, ready to write
  3. Character development.  I read today that preparation is key with the characters.  If you spend time developing believable characters with a rich backstory they will come alive on the page and when you are writing the screen play.  If you get it right then they will guide you through the scenes!  So I have to spend time developing my characters before I even write a word of dialogue!

For someone as driven as me to get shit done this is a little bit frustrating but I know I will get more out of the experience if I put in the groundwork!

Commitment

I have committed to writing a screen play whilst I am here plus 2 other goals.  I have committed to myself (which historically speaking I am not great at keeping those commitments to myself!) plus I have committed to you! I am more likely to keep my commitment to you! I would love your help keeping me accountable!  To help me stay accountable and see what I have committed to go here

What else happened?

Day 1 – Monday 
We explored Santa Monica, cycled along the coastal path and I committed to writing a screen plan by the 19th of April to the whole world. This scared me! I read the guide, learned the software and prepared to write 
Day 2 – Tuesday
Working on the course, reading and learning.  Watching more videos and recovering from jetlag!  I was surprised by how much energy it took just figuring out where to get food and settling into the new surroundings!
Day 3 – Wednesday
Struggled to get going today!  I knew I had to do character development but I struggled to start!  I used the 15 minute rule to help me begin and then I got into it!  The groundwork for the movie was laid today!  We grilled in the sunshine and really started to settle into our new home in Santa Monica
The 15 minute rule is where you commit to doing 15 minutes and give yourself permission to stop after just 15 minutes.  What I found was that I got into it and ended up doing an hour and a half once I got going.  There is power in just beginning!

Day 4 – Thursday
Today was a big day!  It started with Day Breaker, which is a 5:30am yoga session followed by a dry party (no alcohol) and you are all dancing to loud music at 6:30am!  Partying before work starts!

We had breakfast out at 9am!  Still managed to get some writing done before lunch and wrote my first ten pages of a script ever!  Once I got into the writing I was not sure what all the fuss was about because I loved it!

Then the Rebel Business School was on PBS news hour!  What a day!

Day 5 – Friday
I really got into the writing today and found a glimpse of what I could really achieve!  I managed to get myself to 30 pages of a screen play!  

There is a rule of thumb in screen writing that it is about 1 minute per page so if you are looking to write a 90 minute screenplay then 90 pages should be there or thereabouts!  I was so pumped; a third of the way there!  WOW.  I didn’t want the weekend to come.  I just was buzzed to keep writing!  It took 4 days to really get going but once I had started, I didn’t want to stop!

What have I learned?

It has been an intense first week with a lot going on!  Reflecting back, here is what I have learned:

  1. There is power in just starting – the moment I actually got down and wrote was the moment it flowed.  The pre-work of creating the characters and having a direction helped massively but the progress came when I just sat at my keyboard and started typing.  The first day I actually started writing I created 10 pages, which was my daily target to have it done in a month!  Starting was painful but once you get going………..
  2. Slow down to speed up (but not too much) – you can read about this above
  3. Overanalysis is paralysing – I was starting to talk myself out of doing this by studying too much, reading too much, learning too much.  The more I studied, the more I realised I didn’t know and the more my confidence got hit!  I started to really get myself nervous that I couldn’t do it!  This all changed in the power of starting. 
  4. The cognitive load of moving to a new place – it is amazing the energy it takes just figuring out how to get around, where to buy groceries and stuff when you move to a new place.  Routine keeps you safe and allows you the mental space to make sure you focus on writing.  The first few days I was exhausted just working out how to operate in a new place!
  5. You can get sidetracked so easily – it is SO EASY to lose focus.  There were so many shiny new things this week to take away my focus from what I came here to do!  There was Rebel blowing up with PBS News Hour, deals in France, Morocco and then the offer of a TV show as well!  Staying focused on the most important task at hand is really, really tough!  I wrote a whole blog post here on staying focused

I think it has been really good for me to start something completely new.  It has shifted me out of my comfort zone, allowed me to experience a beginner’s mind again and I have developed a whole new appreciation for how hard it is to get going on a new project.  I think all these things will help me in my work at Rebel and give me new content and ideas to share with you. 

Week 1 summary – what happened?

  • Number of words: 5,487
  • Number of paragraphs: 671
  • Number of Pages: 30

That is nearly a third of a screenplay, baby! 

I feel like I have made good progress but I am worried that the days are slipping away.  Maybe my expectations are too high but I thought I would have been further along already.  Why haven’t I written a whole script yet!?!?!?

I will report back next week with more. In the meantime, if you would be interested in helping me with comments on my script then I would love to hear from you.  I think I have realised that I am going to need help to make this script as good as it can be!

If you are up for having a read and passing comments then let me know.

Have a great week and I will write more next week.

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