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I went to Los Angles to write a movie.  But did I achieve it?  Do we have a script? Am I now a movie writer? 

The clue is in the picture!  This is me holding the printed version of my script before the table read in Hollywood!

Alan Donegan Screen Writing Experiment

Alan holding version 6 of his movie script
This article is the wrap-up of my experiences in LA, what I have learnt, and sharing thoughts and ideas for you on mini-experiments and making them happen!

The Overview

Here’s what happened over the last few weeks since my last blog post about week 4 of the screen writing experiment.  

As we approached the end of our time in LA several things happened.  We wanted to spend more time with the people we met, we wanted to take advantage of the things in LA and we didn’t want to leave!  This led to us extending our flights and enjoying LA for 9 more days, but not actually doing much extra work!  Instead we had fun and hung out.

Had fun?  Hung out?  This isn’t the Alan we have come to know and love!  Well even Alan needs some fun and chill out time, and we absolutely had that at the end of the trip.

What does this mean?  I am late getting this blog post to you.  I committed to update you on the 19th of April 2019 about my goals!  You can read the Big Commitment here.

My goals were:

  1. Write a complete screen play
  2. Conduct a table read of my script in Los Angeles
  3. Submit my script to the Final Draft script writing contest

I have written a screen play!  YAY.  I have also conducted two table reads – more on what that means later.  I have not submitted my screen play to the Final Draft competition yet because I have a few more edits to do!

No internet abuse needed about missing the deadline.  Maybe minor internet abuse for not writing to you in time.  Please leave abuse in the comments below!

The professional feedback

Towards the end of my time in LA as I was editing my script, I felt like I had reached the limits of my own skills. I needed outside input. The only way to learn is to get feedback, and one of the quickest ways to learn is to find someone who has done what you want to achieve and learn from them!

I went on People Per Hour and found a scriptwriter that offered coverage and notes on your script.   Coverage is the movie industry way of saying an overview document and notes is in line feedback through out your script using post it notes.

Her name is Ami Brown and her website is ScreenWriterPro.com. I paid for some feedback and  I sent off my script!  It is amazing how doing this turned me into a 15-year-old boy again, checking my emails every 5 minutes to see what Ami thought of what I had written.  I knew I had to get rapid feedback to improve and this was one of the ways to do it.  See the learnings section below for what I learnt about rapid innovation cycles.

Here is what the professional said to me:

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When I got this through I felt like it was really coming real. Reading the first few lines about concept and logline (description of the movie) I was buzzing!

Then I hit the bit about…

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When ever you get feedback it is so important to focus on the positives (and continue to develop them) as well as fixing the issues. 

When I was at Toastmasters (a public speaking group) working on my speaking skills I used to skip past the bits about what I did well and just listen to what was wrong with what I did.  This was in an effort to improve and get better but it was painful.  I have since realised that it is equally, if not more, important to think about the positive feedback as well as the areas for improvement.  If you can take one of the areas you are good at and make it EXCEPTIONAL that will make up for some of the other areas.  Remember to read the good feedback as well as the improvements.

That being said I took this feedback and worked hard to develop my script.  And you will see below the biggest area for improvement.

Before I got to that I wanted to focus on what was working.

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The fact that I had been able to develop believable characters gave me a lot of energy. It inspired me to spend a lot more time since enhancing them and really developing their personalities and what they do.  Work on enhancing your strengths not just fixing your weaknesses. 

The area I most needed to work on was

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This hurt to start with but when I actually read the script I realised that Ami was completely right and this was the area that needed the most work.  I got into it and have been through the script twice now working on making the lines sound more like a real conversation. One of the best ways I found to improve the dialogue was at the UK table read this weekend past.  We were able to stop on lines that didn’t work and we workshopped each line to improve it. I had the script open and live edited as we workshopped it.  This process worked so well for improving the dialogue and is something I want to do again and again with my DFG friends in the future. 

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Seeing a budget and the type of movie they compared it to made my heart sing!  It also bought into perspective how the movie industry works (in the majority), which is the opposite of the Rebel model.  Get the money first, make the movie and then try and sell it!  This is the total opposite of what Rebel teaches!  It would be a challenge though!  Go raise $5million and make a movie! Could I do it? 

Then came the high level feedback

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Very excited to see that premise and marketability are excellent! I think I have fixed a lot of the dialogue problems and learnt so much.  The fact that Ami would put my script forward for consideration made me dance with joy!  Yay.  After the next edits I am hoping to get it to highly recommended!  Ami, thank you for your feedback and ideas!

The table read

A table read is where you get a group of actors around a table, everyone has a part and you act out the script.  I felt like the table read was the culmination of writing the script and would enable me to really see if I had delivered!  

So I went to a print shop and printed out 8 copies of my script. I asked my friend Bryce in LA to help me find actors to do the table read and we pulled it all together for Sunday 21st of April.

Completed movie script

My completed scripts all lined up ready for the table read

Alan Donegan holding up his finsihed script

Holding the final script ready to go. It felt so real holding the final version

We arrived at Bryce’s house, where he had organised a team of friends and actors and cast all the parts, and we were ready to go!  What I wasn’t expecting was how nervous I would get the first time of doing it.  

As the actors started to read the lines and the narrator read out the screen directions I started to sweat.  I was so nervous.  I tried to focus on the words as the sweat rolled down my sides and ignore it but a sense of apprehension flowed over me.

I think it was good for me to feel again what every creator gets at some stage when they share their creation with the world.  I didn’t even think “what if they don’t like it?” but I felt it within my body.  So many of the entrepreneurs that I meet each week at the Rebel Business School are so nervous of putting their product or creation out into the world and I understand it.  It is nerve wracking!

What’s the only way to overcome it?   By the second table read in the UK I was fine and I really enjoyed it.  The nerves had subsided and my confidence was up.

I think the fear of being judged, the nervousness about being good enough, and the feelings of fear when doing something new are something that most people face.  It is not that you won’t face them: what is important is, will you push through and get to the other side?

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The Hollywood Table read

The first table read taught me so much.  My stand out character was not my lead, I had some hugely funny jokes, and I might actually be onto something!

The second table read happened in the UK with my friends Jane, Jamie and Cathy. We spent three hours sat around their kitchen table reading through the script and workshopping the lines.  It was such a valuable experience.

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The Uxbridge table read. Jane, Jamie, Cathy and Katie help me bring the movie to life and re-write the dialogue as we go.
The second table read turned into a real workshop developing and re-writing the lines together.  We only made it through 40 pages of the 95 page movie in three hours so we have another session planned for this weekend coming.  After this table read the script should be ready for the next step!

The stats

At this point it isn’t really about the number of words written; it is about the number of words re-written.  If anything you want to see the number of pages and words go down as you hone and make the script more concise and punchy.  

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As you can see the romantic comedy barely increased in size.  This is because most of the work was re-writing and that was my focus.  The superhero movie had a spurt of new material as I found energy for it in a break from romance and comedy.  But it is still so far off being complete.

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You can see clearly from this graph that the romantic comedy is about the ideal length for a screen play (1 page = 1 minute of screen time) but I am only half way complete on the first draft of the superhero movie. 

There is lots more to do on the superhero movie, which is why I have not worked on it very much and am putting all my energy in pushing my romantic comedy script over the line and getting it finished.

Mini-experiments

This trip to Los Angeles was a mini-experiment.  We talk a lot about mini-experiments at the Rebel Business School and how to conduct them.  I wanted to share with you some thoughts to help you conduct your own mini-experiments. 

Clear goal – one of the most important parts of a mini-experiment is to have a clear goal; what do you want to achieve? The reason my mini-experiment in LA was so successful (by my own measures) was that I had a clear goal to write a script.  There was a clear number of words, pages and output that I had to achieve and that gave me the drive and energy to get it done.

Creating space – For a mini-experiment to flourish you have to create space.  Now I know for most people (except my FI friends) finding 2 months for a project is nearly impossible.  So can you find a week of holiday and focus completely?  Can you put x hours a night aside to work on your experiment?  How can you create space and time for the mini-experiment to see if it flourishes or not? Without space and time how do you expect it to happen?

Measure of success – you need a way of knowing that you have been successful or not!  Otherwise how do you know if you should continue with the experiment??  You would get to the end and then think “that was nice; what next?”  If you have a clear way of measuring the success of the mini-experiment then you can work out if you should continue or not.

My measures of success were: did I enjoy writing? Did I finish a script? Have I got something I want to sell and am proud of? Do I want to do it again?

Before you go into the mini-experiment, think through how you will know if it is a success or not!  This makes it far easier to identify what to do next afterwards.

Making it happen – this is the hardest part.  YOU have to make it happen.  You have to get off your arse, you have to find the energy and you have to drive it forwards.  I am planning a post on how to get experiments/projects started soon.  Expect more.  The one  think I have learnt in this area is that if anything is to happen then you need to drive it.  If you don’t drive then nothing happens!

The only way to know if your ideas are going to work or not is to do them.  To get them out into the world and ask someone to buy, ask someone to sign up or get them to read it.  Mini-experiments make it easier for you to do this because if you fail, well that is OK; it was just an experiment!

I would love for you to take that thing you have always dreamed of doing and create a mini-experiment from it and give it a go! The only way to know if it will work, if you will enjoy it, if you have something is to do a test!  One of my early articles on this blog was “How do you know?  Is it possible?”

Learnings

So what have I learnt in my time in LA?  So much more than I can write here but I will have a good go.  

  1. Ask directly for what you want!
    I thought I was good at this one but it turns out there is a whole new level.  Most people in the UK are very indirect in their communication.  They don’t like asking for what they want.  For example, I will be with my mum at her house and she will ask, “Are you thirsty?”  What is she really asking?  Make me a cup of tea!  But she doesn’t ask for it! 
    There is magic in directly asking for what you want in life.  Whilst in LA we were going on a road trip with some friends.  I am not a great passenger as I get travel sick. I feel a lot more comfortable when I am driving. 3 or 4 days before the trip (without really realising what I did) I tried the British way of asking to be able to drive.  I said “If you get tired, if you need a second driver, I would love to help out where I can.”  My friend replied with “sure”.The day of the road trip I knew that if I didn’t ask directly I would not get to drive.  I am a 40 year old male, I run a business with 12 people, and I still got nervous asking.

    It is amazing how difficult asking directly for what you want can be!  I plucked up the courage and asked, “Please may I drive?” My friend said “sure” and handed over the keys!  What had I been worrying about!???!!? If you are from the UK, be less British and ask directly for what you want.  If you are from anywhere else in the world keep on asking!

    You don’t get what you deserve in life, you get what you ask for!

  2. Writing is re-writing. 
    I never really understood this before but now I do.  After you have written a screen play, that is when the work really starts because every scene, every line and every direction needs to be re-written time and time again, slowly improving it until you have a really great script in your hands.
    This is so much like business.  One you get your first product out into the world you need to keep working on it and it is the constant process of innovation and re-creation that creates truly awesome products or services.  Get version 1 out there, seek feedback quickly, and innovate and improve constantly.  That is what truly leads to success.This concept is rapid innovation cycles.  You don’t spend a year creating something before getting feedback.  You work full out for 2 days, create something and get it out into the world for feedback.  It is the feedback and the speed of innovation cycle that will increase the speed with which you improve.
  3. Sitting in the moments of uncomfortableness.
    During the first table read I started to sweat badly and felt very uncomfortable. It was my subconscious getting nervous about sharing what I had created and worrying about whether I am good enough or not.  What I have learnt is that the best way to deal with these feelings is to sit in the moment of uncomfortableness, open up, discuss what is going on and breathe through it.
    If you find yourself getting uncomfortable or annoyed then just sit there for a moment and take the time to think through where these feelings are coming from. Breathe and just accept the feelings, and then you can decide on how to act going forward.Your ability to sit in and deal with uncomfortable moments is directly related to the amount of success you will have in life.
  4. Get it out into the world quickly. If you have a product, idea, or service you want to create, get a version done and get it out into the world.  I think the speed with which you do this is so important.  If it is a book, write the first chapter and get it to people, if it is a product get a version made at home and share it, if it is a course start running the first bits for friends.
    There is magic in getting the first version out there into the world and telling people about it.  The first is that it drives you to improve it and get it to version 2.  You can’t get to version 2 without putting out version 1.  The second is that it is amazing how people and the universe shift to support you with your project. 
  5. Focus, Focus, Focus
    As I wrote the word focus my screen on my phone flashed with a text message and I lost all focus (oh the irony of the world!)  There are two parts to this I wanted to share with you on focus.
    Firstly, your ability to stay focused for periods of time is what will drive your ideas forward.  You need to be able to turn the phone off, shut out the outside world and focus with 100% energy on your ideas.
    As I typed this my phone rang again with my business partner Simon checking in!  If I had turned my phone off I would have been far further forward with this post!  I can not emphasise enough the importance of removing distractions and focusing on the task in hand for chunks of time
    The second part of focus is the focus on getting something to completion.  I have written a script.  I have finished it to a degree.  But it isn’t quite ready to go out for the final steps.  I have been distracted by the hedonism of pancakes and fun in LA, distracted by Rebel Business School and more, and I haven’t found the time and space, or the focus to finish the romantic comedy and drive it over the line.  Focusing on the ONE most important thing and driving it over the line is so critical to your success in this world!
  6. Create space for good stuff to happen
    I wrote a whole article about this one here (creating space).  Whilst I was in LA I created space in my life for opportunities, ideas and people to enter my world, and that space was filled by the most amazing, wonderful and inspiring people and opportunities.  This included the opportunity to create a TV show about how to start a business with NO money!
  7. It’s not linear!
    This one was huge for me!  It is the realisation that the rewards for an activity don’t come at the start of a project; they come towards the end, but you still have to work hard at the beginning.  You don’t just start and find that the results come instantly.  You have to push through the tough beginning to get to the rewards at the end.
    After 5 days of writing hard I was wondering why I didn’t have a script yet!  I was getting annoyed!  I had to remember that it isn’t linear, it is exponential, and the weeks and weeks of writing would all come together in a flurry at the end and I would be rewarded with a  script.  Realising that nothing is linear helped me to be more comfortable putting in the hours early without seeing the results.
8.  In a book store in West Hollywood I found this desk sign and it perfectly sums up my current attitude to life.  Life is too short to do average stuff, life is too short to be average.  Do EPIC shit! The world is full of so many amazing opportunities, experiences and things to do.  Why waste your time on the mediocre?

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Every single day this is what you should do!
If you are going to do something through your whole being into it and make it EPIC!

Thank you

There are so many people to thank for supporting me on my journey to writing a script.  Here are some of the people I really want to say thank you to. 

Everything you want in life is done through and with other people.  Without the exceptional people in my life I would not be where I am today.  Thank you.

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Jane and Jamie
Thank you for the amazing feedback, the ideas, the energy and being amazing friends

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Anna and Bryce
Thank you for organising the LA table read and being fabulous friends.  Thank you

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Ashley & Owen
Thank you for coming to the table read, giving your energy and support and hanging out
Thank you Ami Brown for the feedback, to Elliott for an inspiring first conversation in LA, Lizzy, Dancing Alan, The WOWs and everyone I met in my time in LA.  I love you all. 

Los Angeles Highlights

If you are interested, here are a few of our pictures from the last week in LA!  If not, skip ahead to what’s next!

What’s next for Alan?

I wrote a movie script.  It’s not sold yet but I have a few places to go and I am feeling optimistic.  But where next? What do I do next?  Back to Rebel? Write more movies? Work on the blog? Hang out in Basingstoke? Where do I go from here?  This is the million dollar question!

Alan Donegan Screen Writer

Alan script writing at The Victorian in Santa Monica
On my first day back at work, Henry from Rebel got the whole team together in London and we hung out and chatted about the future.  He ran a great meeting and we chatted for hours!  I have only been back in the UK for 4 working days so it is still fresh but I am going to write to you all about what’s next soon.  I have been learning a lot about planning the future, making things happen and shifting goals.  More to come. 

What’s next for the script

Following the next table read on Saturday and some more re-writes, I am going to be ready to move it on to the next step, which is:

  1. Go back to Ami Brown for a second coverage and notes
  2. Sent it to the director in LA (I have been waiting until it is really well developed to do this!)
  3. Enter it into the Final Draft competition

I am going to update the blog periodically with what happens next with the movies and the adventures.  If you want to stay up to date then stick your email address in below and I will email you with an update every now and again!

Questions, ideas, comments

The main reason I write this blog is to help you.  To inspire, share ideas and help you to live a life on purpose.  It is your feedback, thoughts, comments and questions that drive me to do this. 

Please leave me a comment, write me a questions to inspire another blog or just tell me your thoughts.  Hearing from you is what keeps me going.

To your success.

Alan

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