Wednesday, August 23, 2017

What kind of screenplay did I manage to write?

Before I started writing my very first movie screenplay, I kept thinking what my strengths as a writer were. I kept thinking what are the things that I'm good at and how these qualities could be used in the writing process.

After all, if I wanted to write a quality screenplay, I would have to concentrate on my strengths instead of my weaknesses. If I wanted to write something that had any merit or value, I had to know what were the good things about me as a writer.

So when it finally came to deciding what I should write about, I knew that I would have to write something that I felt relatively good about. I had to choose a genre that would reflect my values as a person as well as possible.

Not surprisingly, since I'm a pretty big fan of animations, I thought it would be a good idea to give an animated screenplay a chance. I had been writing a lot about these movies, so I wanted to see if I could come up with a script myself. 

The decision to write an animated screenplay wasn't actually that difficult. Especially knowing that most animations manage to cheer me up and put me on a better mood, I thought it would make sense to write a script myself.

When it comes to writing the script, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I was influenced by other movies. Popular films like 'Amelie', the recent 'My Life As a Courgette' and 'Shaun The Sheep were the ones that influenced me the most.

For example, when it comes to 'Amelie', I liked how the main character in the film was so creative and proactive. I liked how Amelie was trying to do the right thing and how she was a character that you were able to root for.

When it comes to 'My Life As a Courgette', I liked the themes in the film and how well the animation in it was done. I appreciated how well the theme of being an orphan was handled and how the movie was able to convey real emotions.

When it comes to 'Shaun The Sheep', I absolutely loved how the writers were able to come up with an 80 minute movie that had zero dialogue in it. I found this to be awesome and was really impressed with how many good ideas the movie had. 

So by mixing these three movies, I wrote an 'original' script that revolves around themes and ideas that these films represented. The script, currently titled 'Valerie and The Girl', is some sort of a synthesis of these movies.

For example, like in 'My Life as a Courgette', the story is about a young child growing up. The character not having a father in her life is one of the overarching themes in the screenplay that plays throughout the script's length.

Like in 'Amelie', our main character is an active protagonist that tries her best to change things for the better. She not only wants to help others - including her new friend - but she also wants to know what happened to her father.

Like in 'Shaun The Sheep', in its current form the screenplay doesn't have any written, intelligible dialogue in the script. Every single scene in the screenplay runs on the strength of the characters and the overarching storylines that are in it.

As a whole, when it comes to the script, I'm fairly confident that the story and its characters feel authentic and respect the reader. I'm relatively confident that the story feels original and doesn't seem too much like the movies that it was 'based' on.

After all, if I managed to do those things, that would mean that I wrote something good. It would mean that I have a certain understanding of what storytelling is about and that I'm capable of writing original characters that you can relate to.

Still, regardless of how good the screenplay turned out, when it comes to this project, I did my best to come up with a good script. I tried my best to write a screenplay that would reflect my values and my strengths as a writer.  

Whether I actually managed to write a really good script, I don't know. That, after all, takes a lot of luck of and is something that cannot be controlled, no matter how hard you're willing to try and no matter how talented you are as a writer.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

'My Life as a Zucchini' is a solid animation.

Like many others, if I have to choose between watching a live action movie or an animated film, it's usually an easy decision. In most cases I'll watch the animated film, because it's much more likely to put me on a better mood.

After all, when it comes to animations, you don't judge characters in them the way you judge actors in live action movies. There's no prejudice involved with animated characters, which makes watching them so much easier.

In that sense, it wasn't a difficult decision to give a chance for a French animated film called 'My Life as a Zucchini'. This is a movie that was nominated at this year's Academy Awards in the best animated film category.

In essence, the movie tells a story about a young boy called 'Courgette' (Zucchini). Once he becomes an orphan, he is moved to an orphanage, where he meets other kids who haven't been fortunate in their lives either.

Over the course of the film's one hour length, the animation deals with all kinds of issues that have to do with the main character's situation. There's stuff about abandonment, friendship, acceptance and making the best out of what you have.

When it comes to 'My Life as a Courgette', very likely the best thing about it has to do with how simplistic and how down to earth it is. The themes in it are clear and there isn't anything in the film that doesn't belong to it or that feels forced.

Unlike in most movies, almost all the characters in it are likable and relatable. Every person in the orphanage, including the personnel, are characters that you can relate to and who are trying to work in the best interest of the kids.

When it comes to the animation in the movie, the stop motion technique works really well. It's a real pleasure to watch these characters and how the makers of the film have managed to make them so lively and full of emotion.

These high quality production values also apply to the voice acting. Especially when it comes to the original French version of the film, you can't help but to fall in love with these characters and how authentic they sound.

If there's anything in the movie that could have been better, I guess it has to be said that the ending for it was a bit lacking. The movie should have gone a bit longer so that the last fifteen minutes of the film could have had a better flow.

At least in my opinion, the last phase could have used a couple more extra scenes that would have made the ending more satisfying. There was something missing from the script that made the finale a little bit underwhelming.

Still, despite these fairly minor flaws in the film, it has to be said that I'm glad that I managed to watch 'My Life as a Courgette'. It's good to notice that movies like these exist and that they're not all the same old, same old.

As a whole, even though the film doesn't sugar coat things and doesn't shy away from real stuff, it manages to entertain. It manages to give you hope and makes you feel that just because things aren't going your way, life can still get better.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Ideas vs. execution in quality screenwriting.

When it comes to ideas and execution in screenwriting, there's an age-old saying which says that 'good ideas are a dime a dozen and it's the execution of your idea that counts' when it comes to writing a good screenplay.

According to this saying, no matter how good your idea is, your idea is just an initial premise and only the first step in the process. Executing it doesn't guarantee that your premise will necessarily lead to anything good.

I've been thinking about this idea vs. execution thing especially after managing to finish my very first movie screenplay. Why is it that the execution counts so much and why your initial idea doesn't necessarily mean that much?

Very likely the best way to answer to this question is by saying that 'a good idea' really is just the first idea that you need for your story. In order to write a solid screenplay, you need to come up with a lot more 'good ideas' before your work is done.

By that I mean that any good screenplay is going to have at least a couple of dozen solid ideas in it. These solid ideas are what keep the story and the characters going and that keep the audience interested in what's going on.

It simply isn't enough to think that one super special idea is going to be all that it takes. It's not enough to think that just because you managed to come up with a 'great' idea, you can now start slacking with your project.

On the contrary, you need to have a lot of ideas and you need to have a good judgement about how to execute them. You need to be able to figure out which of your ideas make sense and which aren't good enough as a whole.

At the same time, when we're talking about how important the execution part is, this is not to say that having a good first idea isn't important. I'm not saying that you can slack with your premise as long you're willing to execute your script well.

As unfortunate as it is, when it comes to most screenplays, the basic idea in most of them just isn't good enough. The 'ideas' that they're based on aren't solid enough and don't have enough potential to become quality scripts.

In reality, if your premise and your idea isn't good enough, no amount of 'hard work' is going to save your screenplay. These 'weak premise' screenplays are never going to work, no matter who is going to be in charge of writing them.

In that sense, even though it's true that your 'great idea' by definition isn't all there is to the process, it still counts. That's why you should always make sure that your premise does have enough merit and that it's believable enough.

After all, by making sure that you have a good premise, it's going to be much easier to start developing your screenplay. If you're willing to pay attention to the basics, it's much more likely that your script as a whole has more potential.

So as a whole, when it comes to this whole thing, the truth is that it pays off if you manage to come up with a solid, workable premise. It pays off far more often if you're willing to come up with a premise that people might actually get interested in.

If you're smart enough or lucky enough to get a solid premise, there's a much better chance that you'll create something good. If you'll take your time with your premise, it makes the writing process a lot more tolerable and a lot easier.

On the other hand, if you're not willing to pay attention to your basic story idea, you're going to be in big trouble. If you're not willing to make sure that your story idea makes sense, things are not going to work out for you.

In that case, all that hard work with the screenplay will likely be in vain. Instead of creating something solid, you'll end up working with a script that doesn't have enough merit and doesn't have what it takes to keep us entertained.