Hello, all! We’re back again with some more story-telling-talk. As of this writing on 6/14/2014, I have finished my full length supernatural/western-thriller screenplay, “The Legende Immortal”, a currently untitled horror short film script, three more articles, and one subtextual film criticism. The reason I speak of this is not to gloat (okay, perhaps a bit of gloating), but to further explain how much I have already learned since I wrote part 1 of this “how to”, just two months back.
With that said, one of the most major differences in my writing (and filmmaking) from just two months back, is that now I have learned to not be so picky about things. You know, the way some people want to write, or make movies, or do this and that, that and this, so bad, but they never do, almost as if they are waiting and waiting for the perfect idea to come to them first? Yeah, that was me. In two months of making myself stick to my guns and JUST WRITE, I have learned that’s all it takes.
In theory, this might seem easier said than done, but if you want to write, there is no other way to do it than just doing it, just like a guitar player cannot learn to play guitar by simply wanting to learn to play guitar. As I want to work my way up to the status of Quentin Tarantino, a guitarist might want to work his way up to the status of Jimi Hendrix or Eddie Van Halen, but he cannot simply get there by just wanting to get there. He must practice every day, and bleed for his art, and sweat for his art. He must become frustrated, and weep for his art. There is simply no other way around it.
And just like a guy who wants to learn metal guitar might have to start out with something more simplistic, like an “A Minor” chord, an aspiring writer may have to start out with something more simplistic also, before he may work his way up to innovation. Most won’t have the skillset to write a new screenplay every single friggen’ day, at the beginning, and sometimes even at the most advanced stages. That is not the point. The point is to find things to excersise your muscles with, to grind your teeth on. Take film criticism, or even more specifically, as aforementioned, subtextual film criticism. Subtextual film criticism is something you might have to do in a college-leve film appreciation class, and to some (or most), it might not be fun. It is the practice of noting, and critiquing, underlying and intrinsic themes in a film. Sometimes, these are not things the averge film-goer will notice is actually there. For instance, story elements, particular shots, angles, camera movements. Why a particular event in the story might effect the character in a certain way.
A good place to go for things like this is straight to the classics; Homer, Shakespeare, and even into classic cinema like “Taxi Driver”, “Rear Window”, “I Bury The Living”, and “Once Upon A Time In The West”. These types of films, plays, and stories are filled with deep, underlying subtexts that can bring light to the characters motives, emotions, and roles in the story. To write a subtextual film criticism, you simply have to notice, take note, and then critique whether or not you think the creator(s) did a good job at conveying said subtexts. Another fun part is that, as a critic of such things, these can all be your opinion, because in most cases, we will never truly know if it was “all in Travis Bickle’s head”, or if he was just lonely (Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, played by a young Robert DeNiro). The subtext is as you see it and feel it, and it doesn’t even necessarily have to make sense to anybody but you, as long as it works in context of your critique.
Now, I know this headline was “How To Write Great Original Screenplays”, not “How To Write Great Subtextual Film Criticism”, but I wouldn’t suggest anything I didn’t think would truly improve your overall writing capabilities. That aside, there are other alternatives to flexing your writer’s biceps on the daily, such as short stories, which can span from a paragraph to many pages. Monologues, dialogues, shorts bios of persons you might be obsessed with (like my love for all things Tarantino and Sergio Leone). Essays (yeah, like those annoying things they force you to do in college), can really help, especially in an out-of-school setting where you pick the topic and write in any format you feel comfortable. I despised being forced to write my essays (and sometimes, other’s essays :P) in college, because it was a narrow topic, with bland subject material, but now, out of college, I occasionally like to diverge myself into random essays over topics I actually don’t mind writing about.
So, in the end, it all comes down to you and how bad you want to do it. If you want to become a great writer or screenwriter, start writing scripts, articles, and anything else you can dream up. All it takes is actually sitting down and doing, and you’d be surprised by how many non-film-related writings can directly help you become stronger at your particular craft.
That ends part two of this series. Next time, I will discuss thematic elements, and how they can add intrigue to your script!
Be sure to follow me on Twitter, @ThatKyleOliver, and subscribe to my production company on YouTube, VintageImageFilms.
Written by Kyle Oliver, 6/14/14
copyright by Kyle Oliver
Kyle Oliver is an award-nominated writer/director/editor, & the owner/CEO of Vintage Image Films. You can find Vintage Image Films on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/VintageImageFilm