The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, February 17, 2012

What we need ain't what we want

Writing the Screenplay

Back to the new screenplay. Heck, I have no idea what will happen with it, I have a major Hollywood producer begging to see it, and right now it has be excited, and I follow the "juice", always.

I can say that the script deals with a man who wants to be a champion, and instead must learn to be a leader. The "gap" there is between what he WANTS (to be a champion) and what he NEEDS (to be a leader). The most important things I can do then is to set up the conflict as clearly as possible, from the very beginning.

Film is a visual medium. That means that you have to turn off the dialogue, and design a series of visual images that carry the meaning even if it were a silent movie. The character is weighed down by resentments, fear, abandonment issues, and more, all of which lead to him being a lone wolf who measures his worth only in terms of group acclaim and external reward.

His journey will be from admiring the external rewards his grandfather (a role model) received in life, to grasping the deep emotional motivations that drove the accomplishments--he must learn to see the "invisible world" of the mature, internally motivated adult, rather than being trapped in the "ooh! It's shiny!" world of childlike instant/external gratification.

Because this started as a biography, some of the emotional lines are messy--life is like that. But following my own advice in the LIFEWRITING YEAR LONG, I've "rounded" the story to draw out the emotional themes, and then created characters and situations that allow me to explore them.

In this draft, I'm starting in 1947 rural Mississippi, where my lead character is exposed to lessons about community, courage, contribution, and love...but misses them, and instead believes he should extract lessons of hate, selfishness and the essential "aloneness" of human existence.

Nice arc: from child to man. Champion to coach. "Every man stands alone" to "we're all links in a chain." I can see that, and feel it. The basic images tell the beginning of his story, and the later scenes build on it. I started with a 10-page outline, and now have 31 pages of rough proto-script.

And right now, it's feeling very good indeed.


Sarah said...

It sounds like a really good story. These glimpses of your process are interesting.

Terry H said...

Man, this is really exciting!