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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Everyone Has a First Act

A friend of mine says he has 30 first acts in a drawer of his desk. I have about the same. Just because you have an idea, and a first act, doesn't mean you have a movie.

Try to write past page 31 and you'll see what I mean.

Some ideas are explosive, full of fire and life, and come hurtling out of the gate with such force that you can't imagine that you DON'T have the whole movie.

It's very exciting ina new world with a new character, hurtling toward the wall that will change their life forever and send them on an adventure.

But sitting in your chair you will quickly reveal to yourself just how deep one has to send the roots down, to support the tree.

What the hell is the adventure, and how does it tie in emotionally to your character?

Know your character's history, their loss, what they hope to gain, and what part of them has to die that's holding them back from completing that desire, so that a new part of themselves can be born to grab the sword - be ready to let go of their own life - and make the selfless act that raises them to a higher level. (in a drama, of course, all this works on an interior level). either way, only then can they become worthy of the prize they seek.

Who is the villain, who are the friends? And will a friend turn against them, or a villain become an ally? What wound does your hero need to heal and how does this story get them that?

Otherwise, you may just have a great act one.


Blogger Chesher Cat said...

Does your friend have any completed scripts to offset the 30 first acts?

I think it's dangerous to spit out the first act before you at least know your climax/ending. It's like going into the NY subway and picking a train without knowing the station where you need to get off. You could be lost forever.

On the other hand, the second script I wrote ended up being the first act of my fifth script and it was a much better story when I finished.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

chesher: yes, he's been a working screenwriter for years, his point being - he has many more ideas and false starts than finished scripts. It's easier to have an act one, the real work is to complete the long form. But your train analogy is dead on. i've done it myself...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006  

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