Tuesday, July 22, 2008

THE WORD

In the beginning, there's nothing but the word. Everything begins with the word. Including movies. Being a writer, I believe that there is much truth in this.
I consider myself a screenwriter first, a film director second. Without a good script - be it a teleplay or screenplay - movies will never become good cinema.
Friends and foe alike, always ask me why I never buy scripts from other people or even direct scripts from others - it's not like I haven't. I have. It's a pitifully painful process. I just feel like, the scripts and screenplays that I have received, are usually still works in progress. The structure isn't right, the conflicts in it are sparse and not thought out properly, the character designs weak, its plot and sub-plots either non-existent or confusing.
In the end, I end up re-writing the script so much that I wonder why I pay good money for these scripts. I expand good money and time. So why should I stress myself - might as well just polish up my own screenplays (not that my screenplays are perfect - hehehe).
Most of the scripts that I come across are usually excellent for radio dramas. full of dialogue and nothing else. These un-trained writers are just churning out scripts from their homes without much if any research - just re-hashing old storylines from dramas and movies that they have seen. That is why our Malay dramas on TV seem never to have improved over the last two decades. 
The stories are the same, the plots, the conflicts - blah blah blah. Most of these writers don't even understand that TV and film are a visual medium - and they torture us with dialogue that goes on and on without pushing or helping the story move forward. They don't know or even heard about story archs - which is why their stories seem dead and lifeless.
Their written direction or screenplay hardly exists, which doesn't help the director understand what the writer wants from the story. 
A good screenplay actually helps the director visualise and plan his shots - no, not words like CLOSE UP, ZOOM IN, TRACK SHOT etc.....A good screenplay is a good read (without the camera angles and shots cluttering the script). A script well written can be good literature - where every mood, every bit of emotion is there in the words in between the dialogues.
Many also must have read and re-read Syd Field countless times and nothing else matters. Haha. I know of a so-called filmmaker who used to praise Syd Field and even quote him verbatim. It seems (to him) nothing else or no one else should be read if you want to be a screenwriter. His students and those who believe in him, followed suit.
When I teach, I tell my students the various school of thoughts, allow them to understand the various approaches and techniques of writing that is available out there. Of course I point out my personal preference. I prefer to teach and stress the importance of story and plot points and therefore I usually refer to or refresh myself with Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey
Anyway, I used to teach at this small institution but left after not agreeing with the management on various matters pertaining to the running of the institution. When I gave up I left my notes on screenwriting and story development for the students to refer to. 
This guy came in after I left, having managed to sell himself to the institute's clueless management. I pity him because not many other institutions would give him a job and also many producers who wouldn't even buy a script from him. 
He must have read the notes I left behind, because suddenly, in his postings on the net, he is suddenly a proponent of Joseph Campbell....hahha..what happened to Syd Field? Nevermind, at least I managed to open up a previously clogged and blurry mind.
In terms of screenwriting software (which helps writers format their scripts and nothing much else) I know of a few friends who use Final Draft. I never did. I instead began using an on-line screenwriting software called Scriptbuddy at www.scriptbuddy.com. It was friendly and it formatted my screenplays - which was fine. You can subscribe to it for free but it only allows you to work on two screenplays at any one time. If you are a paid subscriber, you can write as many scripts as you want. You can post it. You can sell it. A few writers on Scriptbuddy has actually sold or had their scripts optioned for movies.
Then, I found Celtx (www.celtx.com), available for download on both mac and PC users. It is a powerful tool, it is free and it is wonderful. It not only helps me in my writing, but also in my production work - preparing breakdowns and production schedules. It also has a storyboarding page and writing treatments. It offers writers different formats - teleplays, stageplays and even commercials. I have been promoting it to all and sundry. Try it.
As for story development, I bought an online software called Storyist (www.storyist.com). It's about RM200 I think. It helps me develop stories and it also uses Campbell's Hero's Journey as a guide.
Anyway, the aspiring writer might want to check the above and maybe, better quality scripts will be floating around, and maybe, just maybe, I will find a script out there that is worth my time to produce and direct.
Writing takes a lot out of a person. If I don't have to write, it will help me manage my time better. I would just concentrate on producing and directing. So, write better stuff guys. I am waiting for great screenplays or teleplays. If it is anything like the stuff I see mostly on RTM1 or Tv3, forget it. If it is new, fresh, dynamic and interesting, then I am interested.

2 comments:

Sunil said...

If you're looking for another free, web-based screenwriting software tool, a couple of buddies and I recently co-founded a company called Scripped (http://www.scripped.com). I would love to hear your opinion at some point, so please feel free to email me directly (sunil@scripped.com). Thanks for checking it out - we are free and web-based.

Sunil Rajaraman

anak wayang said...

Fellow writers in Malaysia, give this site a look. It's not yet well established as scriptbuddy.com but who knows, in time they might give them a run for their money. Scripped is easy and simple enough - not as powerful as celtx, but has a great writers' community...and quite a few competitions with cash prizes.