Reminiscence – My Screenwriting Journey… so far…

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While working on finalising ‘Silent Hill: Betrayal’ and a upcoming film for Majority Entertainment in the Chinese film market, I have been prone to marveling at how far I’ve come with screenwriting. So I thought I would share this moment with you and take you with on my mental journey.

I owe it more to my writing ability more than my experience in the film industry field to be honest. Many times I’ve seen people ask what it takes to be a great screenwriter. There have been a variety of answers, but the most simple one for me is the ability to write a great story.

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As a matter of fact, the first screenwriting book I ever picked up was ‘Story’ by Robert McKee. This was in  2008 where the first idea of screenwriting first teased me. Many writers and reviewers were telling me how my epic fantasy series, the Celenic Earth Chronicles, reads like movies before their eyes. They could see the action in their minds. And that’s how my ambition to write for film was born.

‘Story’ focuses, in my opinion, on exactly what the title says: the story development. If you ignore all the references to screenwriting and film, you could actually use the book in any field of writing, even novels. It really helps improve the way you look at story telling and the structure of a good story.

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I had also obtained David Trottier‘s ‘Screenwriter’s Bible’ at the same time in 2008, but since I had just started studying at University for my degree in Facilities Management, I had very much shifted my focus from writing novels to writing academic assignments. McKee’s book still lingered in my mind over the years, and I got to watch movies in a whole new light, trying to see what the writer was thinking when he wrote the script.

It was only in 2015 when I finally decided to work through the ‘Screenwriter’s Bible’ properly. It had exactly what I was looking for in terms of how scripts are formatted, how to work on various genres, and when to use what in the script. It applied exactly McKee’s story techniques and put it into practice. I was smitten with Trottier’s work.

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When I was searching for what software I could use for the writing, I had discovered through various sources that Final Draft is one of the best and most accepted around the world, especially Hollywood. I obtained Final Draft 9, and found myself wondering how to best use the software effectively.

Through Takealot, I discovered Wallace Wang‘s “How to write a great script with Final Draft 9.” I thoroughly loved working through it. It takes what McKee and Trottier had already taught me and showed me how to apply it with Final Draft 9. And I am not just talking about what the menus and buttons are for. I am talking about how to use the program to first work on your film theme, characters and goals, etc, before you even touch the script itself. It was like find a magical item in Diablo for the first time.

 

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This led to me wanting to write for films. It filled me with such a strong desire, that I went online to see what assignments and competitions were running. I was also researching what the current film market was looking for. This was when I stumbled on the Cinequest Screenwriting Competition, which seemed quite exciting for a newbie.

Let it never be said that I do things in small measures. Where normal people would probably work on ideas and scripts for years before jumping into it, I dived. I used the competition as motivation to work on my first film. Not only that, but I moved out of my fantasy and horror comfort zones and went for science fiction.

During that time I also discovered that Emma Watson had initiated the HeforShe group in the United Nations for gender equality. Besides taking on the task of representing HeforShe in South Africa, I decided to change the lead from male to female, which gave the film a new twist and made it more exhilarating in its own ways. After the change, I felt that it had done the script justice and improved more than I could have originally imagined.

My screenplay was submitted in Nov 2015, and by January 2016 I had received feedback. Not everyone can win, obviously, but the positive feedback I had received made me feel like a winner anyway. The judges had remarked that they had thoroughly enjoyed working on my script, and that ‘the story has solid bones and great potential!’. Of course, I have carried this recommendation to anyone that I have approached to have the script purchased or optioned.

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Of course, I didn’t just stop there. I went crazy researching screenwriting communities and find out as much as I could about query letters and getting contracted for screenwriting work. I discovered Stage32 during this time, which is like Facebook for anyone who has anything to do with making films. This community is so lively every day, with seminars and courses available, that one can really struggle to keep up sometimes. It was through this medium that I met with Canadian producer, Ronnie Banerjee, who offered me a short acting role in an upcoming short film. More on that when it is launched.

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Since then I have been pitching ideas on Logline.It, Twitter pitch fests, community forums, etc. Getting my name seen out there and networking. It was a hive of activity that kept me excited to write for film. One website that I feel gave me the most insight is Good In a Room.  Not only does Stephanie Palmer send out awesome mails, tips and documents on screenwriting, but she actually takes the time to respond to your tweets and remain active on social media. She has been the best invisible agent I have had with regards to screenwriting. My next film project will be dedicated to her for her hard work and dedication to the craft.

 

And that is my journey so far. Besides the film I am working on for Majority Entertainment, I have my own films that I will be working on and sending out to the world to consider. I have just recently thought on a new crime series that I am sure will sell well, sort of like a ‘Mentalist’ meets ‘Castle’,  but I am not willing to share more on that right now. The concept is too good to give out right now. Even the name of the series would be too much to reveal.

On a final note, I am hoping to finish ‘Silent Hill: Betrayal’ novel this weekend, so be sure to look out for that announcement.

In love and grace

The Count of Celenic Earth

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