Story-climbing in 8 steps

Well, I was silent for a while. I knew it wont be easy. Now I know how it feels when you starting point begins with the 3rd year of the film school. Briefly, it was tough. These month’s experience came out as a draft for the year’s short project. Hope it could be useful somehow. Naturally, we make films here. The first thing you need is a SCRIPT. That’s where the journey begins! Seems like a few easy steps, yes? Just find an idea, write a story and shoot. Okay! Those steps looks like rock-climbing, rather than walking.

Curious to know more, keep on reading

STEP 1. Find your source. Beware of the classics.

To make original script or adapted story is up to you. I decided to start with adaptation. The first piece I liked was The Skin by Roald Dahl. The story of an old man who sold a portrait tattooed on his back. Paris, 1910s, 30’s and 50’s. The same man young and aged. I was uncompromising in my decision until my teacher told “Well, ok, you’ll also need those sign-boards in French for exterior scenes”. That’s where I realized It would be out of budget. The Skin was skipped. The next story I’ve stopped my view at was Rothshield’s Violin by Chekhov. I absolutely fell in love with the main character. Greedy coffin maker who gets extra money playing violin at the weddings. “This is the story of a man who lived in the coffin until his wife’s death made him to look out of his shell… ” – I wrote down the idea.  And again, my teachers tried to speak me out of working “with the pure literature hard to translate into the cinema language”. I didn’t want to give up such a lovely piece

STEP 2. My story is about…

First, you write the formula of your story in one sentence. My story is about a person, who wanted… had to… and get something as a result. If you don’t have this, you don’t have the film. Easy to say, damn hard to do.

STEP 3 Lost in Translation: literature into film.

Okay, lest’s begin to write a script. Starting the affaire with the literature, you may get into the trap of a well versed story. I took this into consideration and to make my story work I invented some events that were not mentioned by the author. My first outline looked like a brief description of Chekhov’s piece. It was smashed into dust when my scriptwriting teacher asked to tell where is the action of each scene and it’s meaning for the film. Then my group-mate came to help-me out. We spend a week at the cafe analyzing every single sentence (what is written, what int means) of Chekhov’s story and eating cakes.

STEP 4. Time and place

Author writes about his times in Russia. What if I put my hero in Ukraine of 1930’s? In my logics it explained his greediness. He survived war, revolution and hunger, so… First trap! Bom! I faced the fact I didn’t know the period well. Common facts don’t make the flesh and blood. Explaining character’s attitudes by the terrible obstacles of the soviet “wellbeing” do I help my hero or not? Will it work better if his misery comes uniquely from his perception of the life? Trap #2! Bah!!!

STEP 5. Know your character

Working on the second version of the outline I had time, and didn’t have characters. Thats a common mistake of my group-mates as well. You set the obstacles, your characters act in their own logics. Until you don’t know your character, it’s you who act. This way we do everything is good/suitable for us, authors, but completely out of character’s logics. Heroes behave weird, props come out of nowhere…  I came back to the every beginning, found character’s questionnaire (3 pages long). It took me a few days to answer.

STEP 6. Be precise

At this point I knew characters, time, place. I also defined what I have to show and what is less important. In books they say, you have the film, just write it down. So easy! Lol! It took me several weeks to outline my story. I tried to be precise. I wrote scene by scene, checked new scene comes out of the previous, rewrote, checked, continued. I asked my friend for reviewing and she helped me so much in defining dead scenes. Final scenes were the toughest. I asked some friends for the review. To my surprise most found it interesting (long hours of writing make you loose that sense of interest) but very sad.  

STEP 7. Sick

I had the reading with our master (thats how we call our principal directing teacher) All of my group-mates slept. But that wasn’t the worst thing about that day. My story came out different to what the author meant. I did it deliberately. And it might work out and haven’t been put me into blame, if it wasn’t Chekhov, whom I rewrote. Anyway, I rest with Idea why not. During the reading I saw that some scenes are done so rough. But still, you can rework it. What made me feel really desperate, were the questions of a bit higher rank. My character plays violin and makes coffins – two contradicting treats. I have to choose which leads. I have a few ways to develop the story, I have a few advices. All might work. And it’s me who has to answer, who makes the final decision. And here comes uncertainty. What I really do want to say?

STEP 8. There is where the story begins

Finally, I showed it to the scriptwriting teacher. At that moment I was sick of my character with his wordless wife, his coffins, his greed. I knew we’ve gone too far with my hero to simply split. I felt like I didn’t know what I want to say. How come I wasn’t able to comment any scene? (I was in my clear mind writing it) Reading was interrupted. I told how sick I was of the story. “It doesn’t mean you have to quit. Don’t you think I never felt like that?” – my teacher answered. I’m not going to.

That’s where the real story begins.

To be reworked …

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 4.32.00 AM.png


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s