SCREENWRITING INTENSIVE: ASSIGNMENT 1: ROUGH DRAFTS AND LOG LINES

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Hi everyone,

The assignment for this week has several parts:

  1. Choose a script to workshop (i.e., if you have several in mind, choose one to use for this week’s assignment)
  2. Write a short “original draft treatment” –– i.e., some rough notes relating to it. The ODT can be scribbled on napkins if you want. No one will ever see it but you.  You can always add to it or subtract from it later. It can be anywhere between a paragraph and a few pages long. It’s just a summary of what happens in your story, open to changes if you change your mind later.
  3. See if you can come up with a LOG LINE for it (see examples below). Don’t worry if it’s not perfect; like your ODT, it can change as you’re moving around and you made decisions about your story. 
  4. Break the story summary in your ODT down a LIST OF THINGS THAT HAPPEN as your story moves along… i.e., a sentence or two describing what happens in each scene. Then go back and number these into scenes. Remember that you can always move the scenes around later if you want to, or change what’s in them.
  5. Then start writing each scene. You can start at the beginning of the screenplay if you want to, but if you like you can start in the middle or write the end first.  (Most screenwriters recommend that you “know your end before you start writing the first word of your script” because the end is what makes the story meaningful and gives it its focus.) Some people find it easiest to start in the middle, then go back and figure out the perfect beginning later, once they have a good sense of the characters. 
  6. Aim to write at least 10 pages this week. We’re just talking about a rough draft. If you finish your rough, feel free to go back and start reworking them. (Writing, rewriting and rewriting, changing things as you go along, is inherent. Try to let go of the feeling that every scene or word has to be perfect at this stage.)

EXAMPLES OF LOG LINES:

THE GODFATHER The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.

PULP FICTION The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

FOREST GUMP Forrest Gump, while not intelligent, has accidentally been present at many historic moments, but his true love, Jenny Curran, eludes him.

THE MATRIX A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.

SILENCE OF THE LAMBS A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.

CASABLANCA Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

REAR WINDOW A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.

P.S. I recorded last night’s class; here’s a link:

https://youtu.be/39MQCadFph4

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