Diary Of Making A Movie #4 – Gettin’ Started On The First Draft


Okay. Outlining is done—or at least, I have a bare-bones skeleton of the plot. Now I’m getting going on the first draft.

I’ve found that people usually fall into one of three categories when they’re writing scripts.

  • “Screw outlines, let’s get going.” – This writer has a glimmer of an idea and starts putting out pages. The first draft is what we call a “vomit draft”. Then, once everything is on paper, it’s time to hammer out the story. One in a million of these people can knock out a stunning first draft with no outline. (I’ve never met one, but I assume they exist.)
  • “I outline everything.” – Every beat, every moment, every act break. It’s all on the notecards. Writing the screenplay is just a matter of putting in your dialogue and slug lines. There are some Oscar-winning scribes who definitely fall into this category.
  • “Just a bit of an outline, thanks.” – This is what I do, for better or worse. I like to explore a bit while I’m writing the first draft, but I’ll at least have a vague idea where I’m going. The first draft will still have plenty of rough patches, but more often than not, the bones of the story will be good.

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I’m very conscious of budget and actors, even on the first draft. Ideally, the feature have 3-4 main characters and then maybe a half-dozen minor speaking parts. Basically, the hard costs of the film will be:

  • Locations
  • Food
  • Cast/Crew salary
  • Equipment Rental
  • Insurance

By keeping the cast/crew numbers small, I’ll also save on food and insurance costs. I’m also conscious of not having too many locations, since every location can mean hours of transportation and set-up.

I figure that on most days, it’ll be me and a DP (Director of Photography). If we can get away with lavalier mics, then we’ll do that. Since this will be a “run-and-gun” style of shoot, I’m hoping we can get everything done with 10-15 days of filming. But I could be completely wrong about this.