There were some really great stories and concepts this fest. Some nice visuals, some interesting food for thought to take away when the read was done.
But were they filmable?
If this had been a short story fest, then the sky and beyond is limitless. The imagination always runs free of charge. But since these are screenplays with really only one end game in mind - a film - then practicalities do need to be considered. Sucks, but a film does require resources beyond the minds eye. This is not to suggest a story or concept should be trimmed and edited and watered down to make it viable. Not at all. That's a far bigger crime.
My suggestion is merely to keep filmability in mind when writing. The more bells and whistles you add, the smaller your field of capable filmmakers becomes. Skills aside, one must also remember budgets and the amount of time likely to be invested.
The big question is, are these bells and whistles really needed to make the story more authentic? Do they add essential layers to the whole? Do they make it more entertaining, and the roles more desireable for the actors who will bring it to life?
Costume, for example. Though I have seen some fun and creative solutions via thrift store grabs, costume does costs money. Always ask yourself what are the basics needed to visually set a character, or characters, apart solely by the costume they wear? If this/these characters will be real actors as opposed to CGI, then you must also remember this costume needs to be consistent shooting day to shooting day. If the costume includes a scarf, and one day those on set remember to include it, they can't be forgetting to include it the next day. Yes, this stuff happens. A lot.
Make up, special powers, vehicles that will move characters from one space to another, how they communicate, etc, are all part of the authenticity package. Obviously you do not want to leave this wanting for more, but likewise you do not want to make it an untouchable script.
My next gripe, at least concerning Alien concepts, is the habit of anthropomorphizing the characters. If humans hate spinach, then so must the aliens. For this very reason, I personally think this whole genre is in a dead-end slump, and we are stuck watching utter crap like Transformers. I have not seen all of Avatar yet, but from what I have seen of it, and read of it, it appears to be a rehash of story A, interpretaion B, and heavily reliant on CGI to make it entertaining. I could be wrong, and Box Office be damned.
My point is, can the story and the characters stand up on their own merits without the bells and whistles? It is difficult to really establish a bond between a character and the audience - be it the reader or the viewing audience - in just a few short pages, but that should be a paramount goal. I do think some of these screenplays accomplished that, or came dang close, while others never really gave a lot to grasp onto. Some cool visuals with flat characters, or visa-versa. Need the whole package to knock it out of the park!
Just some thoughts.
Thread: But is it filmable
Results 1 to 10 of 13
07-08-2012 05:55 AM
07-09-2012 08:09 AM
I absolutely and whole-heartedly agree with Alex!
Unfortunately, and I speak for myself here, I believe consistency is very much the key here and unless you get prolific with achieving that blend of production friendly and out-of-the-box content the possibility of reverting back to the tried and tested is more of the norm.
I also believe that this specific consistency can only be achieved by either:
- getting specific production based feedback.
- contest themes with strict production friendly guidelines.
Shorts have no other avenue besides writing contests, reel boosters or indie productions.
And I haven't had much luck with the latter two, so get on with feature-writing. This is the natural course for most writers who have honed their skills enough through writing contests.
A majority of writing and writers participating are therefore looking to hone their script-writing skills rather than make the short, production friendly.
What I think usually is, "I know this can't be produced, but I'll get feedback for my imagination and perhaps some nudging to make it into a feature."
There are exceptions, and a great example is Chris Keaton (He won't mind me exploiting him :P) who is a writing machine and even goes to great lengths to market his skills and actually requests specific production details so he can write within those restrictions.
Seesh, do I go on and on...
Like I said, I agree 100% and the only time the blend worked for me totally was when I placed first here with a script, where my major feedback was, "Go shoot this, it is extremely filmable!"
But old habits die hard, and I follow it up with a dystopian Steampunk story about a Clockwork bounty hunter.
This is a GREAT topic and most writers SHOULD pitch in with their thoughts!
07-10-2012 07:43 AM
Yes, Keaton IS a machine. And not just putting out 'mass produced' work. It's solid and original and entertaining.
I LOVE steampunk!! It is risky writing, but one can always hope. I wrote Pupae for ScriptFest 2 waaaaay back. Sci fi stuff, and I rarely touch the theme. It had a mix of CGI and steampunk, and was finally picked up by the very capable filmmaker and FX dude extraordinaire, Jens Klein, and is currently in post! Sometime it all comes together.
Then there are those who write and film their own material, and more or less know their own abilities and limitations, or the abilities and limitations of all those involved start to finish. Some, obviously, are more successful than others.
This would be one of the success stories ...
But many of us writers do not film our own material, or work with a crew on a regular basis, so we write on spec. I have pretty much given up hanging around writer forums because of the hostile and angst-driven exchanges. Two to-the-death beliefs do seem consistent, though: 'I don't care what they do with the script as long as the check clears', and 'You have to write what Hollywood wants to read'.
I do beg to differ
07-11-2012 11:59 PM
First off...congratz Alex on getting Pupae produced. I remember reading that script in the fest and I really liked it. I checked out the Jen's site and it looks like he is going to do a great job with it. Can't wait to see the finished product.
When I wrote my first few scripts I totally ignored the , eh....filmability of them and focused more on honing my craft. Jon's Fall and The Last Stop would never justify the budget it would take to shoot them.
Finally I decided, damn, it would be nice to see some of my stuff come to life and be produced. That's when I realized that writing a script that is filmable is as much a part of the craft as making sure your character's are interesting, dialogue sounds real and all the technical stuff is in order. Because if you keep writing scripts that have no chance of getting produced, whats the point? We're not writing short stories or novels here.
Also there is the point of, eventually writing features, which is a goal of mine. But it does seem a daunting task, but I suppose you just have to jump in and do it at some point.
Now... I have a good idea for my next short script...it'll be completely unfilmable, but a lot of fun to write.the writer formerly known as "Conlan Forever"
Need a short script? Have an idea? Want to collaborate? Contact me.
07-12-2012 05:26 AM
I think I'll add some restrictions for the next contest that will keep these things filmable.
07-12-2012 08:56 AM
And, those unfilmable scripts are still great entertainment in their own right. Maybe my next book will be titled 'Unfilmable' and be a collection of just such shorts.
07-12-2012 09:02 AM
If nothing else, short films are the best possible calling card in pursuit of bigger projects and attracting cash and talent in the future.
But do keep in mind, you wouldn't scribble your name on a scrap of paper as a business card, so why make a crappy film with similar end-game hopes?
07-16-2012 07:08 PM
I agree with you 100%. I mentioned this before as shorts should have near zero production cost. Personally I quit writing "cost is not a factor" shorts.
Our local meet up group is shooting one short per month. We have 100 members and could have 200 but we only keep very active members.
We'll soon go to two separate productions each month to keep more people actively involved.
This has taken off like wildfire. Everybody wants to make movies. And these are quality shorts.
Honing writing skills? What beats the parameters of no budget, limited locations, actors, costumes, and props. Story better be strong.
We just shot the 48 Hour which throws in random genre, prop, character, and line of dialogue over a weekend. That was brutal. Next time will double the cast/crew to 40 so we can sleep.
Local winner out of 80 teams gets $5k, plus three TV pitches. Winning city film then goes on to national and international levels - Cannes Film Festival.
Beats the odds of selling a spec feature. Look what these guys did drawing a Western genre last year -
They would supply all props and costumes, we supply the script, cast, crew, and equipment. Film on location at their convention site, Ann Arbor as I recall.
It was too aggressive for a new startup, and we didn't want to potentially fail them, so we said no. Sad, as they have some cool props. Maybe next year.
Good luck with your script writing and production.
07-17-2012 07:39 AM
Smart to know when NOT to take on a project. Sometimes you just have to say no. I'd rather thump myself for that than for handing over a less-than-remarkable finished project.
The difficult thing about 'is it filmable' is that no two filmmakers might agree on what constitues filmable. I suppose one could argue everything is filmable if all the pieces are in place. Fact is with current technology one can create dang near anything, from the most bizarre of aliens, to entrire universes, make-believe cities, any kind of transportation, and on and on. Toss in 3D and whatever this new 4D stuff is, and the film experience is without limits.
But is the practicality of all this in a short film what we mean by unfilmable? Could there be other considerations?
I write a lot of shorts - and features - that include strong roles for children, and I'm not talking Hallmark material (okay, maybe a few). Childhood is not always pretty, and this is something I like to explore in writing. It has been my experience, however, that the vast majority of filmmakers, seasoned and noobs alike, just don't want to work with kids. Most never have and keep preconcieved ideas of these uncontrolable, emotionaly volatile brats. They have no idea how to talk to them, and often resort to dumbed-down banter. Most kids are really sharp, and can follow any conversation at an adult level, and many are naturally comfortable in a role. They are, in short, a brilliant asset to storytelling.
But many a filmmaker see scripts with kids as 'unfilmable'. And as I write them, I think to myself 'This will probabaly never get filmed.' Toss in a scene where the children are in their underwear or less (House of Spirits, In the Time of Butterflies, Alice in the Cities, Lawn Dogs, and Red Agate to name a few) and it becomes untouchable in the short film arena - and features for the most part as well. I would say this also applies to screenplays with the elderly, with the preponderance of filmmakers sticking with the 20-to-40 somethings because it is just so filmable and relatable. Yes, obviously films with less-than-Hallmark kid roles do get made, but far too few. Same can be said for shorts heavy on the CGI. Far too few.
Other filmmakers may see any short that includes a moving car as unfilmable, or any short with more than 3 locations as unfilmable. Or, a short with dogs as unfilmable. Others will think nudity, adult situations and a heavy dose of the F word is unfilmable.
All of these things do play equally on our conceptions on what is filmable: available technology and know-how, preconcieved ideas or moral limits, practicality, budgets, permits, etc.
What one or another considers Unfilmable may also be influenced by the fest circuit, and concern on whether a particular film be tossed for its content. Why even make the film in the first place?
So, what exactly is 'unfilmable' anyhow?
Last edited by alex whitmer; 07-17-2012 at 07:49 AM.
07-17-2012 12:24 PM
I've ran into the moving car being a limitation, but I've also had a guy say he couldn't do a script because it required a prop. So you have all types of excuses. Then you have the guy who says, 'A monster coming out of a toilet? Totally doable!'