Tag Archives: screenwriting

BEDA 2016

What I Learned From Blogging Every Day in April | BEDA Day 30

30 days, 30 posts. I actually freakin’ did it.

I started this project out as a way to get myself writing again, knowing full well that I would probably quit halfway through, as I have with almost every challenge I’ve started over the last few years. I thought that even if I made it halfway through, 15 posts in as many days is still quite a feat. 6,000+ words in two weeks is nothing to shake a stick at, unless you’re doing NaNoWriMo.

And yet, even on the days where I felt zapped of all creative energy, I wrote. I knew a 100 word post about my weekend was better than no post at all. I got the words down on the virtual page and sent those words out into the world. Sometimes I got 2 hits a day, sometimes I got hundreds. The traffic didn’t really matter to me. As long as I could cross “write a post” off my to-do list for the day, I was happy.

So what have I learned over the past 30 days? A few things, actually.

I can always find something to say.

I’ve always struggled with self-confidence (who hasn’t?), especially when it comes to meeting new people. I tend to hang back in conversations or not introduce myself to people, thinking I have nothing interesting to say. If anything, this project has shown me that I can always find something to add to the conversation. My thoughts are valuable and worth sharing. Even if I have some trouble translating what’s in my brain into conversational English, I’ll eventually figure it out. This is all easier said than done, but I’m working on it. It all takes practice, and I think BEDA was a great exercise.

I don’t always have to fit into a niche.

Everything I’ve read about “the business of blogging” encourages writers to stick to a genre of content and not stray too much, lest they lose precious eyeballs. That definitely works if you want to build your blog into something huge, but when it comes down to it, I’m writing for me. It’s easy for me to stick to travel content when I’m only posting a few times a month, but that gets a bit mundane when I have to post something every day. And when it comes down to it, I’m not a travel expert. I’ve traveled a lot, and it’s one of my favorite things to do, but I still don’t really know how to pack a carry-on. I’m allowed to write about the gender wage gap or tiny houses if I want. When it comes to this site, I’m my own boss. And that’s incredibly freeing.

I need structure.

Generally speaking, my writing output has gone way downhill since I graduated from college. When I was in school, I had deadlines every week and professors to hold me accountable for them. Now, when I want to write a new script, I have no one to answer to but myself. Being your own boss can be great, but I’m a pretty lax manager when it comes to deadlines. With this project, I knew I had to get something out every day, and if I didn’t, my inability to follow through would live on the internet forever. When I go back and watch videos from my failed VEDA attempts, I get pretty embarrassed. I didn’t want to feel that way again. Maybe letting my inner critic drive this project wasn’t the healthiest move, but it helped me get it done. For once I wanted to whole-ass something and throw myself into a creative project as much as I could with a full-time job. And that’s exactly what I did.

As for the future of this blog, I don’t really know what’s in store. I’m going to keep posting at least twice a month, but right now I want to focus on other writing projects. I dusted off an abandoned pilot script a few weeks ago and would like to at least finish a draft of that. Going back to the theme of structure, I’m also hoping to et back in the classroom this summer and start some new projects.

I think I’m coming out of this project with a better sense of who I am as writer and as a person. Sitting down to write every day forces you to reflect and spend some time in your own brain. Sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s terrifying, but it’s always worth it.

Of course I have to thank you all for reading and supporting me through this project. Whether you left a comment, favorited one of my Tweets, or said something to me in person, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only person reading these words. I hope you’ll all stick around for…whatever I have in store for the future.

BEDA 2016 completed. Someone buy me a drink.

Photo Credit: kev-shine on Flickr

5 Amazing Podcasts for Your Commute | BEDA Day 5

As a fan of funny people talking in my ear on my way to work, I’ve really been enjoying the Podcast Renaissance. So many smart, funny people are launching their own shows on a range of topics. Not only do these shows make me laugh, they are also incredible educational tools that showcase the work of talented up-and-coming writers. My cup (or really, my Overcast feed) runneth over. Here are 5 podcasts I’ve been obsessed with lately.

The Ensemblist
Want to know what really happens behind the scenes at a Broadway show? Ever wonder what life is like for the ensemble members #werking it in that big musical number? The Ensemblist podcast, hosted by Nikka Graff Lanzarone and Mo Brady aims to give listeners “an inside look at all aspects of being on Broadway.” The show features interviews with seasoned Broadway professionals and newbies alike, with each episode focusing on one aspect of the business of show, such as the unions, being a parent and a performer, and live TV musicals. Each episode usually clocks in at less than 30 minutes, which, incidentally, is perfectly timed to my commute.

You Must Remember This
Guys, WHY did it take me so long to listen to this show? You Must Remember This, hosted by Karina Longworth, tells the secret history of old Hollywood, one episode at a time. I’m a huge nerd for Hollywood History, so I pretty much lost my mind the first time I listened to an episode. This season focuses on the Hollywood Blacklist, a direct result of the Communist witch hunts that took place after World War II. These stories are fascinating and still incredibly important. I’m loving this series so far.

Can I Pet Your Dog?
This podcast from Renee Colvert and Allegra Ringo was basically made for me. Each episode features these two funny ladies talking about their unabashed love for dogs. They also invite awesome guests like Noel Wells, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Lesli Margherita on to talk about their favorite dogs. Most of the time I just want to talk about dogs, so this show is perfect. Also, it’s part of the comedy and culture behemoth that is the Maximum Fun network, so you know it’s good.

Scriptnotes
I’ve been a Scriptnotes fan for going on 3 years now, and it remains one of the most consistently awesome podcasts in my feed. Hosted by screenwriters Craig Mazin and John August, Scriptnotes features conversations on the TV and film industry, writing craft, and basically everything interesting to screenwriters. When I was completing my undergrad program, the podcast was a great supplement to my classes. Now that I’m out of school, each episode keeps me up-to-date on the biz and motivates me to keep working. So thanks for that, John and Craig.

Spirits
Okay, so I’m obviously biased because this podcast is hosted by two of my friends, Amanda McLoughlin and Julia Schifini. However, I’d probably still recommend it even if I didn’t know them. In this podcast, Amanda and Julia enjoy some adult beverages and talk about mythology, legends, and lore. They only have a few episodes under their belts, but I’ve learned more in these episodes than I ever knew before about the myths and legends of Greece, Ireland, and the Philippines. Plus, they’re both hilarious. If you support them on Patreon (shameless plug), you’ll receive drink recipes catered to each episode. Yum.

What podcasts have you been loving recently? Let me know in comments! I’m always looking for new shows to add to my feed.  

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Finishing The Hat

There are at least 3 unfinished screenplays sitting on my hard drive right now. They all start with good intentions: I get some brilliant idea that I have to turn into a script, forgo outlining, and just dive right in. Then, about 10 pages in, I get stuck. I go back and read over my pages and deem it an unsalvageable mess. Rather than go back and fix the problems, I just move on to the next best idea. Brain crack gets the best of me.

If you followed this blog at all last year (and bless you if you did), you know that this reluctance to finish things is nothing new. I may have finished my senior project (2 episodes of an hour-long drama) on time, but not without extending a few deadlines in the process. Half of it was due to extenuating circumstances, but half of it was because I was, well…having trouble finishing.

Finishing things feel great. It’s nice to be able to hand your project to someone and say “Here, check out this thing I made.” The road to the finish line is difficult, but crossing the last step off your to-do list is amazing.

On the other hand, starting a new project, especially one that you are really excited about, is falling head-over-heels for someone. All your thoughts are focused on this new idea, and you can’t wait to come home to it. Every hour you’re not working on it is agonizing. It’s kind of addicting.

However, as I mentioned above, the honeymoon phase wears off quickly. Right now, I need to work on sticking with things. There’s a solution to (almost) any creative problem. When I’m out in the trenches, though, sometimes it’s hard to remember how great it feels to type the words “Fade Out.”

Senior Project | Doing the Thing

Guys. I finished it.

Okay, I use the word “finished” loosely. The only script I’ve really finished is the one that was actually made into a short film. The rest of them sit on my hard-drive, waiting for me to dust them off and turn them into something people would actually want to produce. I’m a “tweak things up to the last minute and frustrate everyone working with you” kind of gal.

I had a week to get a new draft of both the pilot and the second episode together before the final due date. I’ll be honest, I got lazy. I discovered a lot of moments where things weren’t quite working as well as they could, but chose not to change them due to lack of time. I guess that’s how things go, though. You wish you had all the time in the world to mold your script into the magnum opus you’ve always wanted to write, but you actually get seven days. A wise man once told me that the entertainment business is just a constant race towards mediocrity. I think I get that now.

Regardless, I’m proud of my scripts. I poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into them (okay, let’s be real, mostly tears) and managed to turn a rather ambitious pitch into something real. I’m excited to put them out in the world.

I graduate in a matter of days. David Byrne’s voice is constantly shouting “How did I get here?” in the back of my head, particularly when I found myself wading in one of the fountains on campus at 4 AM last night. Gotta get the shenanigans out while it’s still socially acceptable, right?

 

Senior Project | One Draft Down, Many More to Go

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There is no better feeling than completing a draft of a project. Even if you know it’s going to need some a lot of revision, it feels really nice to just finish something. I now have a full first draft of my pilot. It may be a hot mess, but it exists in some completed form, and it’s much better than the tons of abandoned projects sitting on my hard drive at the moment.

Of course, I’m nowhere near finished with my senior project. I have another episode to write, then a ton of revisions to do between now and June. Despite the amount of work ahead of me, finishing this draft has really motivated me to keep working to make this project something special. This idea has moved past the brain crack stage and into something real that I can actually show people (other than my professor). Whether or not I actually want to do that remains to be seen.

Something I’ve found out in this last writing push is that I can actually write to music with lyrics. Usually I find music with lyrics too involving and I get sucked into the story of the song. This time around, I kind of tailored my playlist around the content of my script. I used those lyrics as inspiration for certain scenes or as a way to better get into the heads of my characters. One song I’ve been listening to a lot is “The Woodpile” by Frightened Rabbit. I had it more or less on repeat as I wrote the last scene of the pilot between my main character, Lily, and her overwhelmed boyfriend Jim. I don’t want to give to much away (ugh, I know, I hate me, too) but the song is kind of perfect for that scene. Who needs a music supervisor when you have Spotify? Just kidding, music supervisors are brilliant humans. I’ve included a Spotify playlist of some of the (non-embarrassing) songs on my writing playlist if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

I also strayed a little from my treatment in this draft. I made certain characters more pivotal to the plot, which means I may need to go back to the drawing board for this next episode. Sure, it’s more work, but I feel a lot better about where the story is going than I did when I wrote the first treatments. Things are looking up!

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Senior Project | Winter (Break) is Coming

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We’re nearing the end of term and by some miracle I have almost half of my pilot script written. I really didn’t think I would pull it off with everything going on this term. I was way behind deadline-wise for most of November. I got hit by an avalanche of work once Godzilla closed and of course my senior project work fell to the wayside.

I’ve never been particularly good with these independent study style classes. If I don’t have to physically go to class once a week, I tend to push that work to a dark, dusty corner of my brain, only to stumble back into that corner when I have a deadline approaching. This project requires a fair amount of self-discipline and time management, two things I’ve never been particularly good at. However, I think I made some strides in that department over Thanksgiving break. I went into the (all too short) break knowing that I had some pages to deliver in a few weeks time. I made it my goal to set aside an hour or two a day to just sit down and write. I wrote at Panera Bread, in my room, in the car home from Long Island, wherever I happened to be at the time. Even if I just wrote a page or two in those sessions, I still made progress.

My goal for the next few weeks is to finish my pilot script. I’ll be writing over my winter break, so this could be really easy or really really difficult. Sure, I won’t have any other schoolwork to worry about, but it’s so easy to get distracted over break. I’ll be traveling, spending time with family, doing Christmas shopping, and hopefully picking up some part-time work. I’d better start scheduling those writing sessions now. Luckily, I have some really cute coffee shops and a newly-renovated library in my hometown, so I can escape the holiday madness at my house and hang out in the world of my script.

Anyway, on to finals week. If you couldn’t tell, I’m about ready for this term to be over.

Senior Project | A Balancing Act

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Sometimes I look at my friends and wonder how they’re still upright. They do so much more than I do and I feel like I’m about to collapse into a pile of creative project-induced stress. This could also be because I’m fighting off a cold and I walked a 12k for the first time in…a while yesterday, but I do have a lot going on at the moment. On top of my senior project (which should be commanding most of my attention), I have 18 credits worth of classes, a play opening in a week and a half, and my own creative endeavors to worry about. Oh, and my social life and health. Those are important, too.

What I think may be the key to doing my best work on this is blocking out time every day in my crazy schedule to put all the other distractions away and just spend some time with my story. The first deadline for my project was last Friday and I’ll be honest with you all, I was not prepared. I came up with a pretty detailed treatment and bio for my main protagonist, but I definitely need to spend some time creating the rest of the ensemble and tweaking my treatment before I’m ready to write. Luckily, I have a little more time for development.

“Why does that document you’re working on look more like an English essay than an actual script?” you’re probably [not] wondering. That, my friends, is a treatment. A treatment is essentially a detailed outline in prose of the script. I find them to be very helpful because they help me figure out what I want the tone of each scene to be, which doesn’t always come across in an outline. Prose helps me fully flesh out each moment before I actually write it. Plus, I enjoy writing prose. Makes me feel smarter or something.

My goal or this week is to keep working on my characters and outline my second episode. It’s going to be a tough week as I’m just a few days away from Godzilla’s tech weekend, but if my crazy friends can still do all that they do, I think I can make it out alive. As a wise Tumblr post once said, “You have as many hours in the day as Beyonce.”

P.S. If you’re in Philly, come see Godzilla. We open on Halloween!

Senior Project | Thundercats are GO!

I didn’t eat a lot on Friday. Most of my day was spent putting the finishing touches on my pitch for my senior project, the culmination of four years of work on my Screenwriting & Playwriting degree. Anxiety turned into hyperfocus which turned into forgetting to eat which turned into stuffing my face with pizza upon release from my pitch meeting. Pizza is everything. Pizza is the essence of life.

I share that anecdote with you, dear blog readers, as a way to announce that I will be blogging my way through the process of writing my senior project throughout this school year. In these senior project posts you’ll hear about each step of the cycle, my struggles to get things done on time in the midst of my already mad schedule, and hopefully a little bit about the stuff I’m actually writing. And then you will probably run away from the world of screenwriting screaming with your proverbial tail between your legs. If you’re like me, though, you’ll continue down this masochistic path because you just love it so much.

“So, Charlotte, what the hell are you writing this year?” you ask. If we were talking face-to-face I’d probably avoid this question like the plague and say something like, “How about that government shutdown, eh?” However, for the sake of transparency, I will fill you in. I’m working on two episodes (a pilot and second episode) of an hour-long drama with a working title of “The Middle Space”. It centers around a young woman who wakes up in a world occupied by people who are currently in comas back on earth. They support each other while they wait to wake up in the world of the living or enter the world of the dead, not knowing when they’ll move along. It explores themes of bodily autonomy, reinvention, community, and of course death. And yes, I know that pitch sounds depressing as hell. I’m still in development.

That brings us to…development! I’ll spend the next few weeks writing treatments and character bios for the pilot and probably sending a ton of emails to my advisor (sorry in advance). I’m really excited about this script, so my first instinct is to just dive in and start writing. I’ve got some things to work out before I can, though, and I’m learning to love the development process. It’s easier to start writing when you have a clear understanding of who your characters are and the world they live in. So that’s my goal, and I’ll be updating you weekly on my process. If you want to follow my process, you can sign up on the left side of this page or follow me on bloglovin. Let’s get writing, shall we?

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