Writing the script for the science fiction short

I recently came across the following quote on Twitter:

Every scene should be able to answer three questions: “Who wants what from whom? What happens if they don’t get it? Why now?” – David Mamet

Last week on The Sci-Fi Maker Show

Last week, we had our first pre-production meeting for  Planet Burlesque and recorded it for the show. Now, we need to reach out to actors, a special effects person, makeup artist, and others for the actual shoot.

The outcome from our first pre-production meeting – we have some work to do before we can start production. We’ve got to go out and find our people.

We’re going to try and record all our meetings with cast and crew so “you are there”.

Write your script!

First page of a rough draft of my script for the short film
First page of very rough draft for the short film.

You can’t make your feature or short film until you finish your script!

This weekend, I’m working on the script for a short film set in the world we are creating for “Planet Burlesque” – our science fiction feature. I’m trying to finish the draft so I can send it to my partner on this project, William “Bubba” Flint.

I am streaming the actual writing of the screenplay using Facebook Live on our Facebook page.

That’s how we roll here. We’re live streaming and podcasting the entire movie making process.

Why I’m using Final Draft to write the script

I just upgraded from Final Draft 9 to version 10 and I’m pretty happy with it. They made some useful improvements, but the workflow didn’t change.

Some of you might be wondering why I’m using Final Draft, which costs around $200, to write the script for Planet Burlesque when there are some free alternatives.

And, since this is an indie project, who cares if the format is “correct” since we aren’t trying to sell the script to Hollywood?

Here are my reasons:

  • Actors and crew may be used to the Hollywood screenplay format. You want to appear credible and competent.
  • You can enter your script into script competitions.
  • You may be an indie now, but what if you’re successful and get noticed by Hollywood? This way, you and your script will be ready (and your screenplay format won’t embarrass you).
  • Final Draft makes it easy to take your spec script and turn it into a shooting script.
  • Nowadays, most producers or agents will ask you to email them a copy of your script in PDF format or, more likely, in Final Draft format.
  • I have heard script readers in Hollywood can tell if your script was written in Final Draft or in free software. I can’t prove this or tell if it matters.

I’m spending some time to really learn Final Draft 10. Hopefully, this will save me time and effort in the long run.

Book of the week

If you watched me on Facebook Live last week, you heard me talk about  Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too! (Affiliate link)

Book cover for Writing Movies for Fun and Profit

The book is a fun and easy read and was written by Robert Ben Garrant and Thomas Lennon (Felix Unger on TV’s “The Odd Couple”). The total box office for the movies they’ve written is over $1.5 BILLION!

These guys are working Hollywood screenwriters – not screenwriting gurus.

Lots of great advice for screenwriters and filmmakers from actual Hollywood insiders. This book includes a lot of useful information I have never read in other screenwriting books.

I cannot recommend this book enough!

Time for me to get back to work on my script.

As always

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We’re making our movie on the podcast

We’re taking you with us

I thought it was time to try something new. Here it is:

We’re making our science fiction film, “Planet Burlesque”, on The Sci-Fi Maker Show.

Planet Burlesque

What this means is we are going to podcast our production meetings, auditions, shooting, editing, marketing, the premier – everything!

You can be with us every step of the way.

Some of this will be included in the pre-recorded audio podcast and some will be live-streamed (on Facebook Live with video). Whenever we are live, you can interact with us via the comments.

For the latest information about “Planet Burlesque” and to watch our live streams, go to https://www.facebook.com/planetburlesque.

Are we the first people to make a movie on a podcast? If we’re wrong, the internet will let us know.

First, we make the short

Before we start working on the feature version of “Planet Burlesque”, we will produce a short film based in the world of “Planet Burlesque”.

“Planet Burlesque” – the feature version – is set in the present day and features three burlesque performers from a parallel universe who are stranded here on Earth.

The short film will feature one of those burlesque performers.

Our first pre-production meeting

This podcast episode is the first “official” meeting for “Planet Burlesque”. It is a pre-production meeting where William “Bubba” Flint and I discuss how we’re going to make the short.

Bubba created the movie poster for “Planet Burlesque”. You can see more of his work on Instagram.

Our plan is to shoot this in one day which requires us to simplify this as much as possible.

I hope to finish the script in a week or so.

I inventoried my production equipment and have the following:

  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Lights – we might need to rent a small kit.
  • Sound – we might need to chase down a shotgun mic

Action item: I need to create a checklist for this project. Right now, I’m capturing everything in these show notes.

Our crew (for now):

  • Me
  • Bubba
  • Makeup artist

Cast requirements for the short:

  • Vampire burlesque performer
  • Female who does not look like the vampire
  • Male

Costumes:

  • Vampire costume – probably need 2

Special effect:

  • When vampire is transported to our planet/universe

Vehicles:

VW van or bus
“Rusty”, the PlanetBurlesqueMobile
  • VW bus (Rusty Pete)
  • Second vehicle – might use my car

Location:

  • Exterior – street, parking lot or driveway
  • Interior – office, house, or studio

Once the script is complete, we will have our next meeting and will podcast it.

Please stay tuned!

As always

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How to boost your creative superpowers

Please watch my movie!

One of the biggest challenges for independent science fiction filmmakers is getting an audience to watch their movie.

One big reason is all the “meh” movies out there. Most of the indie movies I watch, sci-fi or otherwise, fall into the meh category.

What filmmaker wants to make a meh movie? Who wants to watch a meh movie?

Superhero

If you want people to watch your movie, it needs to be original. That’s how your movie cuts through all the noise and clutter and gets noticed.

Be smart. Before you start working on your movie, you need to boost your creative superpowers!

First, we need to define “creativity”.

According to Wikipedia:

“Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed.”

Good definition, but not super-useful because it doesn’t tell you HOW to be more creative.

My definition of creativity:

“Creativity is getting out of your own way so your voice comes through.”

How do you get out of your own way?

Who wants examples?

I’ve read a lot of books and articles about songwriters. In interviews, songwriters often claim the songs already exist and they just have to discover a way to find them and hear them.

They have to let the songs happen.

  • In 1965, Paul McCartney woke up from a dream where he heard the tune for “Yesterday”. He was convinced the tune already existed and he was just remembering it. His subconscious mind wrote the tune and he was able to access it in a dream.
  • Elton John writes the music for most his songs in 20 minutes or less. He wrote all the tunes for “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, a double album, in just two weeks. Somehow, Elton John learned how to get out of his own way and let his subconscious release the song to his conscious self.

I found a great online article about this process: The Story of Elton John’s Masterpiece, ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road‘.

How do I get out of my own way?

Here are some techniques that work for many creative people:

  • Take a long drive or walk.  When I do this, the ideas sometimes just pour in.
  • Take a shower. This hasn’t worked for me, but at least I get clean. 
  • Try writing in a coffee shop. Coffee acts as a stimulant. The noise is in a coffee shop is like white noise for some. Take a notebook and pen instead of your laptop.

Pay attention to those times when you are more creative. Try and figure out what you were doing when inspiration struck.

Here are three videos to get you started building your creative superpowers.

  1. John Cleese on Creativity
    • “If you get into the right mood, then your mode of thinking will become much more creative.”
    • “We don’t know where we get ideas.”
    • To create a mood to make you more creative, you have to create boundaries of space and time. Boundaries of space, where you won’t be interrupted, and boundaries of time: set a start and finish time to be creative.
  2. Organizational psychologist Adam Grant
    • “The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most.”
    • “You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.”
  3. Video about Ray and Charles Eames
    • Although they are known mostly as designers, there are lots of great lessons for any creative type.
    • I’m not going to tell you what those lessons are.
    • Watch the video and get what you need to get out of it.

Action plan

Here is my simple action plan so you can boost your creative superpowers.

  1. Watch a video or read an article about creativity every day. I promise this will inspire you and keep you inspired. Don’t binge, Just one a day.
  2. Keep a list of the techniques that work for you.  
  3. Get back to work and make your movie.

As always

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Making the science fiction short film Jarmon

Who is Jarmon?

Filmmaker Ricky Bell found me on Twitter. You can find him here.

 He recently completed a short science fiction project called Jarmon. I asked him about the project. 

Scene from sci-fi short "Jarmon"
Scene from sci-fi short “Jarmon”

It’s always been a dream of mine to portray a superhero character – so, instead of waiting for a big opportunity to come around, I decided to create my own opportunity to show what I can do.

I did a lot of brainstorming of how I would create this original superhero and his backstory.

Jarmon was cursed with immortality after their alien race was wiped out. Draymond had been banished from their world at the time, but he purposely cursed himself with the same immortality.

I wanted to create a character that could show that immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A character that shows how hard it is to give up on family, no matter how much wrong they have done.

I’ll admit I loosely gained inspiration from Thor and Loki from the Avengers as well as the two feuding brothers from The Vampire Brothers. In the future I do plan to create more parts to the story.

It took us about 4 hours to shoot it and the videographer had it edited within 2 weeks, He probably could have finished it sooner but he also had other clients.

Fight scene from "Jarmon"
Fight scene from “Jarmon”

Look at what Ricky Bell accomplished with a four hour shoot! Lots of great lessons.

  • Single location. 
  • Small cast of 2. One of them is Ricky.
  • Great fight choreography. Very creative use of camera on this.
  • Music from YouTube Audio Library. The music works well in the short.
  • Great drone shot at the beginning. Set on another planet. Pretty good location.
  • Interesting cinematography in places – some good compositions.
  • Acting is better than most at this stage of the game. Good chemistry between the two actors.
  • Contrast between the characters is really interesting. Jarmon is calm and collected. Draymond is ready to attack.
  • Credit sequence at the end instead of loaded up at the beginning.

Ricky wrote and directed it. Someone else shot and edited it.

I asked if he’s going to turn this into a movie. Ricky says he’s going to turn it into a web series.

You can see the video below. Ricky Bell is off to a great start!!!

As always

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