Friday, July 24, 2009

Act 1 complete

I've finished the first draft of Act I and the fourteen scenes involved. It went really well, and having it done has given me some time to do some artwork, but I don't want to publish a half-empty page. So I'm going to probably draw another three scenes and scan it and put it up - possibly by the end of the weekend.

I'd also like to have a few more images of zombie dinosaurs trashing things. I've got a blue print for a ... nah, I won't spoil it, and just show you the new one when it's done.

I'm plotting out Act II as we speak, and it's taking a lot of work. Act I had everything it needed in it, but I'm likely going to have to insert a subplot to get the pacing to work. Subplot shouldn't be a big problem, but it is going to draw the timing out a bit longer. The second half of Act II is likely going to take some work as well - I just hadn't developed enough content to fill this section out fully, but the subplot should make this work.

So by the end of the weekend I'll have some more artwork posted, some work on the next actual zombie dinosaur image ready, and hopefully Act II all plotted out and ready to go. Cool.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Act 1, sc. i-v

The first third of Act 1 is now drafted, which is awesome, and the story is moving along in two ways:
  • 1) it's moving along quickly (which is good). A quick pace in the first 10 pages is essential.
  • 2) it's moving along according to schedule (which is good). The characters are being introduced well, and the plot is unfolding nicely.
This is all very good news - and it goes to show that with the proper planning, these things can move along smoothly and quickly. It's exciting.

I'm eager to design three new characters for the project, as well.

Barnum Mantell, Darrell Starkwood and Becky Jackson are on their way (although, perhaps not tonight).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Character design

Today has been a big one for Unbelievably Amazing Adventures, with the design of the two protagonists and I've finished the first scene of the first Act. A good start to the day.

Introducing our protagonist - Dr. Casey Miller.

Head sketches of Dr. Howard Bolam (top left) and Dr. Casey Miller (bottom right).

Dr. Howard Bolam

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Step Two complete - on to the screenplay!

I've completed the four-page treatment basically outlining the entire plot of Tomb of the Undead. I'm read to move on to the next steps - which is awesome.

What's next? Well, the first two steps are to be completed before you can even put your first word down for the script. That being said - everything else is tips on how to lay down the information for your first Act, and most importantly, the first 10 pages of the script. These first 10 pages make or break your script, confirming that a studio will pick it up and make it into a film/production, put it in a scrap heap, or send it with a big red "Rewrite" stamp on it.

To reiterate Syd Field's advice:
Aristotle states that there are three unities of action – time, place and action. Act I is a unit of dramatic (or comedic) action. It begins at the beginning, page one, with the opening shot or sequence, and goes through the end of Plot Point I. It is approximately twenty to thirty pages long and is held together by the dramatic context known as the Set-Up.

In the first twenty to thirty pages of screenplay, you must set up your story. You must introduce your main characters, establish your dramatic premise (what the story is about), create the dramatic situation (the circumstances surrounding the action), and set up the relationship between your character’s professional life, his or her personal life (relationships), and his or her private life (private time and hobbies). Most, if not all, of these elements need to be established in the first unit of dramatic action (p. 46).

The purpose of each scene is either to move the story forward or reveal information about the character. Anything that does not serve these two functions should be dropped. Act I sets up the story and holds each scene and sequence in place (p. 47).

First 10 pages Remember, you are setting up your story, your characters, and the relationship between the characters.

You already know the opening scene or sequence and the Plot Point at the end of Act I, so you know card number one and card fourteen. Start at the beginning of your story and move through the action leading to the Plot Point at the end of Act I. Free-associate. You know where you’re going, so all you have to do is get there. Lay the story line out on cards, one scene or sequence per card, using no more than a few words on each card.

After you’ve done the cards, write up the back story. Remember, it will influence the action of the first ten pages. Look at your opening scene (p. 162).

You must set up and establish three major elements in those first ten pages:

Number one: Who is your story about – that is, who is the main character?
Number two: what is the dramatic premise – what is your story about?
Number three: what is the dramatic situation – the circumstances surrounding the action? In other words, what forces are working on your main character when the story begins? Once you determine how you’re going to incorporate these three elements, then you can design and structure the first ten pages as a unit, or block, of dramatic action (p. 167).

The way to approach the scene is to define your character’s dramatic need. Is this a scene that is going to move the story forward or reveal aspects of the character? What is the purpose of the scene in relation to the story? Remember that we’re striving for conflict, either internal, external, or some combination of the two. What is your character doing before the scene begins and what does he do or where doe he go after the scene? What happens at the beginning and end of the scene? At this point you might want to sketch in some visual aspects and details you could use in the scene (p. 169).

NOTE: In screenwriting parlance, it’s called the reveal. There is a reveal in each scene – do you know what it is? Can you define it? Is it revealed through action or character? Character, remember, is who the person is in terms of their human and moral behaviour; characterization is how the character expresses themselves to the world. There’s a good screenwriting tool that may help guide you when you’re writing the scene: entering late and getting out early (p. 172).

It’s great screenwriting. The audience can fill in the blanks; we know what’s happening and don’t need it explained. It’s a very good example of entering late and getting out early with a beginning, middle and end (p. 173).

I found that to be a pretty good “rule” for the second ten pages – follow the focus of your main character. He or she should be in almost every scene in these second ten pages. If we use the first ten pages to set up and establish what and who the story is about, the the next ten-page unit of dramatic action needs to focus on who he or she is (p. 182).

Lay out your cards. Do they still apply? Do you need to add any new scenes that you hadn’t thought of before? If so, put them in. Is your main character in every scene? He or she should be. Is your character active – does he or she initiate the action and respond to the premise and situation of the first ten pages? Remember Newton’s Law of Motion: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” (p. 183).

Once you are clear on what Plot Point I is, ask yourself what you need to do to get there. What scene or scenes do you need to write to get to Plot Point I? Usually, one or two scenes are all you need. Can you describe and articulate what story areas you need to fill so you can reach the Plot Point at the end of Act I? (p. 185).

Second 10 pages Lay out the three or four cards that make up the second ten pages of your screenplay. Follow the focus of your main character. Is he or she in every scene? If you are cutting away to another character, or incident, see if you can keep the focus on your main character (p. 190).

Monday, July 6, 2009

Working on the treatment for the producution

According to Syd Field's screenwriting tips - I've almost completed the second step in preparing the Zombie Dinosaurs story.

First, you generate the idea, then break down the idea into the subject, a character and action. Once you have the subject, you know enough to structure it by determining the ending, the beginning, and Plot Points I and II. Once that’s done, you can build and expand your characters by writing character biographies, along with any other research you may need to do. Then you can structure the scenes and sequences, the content, of Act I on fourteen 3 X 5 cards. Next write up the back story, what happens a day, a week, or an hour before the story begins. Only after you’ve completed this preparation work can you begin writing the screenplay (p. 22).

So I've written a few biographies for a couple of characters, designed Plot Point I, I'm developing Plot Point II, still, and have pieced together a bunch of scenes to get this story moving along.

It will be titled Tomb of the Undead, in a series I'm calling Unbelievably Amazing Adventures. So far, it's sounding pretty good, and I'm really into it - but again, I've got to do some more development in the second act and especially on Plot Point II.

The Exercise: Take your idea and begin to isolate the elements of the action and character of your proposed story line…. Write three or more pages in order to gain more clarity on the story you want to tell. Then use your free-association essay to isolate the elements of action – what happens and the character to whom it happens.

Once you’ve done that, reduce it into three separate paragraphs, beginning, middle, and end. Start honing each paragraph by summarizing the beginning into a few sentences; specify the character and what happens to him or her during the course of the screenplay.

Reduce each paragraph to a sentence or two according to what happens in the action and then how it affects the character…. What’s the resolution? Can you incorporate that into the subject line? Be general in your descriptions at this point and not specific in terms of action…. Go through the material and high-light things that help define the action or character (p. 24).

Note: We see the story line unfold through the eyes of that character, through his or her point of view. We are privy to the character’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, words, actions, memories, dreams, hopes, ambitions, opinions and more…. The main thrust always returns to the main character, the one who the story is about. In a novel the action takes place inside the character’s head, within the mindscape of dramatic action (p. 29).

NOTE: How do we get from Act I, the Set-Up, into Act II, the Confrontation? And how do we get from Act II, the Confrontation, into Act III, the Resolution? The answer: to create a Plot Point at the end of Act I and Act II. A Plot Point is defined as any incident, episode or event that ‘hooks’ into the action and spins it around into another direction, in this case, into either Act II or Act III (p. 49).

NOTE: Before you can write one word on paper, you must know four things: your ending, your beginning, Plot Point I, and Plot Point II. Only when you know these four elements can you start to ‘build’ or structure your story (p. 51).

NOTE: Do you know what has to happen to resolve the story line? What is the solution? Not the specifics, only the generalities.

To recap:

In half a page – write a dramatic recreation of the opening scene or sequence;

In half a page – write a narrative synopsis of the action summarizing what happens during the rest of Act I;

In half a page – write a dramatic recreation of the Plot Point at the end of Act I;

Then, on a separate sheet of paper, write four obstacles – either internal or external, or some combination of both – that your character confronts during Act II. Then:

In a page – write a narrative synopsis, summarizing the action of Act II by focusing on four conflicts that confront your character. It could be as simple as a couple of sentences describing each obstacle;

Then write:

In half a page – a dramatic recreation of the Plot Point at the end of Act II;

In half a page – a narrative synopsis of the action in Act III, the Resolution;

Then, in half a page – write a dramatic recreation of the ending scene or sequence of the screenplay.

That’s a four-page treatment. “Proof of authorship” you can register it online at and click on registration (p. 74).

So I'm working on Step 2, and I'm almost done with this four-page treatment. Again, I keep getting stuck on Plot Point II and some scenes in the second act, but that's part of the development schedule. I can think of two more characters I should write biographies for, as well.

Once these items are wrapped up - then I can start working on the screenplay.

And for the way-future - I'm reading a book on how to develop comic strips. Basically, this idea isn't likely to work in a novel format, nor a live-action film - so I'm seriously think about developing this as a graphic novel/ comic book. BUT that is WAY in the future - this script might take an awful long time, let alone the artwork (which I'm not sure I'd like to do myself or not).

Anyhow - I'll post progress as it comes up.