I have completed a draft of the “beat sheet” for the unnamed project I’m creating for Glass Cage Productions. It took the entire week I scheduled, and now I understand why so many of my other writing projects failed, or were mired in mediocrity. This was an arduous task. It surprised me because I thought I knew the story I wanted to write, but using John Truby’s Anatomy of Story technique, and fitting it into the Beat Sheet I sought, taught me a great deal more.
A bit of background: the story was borne of a conversation about story concepts. We wanted to do a comedy, and we wanted it to be either a mafia story or a cop story. I proposed a number of premises to Glass Cage, and together we settled on “unnamed project.” I then went about the business of refining the premise, inventing characters, and dreaming up potential story lines. I’m a big fan of Noah Lukeman‘s discussions about creating story, so I pursued character studies, allowed those to change the story, and then I tweaked and changed all the elements until I got to what seemed a good approach.
I put the project on hiatus for several months while I finished a romantic comedy. During that time, I had unnamed project on my mind, and the character’s voices spoke to me at various times. This itself is another technique–allowing a story to grow on its own in the recesses of your mind. I started the story a number of times, but it fell flat and I abandoned the efforts quickly. Also during this time, I was learning about the Beat Sheet from Nail your Novel, and Anatomy of Story, and worked with Steve Kaplan. (This is turning into another whorish post, but all these people are a great influence!)
At last, I began to focus my attention on “unnamed project.” The entire Anatomy of Story work has taken almost a month, with this last week the most demanding, because “Scene Weaving” calls into question all the work you’ve done previously, and you may have to adjust your ideas. It’s frustrating and humbling. But now that I’ve hammered unnamed project into a cohesive outline, I’m surprised at the result and anxious to get started with the first draft.
But first, I must revise my romantic comedy for a few contests.
I kept a browser tab open to Trilane.com for the past year, specifically to their screenplay format reference. I have books, but it’s simpler, when writing online, to use online reference. It seemed like I needed it every day; I didn’t, but it seemed that way.
I finally read their front page and, by gosh, there’s an interesting article there about some of the common story structures for screenplays. I had been thinking about doing something similar, but I plan on writing about the process of developing story. Structure is one part of that. Still, I will break down Chris Soth’s mini-movie method and Truby’s Anatomy of Story, when I do, into their structural components.
Meanwhile, bookmark Trilane.
This freeze frame video is punch the world in the face awesome. I think only a FakeGrimlock could be more awesome about it. Watch it.
I think it’d be very cool if “Broad Comedies” referred to a movie with dames and chicks in the cast, but broad refers to the thematic style of humor employed in the storytelling. In fact, it means pretty much any joke, gag, or tom-foolery may be used, so be aware.
This is a list of some of my favorites:
- Addams Family Values
- Animal House
- Back to School
- Beetle Juice
- Caddy Shack
- Easy Money
- George of the Jungle
- The Quest for the Holy Grail
“Our Idiot Brother” is a movie chock-full of good looking people. I went to see it, in spite of a mediocre review by the local paper, because Paul Rudd is funny, and Zooey Deschanel is beautiful and funny, and Elizabeth Banks is beautiful and funny, and Rashida Jones et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. You get the picture.
I was worried because movies with beautiful people have a challenge in that sometimes it’s hard to feel sorry for the really good looking people because, regardless of circumstances, they’re probably going to be good looking. So the filmmakers did a clever thing in keeping total success slightly out of their reach.
I was relieved to see that Paul Rudd’s character makes his own mess. In my book, that leads to better humor. If there’s a true flaw, it’s that he isn’t actively working on achieving something, except maybe getting along with his family. That’s fine, but it isn’t made clear until the third act.
In my mind, it falls into the same place I store “Little Miss Sunshine” and “The Fisher King” for the type of jokes, and the style of delivery. In terms of structure, I think when Paul’s character goes back to prison, it’s in the same place as when Alan Arkin’s character dies of an overdose in “Little Miss Sunshine,” or Robin Williams’s character goes back to the asylum in “The Fisher King.” I think they could have elevated the tension a bit with Paul’s character in prison, and landed a few more jokes. It wasn’t bad–far from it–but I think they might have left some money on the table.
And I have to say that Steve Coogan was funny naked.