Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Read Scripts. Watch Movies. Write Pages.

But maybe not in that order.

Sometimes I like to read Scott Meyer's Go Into the Story blog, that is all about screenwriting, and also contains a million (yes, hyperbole) links to other blogs and resources about screenwriting.  He adds content more frequently than I can keep up with, so I miss a lot, but I check in occasionally and recently I happened upon this post, where he recommends a formula of reading 1 script a week, watching 2 movies a week, writing 7 pages a week (one a day) and devoting 14 hours a week to story prep.  A  I think his numbers are pretty good for maintaining a steady practice and learning curve, but faced with hard deadlines, one has to prioritize a little differently. In my own case, I have to devote my highest hour count to pages of screenplays I'm actively writing (and rewriting!) but this article was a nice little wake-up call to the fact that I tend to let my script reading, and even my movie watching, fall to the wayside in my desire to finish pages.

It's a delicate balance--because to a certain extent, it's helpful to put on blinders and just keep running.  But when I make myself read a script, watch a film--I almost always pick up something useful for one of my projects. Last night, while folding laundry I watched Mississippi Masala, a Mira Nair film with a very young Denzel Washington. As  public service announcement, I'll note that you can watch the entire film on YouTube here. Tonight I started reading Monster's University, because what better than a Pixar film for reinforcing all the basics--perfect structure, characters with strong wants with obstacles, story beats that hit right where they're supposed to.  Too tired to finish tonight, but something to look forward to when I wake up in the morning.

I was interested that Meyers recommended more time spent on story prep than writing (assuming that most people can write a page in an hour or less). Also, I wondered what he  regarded as story prep. From context, it seems like he's referring to ideation, as opposed to extensive notes and research for a single project, but maybe not--or maybe he's deliberately loose in his definition. While I haven't been keeping a notebook of late, I give myself credit for the fact that I'm writing a short story to a prompt every week for the fiction class I'm taking, and I think that has been keeping the creative taps open. I've also done drafts of two longer stories that I'm pretty happy with for first drafts.

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