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.”

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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!

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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