Writing A feature length screenplay

I’m writing a new feature length screenplay. This is the first feature script I’ve worked on in about two years. Right now the script is called, The Experiment. It’s about a young couple who experience their first great love and struggle to maintain their relationship.

Four years ago I started writing, producing, and directing short films. I would do anything I needed to do to get the films done.

Now that I’ve had a chance to work with a lot of local talent and now that we have produced sixteen short films, I believe we’re ready to take on a feature.

I’m planning on directing this film myself. When I first started filmmaking, I focused on writing and I would send out my feature length scripts to competitions. I got to a point with the screenplays where they did pretty well in competition. After submitting to different competitions for about two years, I decided that I didn’t want to rely on chance to make me a produced screenwriter.

After four years of writing and producing short films, I feel like I have lost time with writing feature length scripts. I haven’t completed a feature script in the past four years. The lesson being, never stop writing. Even if I wrote only one feature a year, I would have four feature length scripts.

Prior to starting on The Experiment, I did a few months of planning and research. I started doing ground work in February. This included creating character bios and working out the scenes that I could see happening in the script.

On March 1st, after eight hours at my day job, I went to a coffee shop about fifteen minutes from where I work and sat down to write. Any time I want to work on a long writing project, I need to head straight to a writing session after my regular job. Too often, when I get home there are too many distractions to keep me from writing.

At the coffee shop I got something to drink and I started work outlining. After writing myself a loose outline for the first act, I started writing.

In the past, when I’ve written a script for competition, there are a number of creative constraints that you feel as a screenwriter. There are certain conventions that make for a good script and certain guidelines you need to follow if you want to get past a competition judge. Because I’m planning on directing this script myself, I sat down to write without worrying about those constraints. It felt liberating. The first scene is made up of action — what we see happen in the film along with description.

Some of my scenes are dialogue heavy and I’m not worried about breaking them up with action.

When you’re writing a first draft it is more important to get it out than get it right.

As I was writing the script, there were a couple of scenes that I wasn’t happy with. Either I need to learn more about the story I am not entirely sure about character motivation in those scenes. I gave myself a note at the beginning of those scenes to revise them after the first draft was complete.

I feel like this first draft is a good start. When it is done, I plan on stepping back and writing a new outline based on the script I’ve completed to help me see the big picture.

From there, rewrites will focus on the plot, then the characters, then the dialogue, and finally the addition of any important images or actions.

It all starts with the first page. This script started with me sitting at a coffee shop for two hours and writing ten pages of script.


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