Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Conquering the index cards

This is my bulletin board. The first thing I see when I wake up is my calendar so I can remember the tasks I had to do that day. The second thing I see is this bulletin board, with index cards from my current project and the logline for Not Dead Yet so I have easy access in the event of a phone call from a producer or an agent or in case my mom finally wants to hear it. And below that, my Nicholl rejection letter from last year just so my head doesn't get too big.

I post this because after about a month of simmering in my story concept, yesterday I finally sat down and outlined my next script. I've been thinking and thinking and I had Act 1 and Act 3, and of course I was having trouble with the elusive Act 2.

Oh, Act 2. You are such an asshole.

I've thought about it in the shower. I've thought about it at night in bed. I've thought about it in the morning. I've thought about it in the car. And I knew Act 2 is where I need my lovers to actually fall in love and have sex and have their big discussion about the fact that they can never be together. You know, pretty much the most important stuff in the script and I have no idea how to do it.

So today I said fuck it. I started writing out my index cards like I always do when I remembered that Movie Magic has an index card feature that I've never used. Although I am a very nontraditional person in most situations, but I love my index cards. I don't even shift them around, which is the point of index cards I think. I just like putting my story in neat little pretty colored squares I can look at for inspiration.

So I opened up Movie Magic and I did my index cards. I wrote up Act 1, no problem.

Then I sat there and stared at the next empty index card slot.

And I stared.

And I watched The Real Housewives of New York City. I think of all the Real Housewives anywhere, Betheny is the only one who's not an atrocious person.

Anyway, After I became sufficiently disgusted by the overload of bitchiness, I said to myself, okay self, you need to solve this problem. My protagonist has just come back to her house from a fight scene with some dudes and I need her to go back out and do another fight scene with my male lead that will turn into a sex scene, but if she just up and leaves it seems too contrived, like she sat down and hopped back up again.

So I thought, what would make her want to leave. Well, she has some real differences of opinion with her family members that drive he need to fight, so I had the idea that her family would try to talk her into doing something she doesn't want to do. Then she runs out of the house, not because it's time for her to have another fight scene, but because she needs to prove to herself that she's still in control of her life. She runs into my male lead while doing something that directly opposes his mission, and the rest of the scene falls into place.

And there it was. The bridge that connected Act 1 to Act 3. And this time, I remembered the B story which is usually what I forget on the first pass. And I have some terrific ideas about subtext - I mean good shit about feminism and racism and cultural expectations and shit.

This is why I love screenwriting. The fun part, when it's all ideas and figuring things out and nobody has had a chance to tell you how horrible your idea is. Today I start on page one and see how far I can get.

For now I will refer to the script as Burn Side because that's what I keep saving it as, but that will probably change as I write.


  1. 1. Act 2 isn't JUST an asshole. Act 2 stole your underwear while you were in the shower.
    Endings? Endings don't tell you they have Herpes until after you break up with Endings.
    Plot Point 1, though? Plot Point 1 is cool. Plot Point 1 shares the last towel and understands: Man Need Food After Sexy Time, usually something crunchy.

    2. I look at that wall...and it makes me remember what being single was like. 'A bachelor is a man who approaches work from a new direction every morning', a wise and not so poetic man once said. And it's true- I put the 'zero' in the '1980s' for so many sweethearts.

    Do I miss it? Of course not.

    Another thing I miss? Having cards all over my bedroom walls. My first script started as a roll of butcher paper that went from doorjamb to doorjamb.

    3. My spring break is next week. Let's go somewhere and smoke clove cigarettes and beat up some metal kids.

  2. Just keep on at it, and just lay it all on paper!!!

  3. It's like Anne Lamott says, it's all about "shitty first drafts."


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