I did something this morning that I don’t normally do. When my alarm went off I rolled over and went back to sleep. I’m not opposed to a good sleep in, but on a work day I’m very much in the mind set that delaying the inevitable in order to spend some more time with sweet lady slumber will only lead to issues further down the track. Namely, panickingly rushing about with the certain fear that I’ll be late. Because of this I’m not even very good at attempting to sleep in on a work day. If I try it only takes my brain a few minutes before it starts to alarm the consequences of what I’m attempting loudly and frequently. This usually results in me doing a bunch of mental maths, moving minutes and the morning’s activities around to a point where I can safely afford myself those ten extra minutes and quiet my internal alarm. However, even if I do manage to move around my already fairly streamlined schedule to allow for extra sleep, the act of doing so makes my brain a hive of activity to the point where I am undeniably awake. Pointless.
Today was different. Unlike the rest of Victoria, who have the day off thanks to Labour day (a public holiday no one really seems to know the reason for), I did have to go to work; thanks to the fact that I work for a University who (for reasons equally unknown) don’t get the day off. Over the weekend I helped my sister, Angela, paint her apartment. In a past life I was a painter – I’m using the concept of ‘past life’ given in this brilliant and provocative comic by SMBC – and occasionally I still get to put those skills to good use. It was undeniably satisfying to see Angela’s apartment (which she has already renovated from something resembling a crack den into a lovely single bedroom apartment) change from a mix match of stained and plastered walls into a clean and fresh living space; but it did leave me exhausted. The kind of exhausted that bleeds over to the next day no matter how good of a sleep you have. To add to this I also think I’m becoming sick, am sick, or have quietly been slightly sick for a while without realising. My energies shot and lately I’ve seemed to always be running a slight fever. So, because of all this, I managed to give myself an extra half hour of sleep without my internal alarm screaming at me like some man on a TV commercial advertising a sale on rugs that seems to think flashing graphics and repeatedly yelling is the best way to do so. Basically I just didn’t do my normal half hour morning exercises. Exercise = bad, sleep = good.
The other week a screenwriting friend of mine, by the name of Nice-Guy-Sean (not his actually name), and I were discussing how often we read scripts and screenplays. I read a lot of scripts and screenplays; mostly when I have some downtime at work as they’re the perfect length to allow me to both start and finish a story across all the little ten minute breaks I give myself throughout the day. For a wannabe screenwriter I think it’s crucial to read lots of scripts and screenplays. This may seem like saying it’s good to know how to pedal if you want to ride a bike but, unlike prose writers who want to write novels thanks to all the novels they’ve read, screenwriters generally want to write because of all the film and TV they’ve watched. Which means we’re not in the habit of reading scripts and screenplays.
Like I said, I think it’s crucial, mostly because of how much you can learn from reading them. Screenplay format is pretty basic and it really only takes reading one script to learn how to structure it. However I’ve found that there are a lot of minor techniques and situations that aren’t immediately obvious how to write. Things like character descriptions, split screens, flashbacks, point of views, close ups etc. etc. There’s a really great PDF by How Did They Write It that goes through a number of movies and looks at how they wrote what we watched (this was shared with me by Nice-Guy-Sean, just one of the many of reasons he has that name).
While reading scripts and screenplays has helped me learn all these “rules” what it’s also shown me is that the rules are always fluid and if you write it in a way people can understand, then that’s the right way to write it. It’s probably been the best thing I’ve learned. It’s far too easy for me to get held up while writing with worrying about if I’m writing certain scenes or scenarios the “right” way. Having read all those scripts and screenplays has shown me how each writer has their own style and way of doing things, and in turn has given me more confidence to write any way I damn please! But it’s still also nice to see how they’ve done things when I’m stumped about how to describe a shot.