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官方艺术家
Daniel Chan
导演, 製片人, 编剧
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The process of screenwriting...

A lot of my friends are writers, directors or people in the industry and whenever we get together, I would ask them about their process, like how they are as a writer, the steps they take in putting a script together and how they are as a director and the steps they take from looking at the script to putting together their angles...

Writing has been a huge part of my life for the past 5 to 6 years, back in the early days when I first started writing screenplays, it was a joy whenever I double click on the Final Draft icon on my computer, I was happy to see the blank page because there are so much in my head I want to put down, and I would carry a note book with me, to write down ideas when I am on the MTR, having lunch or at the gym, ideas just come so easily and naturally back then...

The first full length feature script I wrote was one I wrote and planned to direct myself as an indie project, after watching Steven Soderbergh's Full Frontal, I bought myself a Canon XL1S camera just like he did and started planning my first script, I wrote it in about 3 weeks, all the while reading Syd Field's book on screenwriting, learning the structure...

When it was done, I showed it to a producer friend whom I met at university, after he read it, he told me that, there are too many speaking parts and too many locations, it's not going to be cheap to make... he said to me, when you are an indie filmmaker, you want to do something that is distinctively yours, at the same time easy to manage, and I should write scenes that are set in locations that I can get for free, so I went back to the blank page, the next script I wrote had 4 characters, 3 of them are inside the same house for most of he script, there were 5 locations, it took me 2 weeks this time round to write it... all the locations I knew I could get for free, then it was time to actually make it...

I brought my script to a local theatre group called the actor's workshop, told them about the story and asked if I could cast actors from their group, they invited me in and workshopped the script with me, in the end I cast the roles using their actors who all got onboard for free... we spent 3 months rehearsing and rewriting the script... then in 19 days we shot our film...

I then went to the a local university QUT put up a notice looking for a music composer, we met, he loved the footage I shot, I ended up editing the film at the man's house using his Mac cutting on Final Cut...

All in all it took 8 months from writing to editiing... and I thought this is how all movies are made... to be honest, the process felt smooth and easy to me, I now know that it felt smooth, because everyone involved were not thinking about money or getting famous, they all loved doing their part in the film-making process...

After coming back to HK, I had the experience of making a low budget feature film under my belt, so it was time to plan out what to do about starting a career at making films...

The experience I had after coming back to HK taught me that if you are the most enthusiastic person on the project, it probably won't ever get made... Point is, you need to be the least enthusiastic person, that being said, it better be a damn fine script... during this time, I learned the difference between a Screenwriter and a Spec Screenwriter... A Spec writer is someone who writes hoping to find money or a producer to get their movie made... they can write about anything from the 2nd world war to a story about their neighbor's dog... Screenwriters in HK don't write spec... because to be known as  screenwriter, means that when you start writing your script, you already have a company backing the project, ensuring it to be made...

But not everyone gets to be a Screenwriter right away, you need to show these producers and companies that you got the right stuff... so what you do is write a 2 page synopsis, this is what I had to learn to do and learned the hard way...

After meeting a local producer, I had pitched 3 ideas which I had developed stories for, he seemed interest in one of the ideas, so I said to him, give me a month, I will come back with a full script... he was shocked to hear that I would write a full script without a down payment, but instead he told me to write him a 2 page synopsis so he can show the investors... it took me 8 tries to finally get to the point where he accepted the 2 pager... so then I asked, give me a month, let me come back with a full script... that's not how it works he says, the next thing you will write is a scene breakdown, write 2-3 lines describing each and every scene in your script, then we will work on that...

Some people are great at writing 2 pages, essentially what makes a good 2 page synopsis is a great hook, like serial killer killing people who committed the 7 deadly sins... after the hook comes a resolution, serial killer shows up at the police station... then comes the twist, serial killer brings the detective a box with his wife's head in it... put that into under 2 pages, you have greenlight to go onto the scene breakdown...

3 months later, after 12 drafts of a 28 page scene breakdown, the producer finally accepted it... so again I ask, can I go write the full script now? to cut a story short, after that day, we never met again...

I was trying to stay positive and figure out if anything did I learn from this process... the answer is, no, for me, writing is about momentum and drive, when you have an idea in your head that you don't know how it will develop or end, the only way to find out is to write it out in its entirety...

Some people like to write scenes on cards and stick them on a wall, changing the order back and forth to see if they have enough to fill 90 minutes, for me to know if a script works, I need to see the words, the dialogue, because a single line of dialogue could very well change the entire plot of the story, you might think that the story ends with the cop catching the serial killer, but it takes one line or description in there to tell you that, may be the cop is the serial killer...

Then you look at a film Sixth Sense, it's obvious that M Night came up with the ending and worked his way back to the kid meeting with Bruce Willis, don't get me wrong, Sixth Sense is a great film, but not every story can be developed that way... and by the time you get 30 million dollars to make a film with Bruce Willis in it, who gives a shit how you write... you are set... but for those of us struggling to find inspiration and motivation to keep going, you need to have your own principles...

I guess what I am saying is that I don't want writing to become my day job where I am constructing scenes to go with a twist and then find characters to go with the scenes... you look at the films of PT Anderson,  like Hard Eight, Magnolia or Boogie nights and you know PT anderson never wrote a synopsis or a scene breakdown in his life, none of the scenes in the film sound or look like scenes taken out of other movies, he has all the characters in his head and he's asking them, what would you do or say in a situation like this and they respond to them...

What's more is that Anderson writes with a typewriter, he puts out one draft, have the actors come to his house, read that one printed draft, then goes out and shoots that one draft, I admire writers who write on typewriters, because you need to be so damn certain of what you want to write in the first place to even hit the F key to spell the word Fade In... to be able to write a film like Magnolia and to do it with a typewriter, shows confidence that only a master in his craft has... cos you know what, for someone with less skills, it could very well turn into a piece of shit... and that's the line you have to balance on, if taking the plunge to write a new script is not scary to you, then it's not a script worth writing... you need to be scared shitless cos it could be a wasted 2 months of your time, but during those two months, you need to fight so that the idea that you believe strongly in, gets its due...

For 3 years since I came back to HK, I have been writing synopsis and scene breakdowns and  treatments, I am no closer to making a new film, but in the last 2 years, I stopped doing all that, I even shyed away from writing genre films, I start with a blank page and end with a stack of papers in my hand, that's my process, it could be 60 pages, which is the length of a script I wrote last year, or it could be 147 pages, which is one I wrote this year, those are the ones I will end up making eventually...

Then you may ask, hey Daniel, what if you are being paid to write a scene breakdown or do rewrites for someone else, would you do it? Sure I would, you see, to be able to take 2 months off to write a script that matters to you from page 0 to 120, you need money to feed yourself, pay rent, buy new underwear if not new jeans, so I have done and still do scene breakdowns and synopsis for other people, just so that I can have my own time to write something that I feel I would be proud of when it is being shown in a cinema someday...

9 年多 前 0 赞s  5 评论s  0 shares
Hussainabdullah 78 img 1018d klein
Interesting to read how it works in HK. On the other hand I do not believe that there is a certain formula to filmmaking. There have been so many ways in which films have been made throughout the decades. It was a good read, thanks!
9 年多 ago
Kenjilui 15 blog profile
I am also in the process of writing at the moment, in fact I just opened final draft again after a long break and I am now focusing on a feature length drama... I am not sure if I will get any funding to make it, but the plan is to just write it out first and see how it goes... one dilemma now though is to either write what i can afford to make, or just forget the limitation and write whatever i can think of... talking about the writing process, i have been experimenting with different methods. when i wrote my first or second short, it wasn't too difficult and once i got the story and characters mapped out, the writing process was pretty smooth, but when i started writing a feature length script, the situation was quite different, the character development process took much longer, but once you got the characters sorted out, it really helped the actual writing process... and about the format, I have been using final draft since my second short, it certainly has no problem handling english script as there is fixed format, but I always wonder what kind of format do people in hk look for in terms of chinese script? I have read some published scripts but they all look kinda different...
9 年多 ago
Rottendoubt a4 patrick
interesting. didn't know that. thanks for the info!
9 年多 ago
Photo 293130
Hi Daniel, please keep up writing what you enjoy writing the best, as I told many up and coming directors, don't lose your passion inside yourself..maybe hide it in a way for other who don't understand it... I think a good script has soul....as a DP, when I read, I can feel, see ,touch and sense the story, characters, colour,mood, ....that is very important to me being able to feel that. Anyway, is there any where I can read see your writing? Please let me know. feel free to chat or email at anytime. Have a good weekends.
9 年多 ago
Photo 293130
Oh, one more thing about your comment on type writer, I totally agree, today many ppl are using digital and don't know anything about film, not because of the price, it is they though they have more option in post to correct their mistake. Which is not true, as u might know that cost more money and time try to "fix" anything, which is not look as good as if you can fix it when u are shooting on set... I really hate when ppl said they can fix it in post...lol...ppl should learn more about 35mm or 16mm film....even still camera*film* not digital...it is a craft to be good to know all the aspect of the art.... it is not a fast food...it is gourmet cooking. :-) anyway, thank you again for sharing your though, I really don't write that much on my blog here...but I can help myself to reply to your blog.... have a good writing!
9 年多 ago

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语言
english, cantonese, mandarin
位置(城市,国家)以英文标示
Hong Kong
性别
male
加入的时间
September 21, 2007

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