Writing Our First Movie
By Alexander Rock
I watched “The Shining” one night and a spark of inspiration overtook me. Our team was struggling to get one film made and was in the throes of transitioning to a new, smaller project. There had to be very specific constraints, as our budget would be under $15,000. How do you come up with an idea for a feature length movie, knowing you won’t have a lot of money? Melody, Max (my co-writers) and I sat down and brainstormed a bunch of ideas. I proposed that Daniel (my brother) should star and that it should be a horror film.
We didn’t want a myriad of ideas to inform the writing. The goal was to start writing without too specific of a direction. If we could come in completely raw, with as few preconceived notions as possible, then the characters could live and breathe and the writer would be guided by, rather than dictating, their direction.
We started by sitting down and wiping the slate clean. Everyone took the Jerry character and put him in a scene with another character of the writers own invention. Each person wrote a minimum of ten pages and often times the page count would reach twenty or more. We called those “shit-outs.”
The next meeting would start by reading the previous day’s work and determine what we responded to, what fell flat, what deserved further exploration, what was beyond the scope of our budget and what ideas we liked, etc. By the end of the week, we had generated, between the three of us, anywhere from
one hundred to several hundred pages.
The process continued for about four weeks, as we committed ourselves to discovering and then deepening our understanding of the characters. Ideas came and went; pages were tossed in volume. Only the most resonant ideas were allowed to hang around.
Each meeting brought discussion about varying aspects of the generated story.
We like this scene. Where could it fit in the story? This dynamic is interesting; can we get more out of it? We want to pursue this dynamic, but it’s not as strong as the other material. Can we beef it up?
Slowly but surely, the script took shape. Scenes were put into different orders, structural ideas were tried, characters fell by the wayside and new ones emerged. Several drafts were constructed and we read each one, noting weak and strong points. Back at the writing table, we shored up areas of concern until everyone was satisfied.
Once the script was finished, we brought all the material, both what was in the script and writing that had been discarded, to rehearsals, where our actors voiced the words, played out the blocking, etc. From there we went back to the writing table and made minor changes to dialogue and sometimes
generated new scenes based on improvisations and conversations with the actors.
Before shooting each week, Melody, Max and I would sit down and re-write scenes. The process continued through production, so that the script was ever-evolving.
Alexander Rock is the co-writer/producer/director of “Jerry.” He also makes an appearance in the film as Richmond. You can watch the trailer for “Jerry” and get a free sample of his book, “First Feature: The Making of Jerry," at DreamStreetLimited.com