Posts Tagged ‘Filmmaker magazine’

Writing and Directing Your First Feature: From Your Story to “Epic Fail”

October 19, 2011

Last fall, when the initial burst of energy to write the script for this movie came about (and I still had a job), I subscribed to both Script and Creative Screenwriting. The March/April 2011 issue came along in the mail. This particular issue had some articles that offered advice for new writer/directors, and I was interested in seeing how their advice lined up with the stuff that I’ve learned the past few years.

One article that really caught my eye was “Writing and Directing Your First Feature: From Your Story to ‘Film By'”, penned by USC Grad Student Robert Piluso. The article is focused on the hardware and software associated with filmmaking and its uses. Of course, there’s a discussion of Final Draft (Script is owned by Final Draft), Gorilla, Movie Magic Scheduling, and Final Cut Pro. I don’t think I would’ve had as much of a problem, had Piluso kept to his main focus–software and hardware–rather than veering off into festival submission and exhibition, which is article unto itself. Piluso could’ve heeded his own advice and used his two interviewees as a jumping off point for his own research rather than designating them as authorities.

That’s not to say that Piluso doesn’t get a few things right. He manages to avoid making his article into a collection of press releases and soundbites, as Script‘s articles tend to be. He does recognize that with a smaller budget, your film will need to be more personal in nature in order to work. Having a tight script doesn’t hurt. Finally, he stays away from making hackneyed references to El Mariachi and Clerks, two broadly known microbudget classics that have no bearing on today’s indie film landscape.

As someone with a few bad specs in my past, I know that spec writers are used to taking dogmatic advice from people who have worked mainly on the periphery of screenwriting (The late Blake Snyder and J. Michael Straczynski are exceptions to this rule), and are used to tailoring scripts for a market that’s becoming increasingly narrower in taste. In turn, these gurus have very rigid ideas as to what makes a good story. The festival circuit, with its more diverse aesthetic, is more interested in personal vision than a product aimed at a demographic. As I recall overhearing filmmaker Benny Safdie saying outside of a screening at this year’s BAM Cinemafest, “These films aren’t for everybody, but they’re for anybody.”

I’ve uploaded a PDF of Piluso’s original article for you to read and judge for yourself. The article is copyright its respective owners.

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