Thoughts on Film: Writing

Joshua Woodcock

...on writing.

I write to shoot, and shoot to direct. It's important for me to recognize that aspect of myself when beginning work on a new project. I work on 3-5 different story ideas that I like, then I pick the one that I'm feeling "closest" when it comes time to starting creating a film. It might not be the one that's furthest along, or even the "best" one. But it's one that I feel myself most deeply connected to in the moment. Doing this also allows me to write within a budget I know I can spend. I don't talk about them publicly and wait to share them until I have something I'm happy with.

I use Final Draft to write my scripts. It's time-efficient and has all the tools I need throughout the process. I create beat boards. I move beats around. I write out rough scenes. I build out characters and some backstory. I find issues with the story and arc. Then I click a tab and go right into the writing phase. If I've created the beat board properly, the first draft tends to be the easiest aspect of the whole film-making process.

From there, I write at least 4 drafts. I pick apart the different elements and decide whether I'm telling a story worth telling and whether the message I'm trying to convey is hitting the mark. I like finding the humanity in a situation and going from there. Depending on the story, I'll work on the arc for 2-6 months. For Main Street, it was a story I thought up in the middle of the night one summer and wrote into my notes on my phone at 3 am. After my grandmother's funeral, I decided that was the story I felt most connected to, spent a month rewriting my script, and was shooting it the following month. For Kitsune, I was moving to Washington and shelved another project to make something I could do in my new area. I started with the idea of a girl lost in the woods with an imaginary friend and wrote around that. The Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor video for "She Makes a Good Parade" was around both the singer's grandmother and my grandmother's struggle with dementia. I thought, "what would that look and feel like to struggle with that?"

Writing is a tough process and one that requires possibly the most discipline. When you're first coming up with a new story, you "feel" what you're trying to convey strongly without any context you can explain to others. It all comes from your own personal experience or empathy, and you must then very concretely write out a pathway for a viewer to feel the same way. It can be tough because not every day is a good writing day. Some days are horrid and nothing comes out of them. But, I like to set myself windows of time where that's the only thing I'm allowed to do.

When I get little bursts of creative energy, I try to use it as best as possible. Even if it's just a small scene or idea, I write them down as soon as I get them. I read something George Harrison had said once about writing his song "Here Comes the Sun." He said the song came to him while out in Eric Clapton's garden, and that when you get an idea it's really important to put it down and see it through in the moment. I always liked this approach. Even if it's a simple idea, I make sure to write it into my notes.

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