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29 Days to Screenplay Heaven.

September 25, 2013 by · Comments Off on 29 Days to Screenplay Heaven. 

Its taken 29 days exactly to complete the first draft of  ’Absolute Freedom’.  In the hope of helping you with your own projects, I would like to share my own experience writing the screenplay.

Writing the Final Scene for the screenplay Absolute Freedom Date 19th September

Writing the Final Scene for the screenplay Absolute Freedom Date 19th September

Before ‘Absolute Freedom’, I have written 7 full length feature screenplays, two of which have been made into movies.  My third  will be ‘Absolute Freedom’ which will  be produced in 2014.  Here are my observations on my experiences writing the first draft of the  screenplay ‘Absolute Freedom’.

1. It was so much fun this time.

Yes, I cut off the phones and did not look at an email on every single morning that I wrote.  The hardest part was when I had to stop.  This time it was very exciting.  In fact, it was the first time I felt nervous about the day’s writing at the start.

2. The importance of a really good screenplay.

I am very aware that every scene that I write effects a full on crew and cast shooting the scenes in March-April, 2014.  I am also aware that millions of people around the world will see the film.  The creations on the page now are what they will spend part of their life watching as a movie in late 2014 to  2015 and beyond.  I must emphasise that creating an outstanding screenplay affects the whole production process down the line.  If the script is hot, the crew and cast are excited and into the film.  Likewise the opposite is true when the script is lame.

2. Writing pace and stats.  

I started on Thursday, August 22nd, and finished the last page on Thursday, August 19th. Each writing session was about 2-3 hours long.  So you could say that I wrote the screenplay in four weeks.  However, on closer inspection, I averaged about 4-5 pages per day and wrote on average 4-5 days per week.  I took Saturdays and Sundays off.  The total screenplay is 96 pages long so in the the 29 day period I wrote for 21 dDays.

3. The writing zone. 

The most challenging draft is the first draft of the screenplay.  The writer faces blank

The Final Scene Absolute Freedom

The Final Scene Absolute Freedom

white emptiness when one sits down in the morning.  The Director has a screenplay to work off.  The Editor has the shots covering the scenes to work off. The Writer only has his or her creativity.   I believe the writer needs a creative zone seperated from other people and interuptions.  To write well, one needs to dive deeply.  David Lynch expressed his thoughts about the writer’s zone in his recent book.  He compared screenwriting to diving for fish.  In the shallow waters, one only finds small fish.  One needs to go deep, to find the big fish.

I personally wrote only in the morning.  Normal work happened in the afternoon.  When I concluded writing at 12.30pm and had to go to work at International Film Base in the afternoon, I found it hard to seperate from my story.  I personally found that I suffered Left Brain Syndrome where your mind wanted to stay in the very pleasant world of creativity and resisted the drag to Right Brain Reality of logic and organization.

I assume this is why so many writers will cut themselves off from all distractions and find a cottage in the middle of some mountainous valley.  They need to access the zone.

I started the 2nd draft on Monday, 22nd September, and I should have the 2nd draft completed by the end of this week.  All the people who I have promised the script to by the end of the month, shall read ‘Absolute Freedom’ early next week.

To conclude, all the preparation before I wrote the first draft paid off handsomely.  Having my 30 page Story Event Document meant that I always knew where I was going with the story.  Spending time on my intensive preparation was so essential to the writing process on the First Draft of ‘Absolute Freedom’.

I am very interested to hear your thoughts on the writing process.



Should I hire a professional DOP or shoot from the hip?

September 11, 2013 by · Comments Off on Should I hire a professional DOP or shoot from the hip? 

UnknownShould I shoot my own film or hire an experienced DOP (Cinematographer)?  This is a question that I am asked by my clients on a regular basis.  So here is my take on this all important question.

I believe that if you do not intend to earn a living from shooting films,  hiring a professional DOP is the best option.  This means you can focus on the job at hand - producing and directing your film.

Most Film Directors have never trained as DOPs.  The Film Directors who make Hollywood films and big budget independent films, always hire a Director of Photography who takes care of the technical aspects of shooting the film.  The DOP in turn will then hire their camera operators on a big budget film.  This is how it has happened since the early days of Hollywood and how it happens today at the top end of Film Making.

images-3In small independent films, the lines between DOP, Camera Operator and Director are more blurred.  One extreme example is El Mariachi where Robert Rodrigos was an all up one man crew directing the film and shooting the film as best as he could.  The book “Rebel without a Crew” is a great read and talks about Robert’s adventure shooting El Mariachi with a crew of only one.

My feeling is this.  As a Film Director, you want to be like the General looking at every aspect of the film.  You want to be like Steve Jobs and have the vision for the project and imbue your vision through to your creative crew.  Hiring an expert DOP will improve the quality of your film dramatically.

Unknown-1Matt Smith hired me as his DOP on “Repressed” (please have a look).  This meant that he could add his vision to my cinematography skills and get the film that he wanted.  I was able to help him get the visual look that was needed for the film.  I spent a full day on the various locations in pre-production planning the shot list.  Matt also had ideas visually for the film and as a result a wonderful collaboration happened with a great result, a short film that looks awesome.  Matt actually edited “Repressed”.  What a great job!

Hiring professionals will increase the success of your film.  Remember the Director in the indie film world will usually get the credit for the successful film and not the DOP or the Editor.  So why make life hard for yourself?

If you shoot the film yourself, it might be  a lot of fun.  However, if you are inexperienced, it is likely that you will make many mistakes and shoot films with lack of coverage, ultimately ending in a poor film.

imagesIf your goal is to use several films learning via mistakes and you are not worried by the results of your film, well this might be a fun way to go.  If your goal is to earn money as a gun for hire DOP, it is important to learn how to be an expert DOP via shooting as many films.

However, if your goal is to become a successful film director as quick as possible, shooting your own films is not a great way to proceed.  Hiring a professional DOP is the way forward and should be part of your production plan for your film productions.

Unknown-3Hiring an experienced DOP Pros and Cons

Pros for hiring a DOP:

  1. You get great shots and coverage for your edit
  2. The Film looks much better and has the professional sheen
  3. You can find a collaborator in the DOP you choose that will stay with you on many future films
  4. It is much less stress

Cons for hiring a DOP:

  1. You might have creative clashes with your DOP
  2. You might feel that  your vision for the look of the film is not adhered to
  3. You might choose the wrong DOP
  4. Good DOPs cost money; all good professionals do

Most of the above cons can be alleviated if you check out your DOP.  Check how you feel intuitively with the DOP when you first meet him or her.
See the films that he or she has shot before.  Do not look at showreels.  See the full film. Make sure their previous work is exceptional as that is exactly what you will get.  A great way to get value when you hire a DOP is to ask them to throw in all the cameras and lights equipment with their labor in a daily capped fee.  This way you can get the equipment as part of the deal.

Unknown-2Trying to do it all yourself usually leads to an amateur result unless you have been trained in cinematography and have shot many low budget short films.  Here are the suggestions for hiring a DOP:

  1. Look at our Services page
  2. Place in Google Search one or all of the following Keywords: DOPs, DOP Agents, Cinematographers
  3. Star Now

However, I highly recommend that you learn as much as you can about cinematography and shot listing for a scene when you are learning film making craft.  This way you will be able to communicate with your DOP and get the result you are after.  One way, of course, of learning about cinematography is to book on to a film school that teaches you all the technical side of film making.  Make sure you get to do all the crew roles.  That is the why we created the ’4 Month Film School’ so you get to sample all the crew roles.  This will ultimately make you a better Film Director in the long run.

Colm O’Murchu      Director

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