Saturday, May 9, 2015


Started writing (by hand...) the first draft of my next film - A short Western animation: "Ghost Dance" -  I sat outside and took advantage of the good weather instead of being cooped up all winter.  I've been loosely following Blake Snyder's "Save The Cat" - A good starting point for screenwriting, and the story structure you "should" follow to write a good screenplay.  The quotes there indicate that it's only a starting point, there's no set rules in screenwriting ( in my opinion..)  

The three act structure outlined in Save the Cat is a good guideline, and the "beat sheet" I've found invaluable in fleshing out screenplays.   But I'm not opposed to thinking outside the box, when it comes to script writing.  The main thing is to write consistently, and to have a compelling story that underlies the film.   Good characters, with motivation and growth, with conflict and adversity, and a resolution.  If you take 3 acts or 6 to get there, doesn't matter, as long as the elements hold the story and the audience.

No visuals to show for the film yet.  This early in the process I'm building the film in my mind, the script outlines my ideas as I develop them.  I started with a beat sheet, one page handwritten that outlines the whole project, and I follow that in the next phase, drafting the first revision of the script.  I'll make revisions to the script after I have the first draft,  and fine tune the story before the next stage:  Storyboards.

I'm going to be posting my progress for this whole project, from the first brainstorming to the final film, as a guide to my process.   Here's the brainstorming and treatment that I initially created for the film:

I Brainstormed some Cliche elements that I have to put in the film:

Elements in a Western film
● Gunfight / showdown at high noon
● Undertaker measures up a coffin for the poor sap who just walked into town
● Sign on the outskirts of town with a population ie 23 people on it with numbers crossed
out
● Old broken down covered wagons
● Slowly riding a horse through the desert
● Monument valley landscape
● Saloon doors
● Some guy playing a harmonica
● Four roughians playing poker
● Small graveyard outside town with shitty old time gravestones
● Prairie dogs popping up out of the ground cover
● Riding off into the sunset.

The treatment I'll use as a rough guide, and flesh out in more detail as the first draft of the film:

Treatment / Plot outline
An Indian Spirit Talker invites a cowboy ( The Stranger) to sit with him at his fire. Two braves
sit off away from them, watching out into the night.

The Stranger tells the Spirit Talker about his wife and child, who were killed when their
plantation burned at the end of the Civil war. After this, the Stranger went west; there was
nothing left for him once the Confederacy was defeated, he came home from war to find his
home destroyed and family dead) The Stranger tried to hang himself then, but the rope
broke, and the desperation of hopelessness then held him back from trying a second time.

In the west, the Stranger wandered westward until he came to a town where he had a run in
with some local thugs who he saw beating a woman and child. This woman and child
reminded him of his own family, and he couldn’t let it go unanswered. The Stranger goes to
the saloon where the thugs are playing poker, he sits in on their game, laying down a bullet in
place of a coin... he accuses them of being dishonorable scumbags; the thug leader
challenges him to a shootout at high noon.

They shootout in a dramatic fashion, though we don’t see who has won the gunfight.
The Spirit Talker tells the Stranger that the Dead cannot die again. The Stranger tells him
that he has been wandering westward for a long time, that he cannot even remember how
long anymore. The Spirit Talker tells him that he is already dead... how else can they
understand each other if not for the fact that the Spirit Talker speaks the language of the
dead.

The Stranger does not remember if he was killed as a soldier on the battlefield, if he did
manage to hang himself, or if he died in the shootout with the thug gang. The Spirit Talker
tells him as he is leaving, that he will find no rest unless he gives up his wandering. He tells
the Spirit Talker that he will keep riding west; that there is always a horizon to walk towards.
The stranger gets on his horse, and walks off into the sunset.



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