Raindance MA in Filmmaking: Part 3 - NM1 "The Story"
NM1 Reflective Report
How can I, as an actor and creative producer, work with a screenwriter to create a strong treatment for a character-driven short film with me in the leading role?
Student nr: P2618742
Word Count: 6730
MA in Filmmaking with Raindance, De Montfort University
Table of Contents
Table of Contents 1
Introduction and Rationale 2
Learning Outcomes 8
Learning Outcome 1……………..………..…………………....8
Learning Outcome 2……………………………....…..………..8
Research and Methodology………..…………………………..8
Analysis, Problem Solving and Application…..………………9
Learning and Reflection……………..………………..............12
1) Skills Audit……………………………………………...……..16
2) SWOT Analysis………………………………………...……..16
3) Circle Structure (Johansson).….……………………...…….17
4) Beat Sheet……………………………………………......…...18
5) One Page Pitch (SEAM).....................................................19
6) 4 Page Film Treatment…………………………………….....20
7) Sargad 2 - Scenogram (Ackerman)....................................24
8) Sargad 2 - One Page Pitch (SEAM)...................................25
9) Feedback Loop………………………………………………..26
Overall MA Goal………………………………………………….27
INTRODUCTION AND RATIONALE
As an actor I have learned the importance of being in control of your own career trajectory, during those times when you are not being cast for other roles, through the self-creation of roles designed to showcase your specific talents. In 2016, I co-produced my first feature film, SARGAD, and then directed my first short, Rotten Love, where I also played the lead character. Both films have done relatively well on the genre film festival circuit, winning several awards, and creating the foundation on which I have begun building my career.
I originally joined the MA program at Raindance with the goal of developing a strong, character driven action film project containing stunts and fight scenes written specifically for me to produce and act in.
My original overall MA enquiry was;
How can I, as a director and performer, work together with a scriptwriter and stunt-coordinator to create proof-of-concept action sequences containing deep, interesting characters and exciting fight scenes and stunt pieces while maintaining a compelling story and a high level of safety? And how can I then further develop these concepts and obtain funding for creating a feature film in the future?
And the original enquiry for this module, as written in my learning plan was;
How can I work with a Stunt Coordinator to design impactful fight scenes and stunt pieces that I can then build my story structure around with the help of a screenwriter? Considering that this is not the conventional way of developing a script, what can I do to ensure a smooth collaborative process where the story drives the action?
Back in March of this year, the COVID pandemic hit and we were forced into a lockdown. ‘Luckily’ for me this was during my research module and thus I was to be at home anyway, nose deep in literature and movies in preparation for this first negotiated module, NM1, where I had planned to meet with stunt coordinators and fight choreographers to begin work on learning and developing my stunt pieces for the basis of my action film sequences. Unluckily for me, the lockdown led to continued social distancing regulations.This has meant that all of my courses, workshops and anything involving any form of physical contact has had to be postponed indefinitely.
This complication meant I had to focus my time on something I could easily do from home. Circumstances inspired me to skip the proof-of-concept sequence stage and pursue a feature film straight away. So, at the start of this module I began working on a treatment for an English language sequel to SARGAD. During that process I was submitting my work for feedback from my industry mentor and academic advisor who both suggested I may have bitten off more than I could chew, as I have very little writing experience and was struggling to structure my story properly.
We discussed a variety of options, such as digging deeper into story structure and working on developing my writing skills. However, the thought of focusing the next year and a half on something that is not my primary career goal caused me anxiety. By being open about my personal goals and remaining focused on why I chose this program, I was able to find a suitable solution in another ongoing project that I have been working on alongside my studies in collaboration with a screenwriter.
Therefore, my new enquiry for this module is:
How can I, as an actor and creative producer, work with a screenwriter to create a strong treatment for a character driven short film for me to act in?
My deliverables for this module will be:
Film Treatment (Appendix 6)
Many actors have managed to get their big breaks through writing and producing their own bodies of work; Matt Damon and Ben Affleck with Good Will Hunting (1997), Seth Rogan with Superbad (2007), Kristen Wiig, who had acted in films and been a regular on Saturday Night Live, but really only broke out when she co-wrote and starred in the box office smash Bridesmaids (2011) - (Balavage, Cathrine 2014).
Although I have produced a few films, my experience as a writer is very limited. I have written the songs for my band, Our Untold Story, as well as outlines for our five music videos. I have also written an outline for two short films, but have never written a full feature film script before. I did write a twenty page script for a viking-themed film after I had auditioned for the lead in the History Channel's spin off series to Vikings (2013). However, I wrote that script using Blake Snyder's “Save the Cat” method, which I then discovered is not designed for the short film format. The feedback I have received from people who have read that script has generally been that the characters need more background and that there are parts that don’t make sense, which I believe is due to the fact that I constrained myself to stay within the twenty page limit. I found I was able to make people understand what I wanted to say with my story only after I had explained aspects of the characters’ personalities and relationship history. But, of course, I wouldn’t be around to explain things to everyone who reads or watches my film. All these details must be made clear in the script from the get go - If it’s not on the page, it won’t be on the screen.
After much discussion, my academic advisor and I decided that I should look at different methods for creating story structure and choose two that I like the most to then create a four page treatment to serve as the foundation upon which to build my full script during my next module.
The methods I chose to look at were:
The 8-Sequence approach, which divides a film into eight sequences, overlaying them on the traditional three-act structure: the First Act has two sequences, the Second Act has four sequences, and the Third act has the final two. The method was originally developed by Frank Daniel at USC and then revisited in Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach (Paul Gulino, 2004).
Image source: https://paulgorman.org/writing/dramatic_structure.php
The Scenogram, developed at UCLA by Hal Ackerman and outlined in Write Screenplays that Sell: The Ackerman Way (Hal Ackerman, 2017). Which, like the sequence approach, divides the three act structure into smaller ‘fence post’ scenes and maps out the major plot points and turning points of the story.
The Uh Oh, Oh Shit, Oh My God, which is a way of structuring dramatic action within a film, as written in From Reel to Deal (Dov S-S Simens, 2000). According to Simens, screenwriting is a formula where every script needs; 5 “Uh-Oh’s!”, 5 “Oh-Shit’s!” and 1 “Oh My God!”
“There are 40 scenes in a movie, maybe there are 50. You got your rollercoaster ride that’s built in there: Introduce the boy - Introduce girl - Introduce the situation - Introduce the desire - Introduced they want to take an action - Introduce they take an action - Everything seems to be good and now, UH-OH!” We’re only about 8 to 10 minutes into the movie. Pull the carpet out from underneath them - Two scenes later give them a further complication called an, “Oh shit!” But we’re only about 12 to15 minutes into the movie. - Uh-oh! Oh shit…Uh-oh! Oh shit…Uh-oh! Oh shit…- And then, “Oh my god! No way will they ever get through it!” - Two scenes later it gets resolved.” - Dov Simens (Cyber Film School Interview, 2018)
The SEAM: One Page Pitch. Based on research from the Shared Experience Art Machine, a collective of writers who came together to create a structure for pitching and selling their scripts in their book; Story Design: Storytellers Handbook for Writers & Dream Merchants (SEAM, 2012)
One of the people I sent my work to for feedback was a writer/director, Niklas Johansson, whom I had worked with on several occasions as an actor in his films back in Sweden. He therefore became the obvious choice when I decided to work with a screenwriter. Niklas has studied screenwriting at Manuspiloterna (Script Pilots) in Stockholm where he also attended film school.
Niklas shared the method he was taught at Manuspiloterna with me, which is called ‘Cirkeln’, or ‘The Circle’. This is a method based on Joseph Campbell’s, Hero's Journey and breaks the three act structure into four slices of a pie, with specific key plot points and emotional arcs.
Image Source: Cirkeln by Niklas Johansson
The circle follows the inner journey of the story's protagonist, where each quarter represents a state of mind in which the character finds themself, either consciously or more often, unconsciously.
“By focusing on the character’s inner journey, the external story that needs to happen will automatically fall into place,” - Niklas Johansson
You read the circle anti-clockwise starting at the top:
Ghost & Brist = The ghost is the ‘scene’ that happens before the start of the film that creates a deficiency within the protagonist. The guiding star of the protagonist, it is the deficiency within the character that triggers the start of their journey.
Act 1: ‘Ignorance’ (Ordinary World)
Kontext = The context our character finds themself in, the world they live in: Where?
Tre P:na = The three P’s of our character: Profession, Personal, Private: Who?
Bundsförvant = ally, or sidekick
Behov = Our character’s need, which is connected to their deficiency. The character does not yet know what their need is, but must learn to understand it through their journey.
Initierande ögonblicket = The inciting incident is something external which leads the character to their want and allows them to begin their transition into the ‘Special World’.
Begär A = The character’s desire or want. The driving force that guides our character through their journey.
Mentor = Offers the protagonist information they do not want which unconsciously shines light on the need.
(Tröskelväktare) = Gatekeeper, also known as ‘refusal of the call’ in The Hero’s Journey, and is not present in every story.
Enter Special World
Act 2.1: ‘Narcissism’ (Hubris/Depression)
Antagonism = A threat (or opportunity for growth/change within the protagonist) which takes on a physical form - The antagonist.
Ny Kontext = New information for the audience and a new situation for the protagonist. (The new rules for ‘Special World’)
Plan/Motplan = Action/Reaction between the protagonist and antagonist - Then, Therefore, But.
Konsumption = The protagonist begins to willingly or unknowingly, ‘consume’ aspects of the antagonist leading them towards achieving their initial want (and unconsciously also their need).
Det Gamla Livsprojektets Krav = The ally reminds the protagonist of the old, Ordinary World.
Skenbara Nederlaget = A counter action from the antagonist that makes the protagonist's initial want/desire seemingly impossible to obtain.
Offret = The protagonist must sacrifice a part of themself by...
Ordealbeslutet = ...making a choice that will lead them closer to their desire and ultimately their need.
Act 2.2: “Fruktan” (Fear)
Porten = Symbolises the start of a new chapter in the journey following the decision (New worldview)
Späkelsen = (wandering through the desert) The protagonist must suffer, a form of cleansing through pain, in order to move towards their need.
Dödsögonblicket = Want A dies, Want B arises.
Elixiret = (Epiphany) (Want B = Concrete, Elixir = Abstract) Insight and clarity for the protagonist begin to arise regarding their inner need.
Ut ur SW = Exit from Special World “What do I do now?” (A new plan)
Return to Ordinary World
Act 3 “Medkänsla” (Sympathy)
Pånyttfödelsen = Rebirth and a new world view for the protagonist.
Kampen = The protagonist must fight for their new world view.
Återfallet = The protagonist relapses into old habits or their old world view.
Moraliska Dilemmat = The protagonist is faced with a difficult choice to either return to the safety of their old ways, or to stand up and fight for their new world view. (Must be win/win or lose/lose)
Självpånyttfödsel = The protagonist matures into their new world view and becomes fully aware of their need and either achieves it (Comedy) or not (Tragedy).
Ny jämnvikt/Social återkoppling = What is the external world like now? Repercussions?
With my new goal in mind and my writer (metaphorically through the power of Zoom and Facetime) by my side, I decided to use the circle Niklas and I created (Appendix 3) for our story idea to create a beat sheet, (Appendix 4) which I will then use to create a One Page Pitch using the SEAM method (Appendix 5). Combining these methods I will create a four page treatment (Appendix 6) that Niklas will use to begin writing the screenplay for our film.
In my following modules, I plan to begin focusing on my work as an actor in collaboration with Niklas and the director of our film. Initially, we will aim to create the deeper background work of my character and focus on how we can work that into improving the story. We can then move on to seek financing and produce a 20 minute short film. We will aim to submit the final production to top tier, A-list film festivals, as I believe that is where we will get the most impact to boost the careers of all who are involved in this passion project.
Learning Outcome 1
How can I work with a screenwriter to create the structure for a short film that I can produce and act in?
Learning Outcome 2
How can I combine our “Circle Structure” and SEAM’s Story Design approach to build a compelling 4-page treatment?
Research and Methodology
Work collaboratively on developing an idea for a short film with my screenwriter, Niklas Johansson.
Learn the “Circle Structure” Niklas uses when structuring his stories.
Create a Circle Structure for our film idea. (Appendix 3)
Map out the major plot points and act breaks of our film using the circle structure as outlined by Niklas Johansson (Appendix 4)
Create a one page pitch following the structure outlined in Story Design: Storytellers Handbook for Writers & Dream Merchants (2012) SEAM (Appendix 5)
Combine the two to create a four page treatment outlining the entire story. (Appendix 6)
Analysis, Problem Solving and Application
I began this module by researching various structures for writing screenplays, with the intention of developing and writing my own feature film. After reading From Reel to Deal, I first thought that this would be my chosen method as Simens spoke to my inner filmmaker with his no nonsense approach to teaching and explaining the truth behind the mechanics of the film industry. I found the 8-sequence approach and scenogram methods to be a bit complicated and boring, so my plan was to map out my “Uh-Oh’s”, “Oh-Shit’s” and “Oh My God” and then use those to create my One Page Pitch.
I began the process of mapping out the basic plot points to my horror “requel” (remake/sequel), Sargad2, and found myself getting stuck. Not knowing how to get myself out of the rut, I decided to return to the literature to see if there was something I was missing that may get my creative juices flowing again. It was during this process that I began playing with Hal Ackerman’s Scenogram and started using a template to fill in what I believed to be the major plot points of my story. This process felt fun. Having a clear structure to follow within the framework of a template, with the help of a book and document to follow, really simplified the process for me and gave me the creative boost I had been craving.
Once I had filled in my Scenogram (Appendix 7), I felt confident enough to proceed to the next phase of my outlined plan and start working on my One Page Pitch. A few weeks earlier, I had attended one of the monthly Raindance writing clusters, where a fellow student had submitted a One Page Pitch for a web series that he was developing. He too had used the SEAM method. When I came to write my own, I looked at his pitch for inspiration to see what elements he had included, what I thought worked well, and the feedback he had received during the cluster meeting from the other participants. Using all of this, in combination with what I had mapped out in my scenogram and the guidelines as outlined in Story Design (SEAM 2012), I proceeded to create my One Page Pitch for Sargad 2: Elina’s Nightmare (Appendix 8).
The next stage in my plan was to combine my Scenogram and One Page Pitch into a four page treatment on which I would later build my screenplay during the next module, NM2. But before moving on to that step I wanted to get some feedback on my documents and my story. I had created a feedback loop that would allow me to submit pieces of work at various stages so that I could analyse and improve upon my writing before moving on to each next step of the process. The first stage of my feedback loop was a small group of writer/director friends including Sarah Gierscky, the creator of the original concept of Sargad, a few of my fellow Raindance students and, of course, Niklas.
I sent out the two documents and got mixed reviews, but mostly with a positive outlook in general (Appendix 9), which gave me the confidence to send it on to my industry mentor and academic advisor.
I was excited to begin getting feedback and to then apply it in creating my four page treatment. I felt like I had a clear idea of where I was going with my story and characters and was feeling rather pleased with myself. I had put a lot of time and effort into my work. It had been a real uphill struggle to get to this point. This mission reminded me of when I would sit for hours doing math homework as a young child. It was tedious, headache inducing W.O.R.K. But, in the end, I managed to push myself through it and get to a point where things were beginning to feel slightly easier and the momentum seemed to be building.
Then I spoke with David Worth, my industry mentor, and the first thing he said was that he found the whole thing rather convoluted. I asked what he meant and we spent a good few hours going through my story and picking it apart. The process showed me that there were major plot holes and too much going on that did not make sense and that required too much explaining to the reader. It was my viking project all over again.
We looked at ways that I could potentially improve upon my story and I began working on it, willing as I was to make the best possible foundation on which I could build my first feature film script. We discussed ways of simplifying the story and beefing out the characters and the major plot points. Again, I was starting to regain some confidence but the gnawing feeling that it was taking far more time and energy for me to work on each stage compared to a seasoned writer kept looming over me like a dark cloud.
At last, I felt ready to begin working on my treatment and sought advice on how to approach the task from my academic advisor, Stephanie Joalland. She, like David, found my work too complicated and also pointed out the lack of proper structure and major plot points. I listened to her notes patiently, with an open mind. At this point I was over half way through the module and had also written a fair amount of reflection in this report to accompany my deliverables. Stephanie suggested that I perhaps needed to return to the basics of story and screenwriting structure and look at the beat sheet in Save The Cat by Blake Snyder and several other books on screenwriting. She suggested I try to better understand the various beats that make up a strong story structure. As the conversation continued I felt myself become more and more deflated and uninspired at the thought of investing so much time into an area of the craft of filmmaking which I have no plan on pursuing or ever really wanted to get into. We discussed how I would need to dig deeper in this module and how my future modules would need to focus more on writing and creating a strong working script. All this before I could even begin to consider going into production and what I personally consider to be the most creative aspects of the filmmaking process for me. To me, writing feels like homework, so, I decided to speak my mind and stand up for myself and my personal goals and aspirations. I discussed a few other projects that I was working on in parallel to the MA program. When I mentioned that I was working with a writer on a film in which I would be acting in the lead role, with a character which will both challenge me and potentially cement my place as an actor able to develop and produce strong work, Stephanie lit up and suggested I refocus all of my energy into that project and “start over”.
This was at the start of December, giving me less than six weeks to my January 5th deadline, to completely change my learning outcomes, rework my deliverables and rewrite my report. It would be a challenge, but at the prospect of producing a piece of work, together with a professional writer, in which I would be able to act, using the remainder of my upcoming modules to focus on producing and acting - a first for anyone who as ever attended this MA program - I felt excitement rather than fear. Yes, it was overwhelming and scary, but in the best of ways. So we sent an email to the MA program leader to request a change of my pathway, explaining the situation and the process. He liked the idea and the fact I was coming with a solution to my own problem. He also introduced me to a new mentor, Louise Salter, an actor like myself who has managed to create a fantastic career for herself as a creative producer. In collaboration with Louise, I have now created a strong plan of action for the remainder of my time with Raindance.
As I was already working with Niklas on our film, Contrasts, it wasn’t completely like starting from scratch. We already had a basic idea of our theme, characters and a first draft of a structure outline in the form of a Story Circle. I discussed what it would entail for us to use our film as my Masters project and the time frames that would follow. Niklas seemed happy to have, what would be for him, an external pressure and time frame to work with, as well as clear goals on what he would need to deliver and when.
Our first step would be to have Niklas teach me how the Story Circle works and how he uses it to structure his stories. Over the course of two, two-hour sessions he proceeded to explain each step in the circle as outlined earlier in this paper. We discussed how various films, such as Star Wars and a few others, fit into the structure which helped me to understand the method more clearly. We then proceeded to break down our own film idea within the format.
I noticed that the story circle, much like the Sequence and Scenogram methods, was based on the classic 3 act structure, where all three approaches split the second act into two parts creating an even number of slices, fence posts or sequences - depending on which method you refer to. During this module I was also attending the Raindance Producers and also Director Foundation Certificate courses. In both of these courses, there were multiple times where this process seemed to crop up. For example, during a budgeting and scheduling class we discussed how to break down the pages of the script sides into eighths for each day to be able to plan out the shooting schedule. Simon Hunter mentioned the same thing in one of the directing classes. I began seeing the pattern and how this could be useful in all areas of filmmaking, and how I can use this as an actor to improve the way I break down a script during my prep work for roles.
Once we got started, Niklas and I would discuss our ideas, decide on a day for our next meeting and he would go off and write something and then send it to me to read. What I discovered was that we would have very different ideas of what the result would end up being, even though we both felt as though we were in total agreement when we talked. We are both used to being in control of our own projects. Previous to this project, he always wrote and directed his own work and I always produced and controlled my projects. At the start of our collaboration we had been very clear that we were co-developing and co-producing the project and had made the decision to be very open and honest with each other in our communication. This allowed us to constantly take a step back at each stage, analyse the situation and listen to one another’s input, thoughts and concerns.
I began each meeting the same way I usually do when I have collaborated with other creatives on projects, by giving my feedback and throwing my ideas into the mix, which Niklas took onboard. Eventually however, he came back to me and opened up about feeling creatively stuck. A feeling I know all too well. He told me that what he really needed was to have some time to work on writing and developing the basis of the story alone, using his normal method of finding his inner creative juices, before having the external pressure of my input at such an early stage. It took a lot for me to swallow my pride and quiet the loud voice inside my head that was shouting that my ideas were strong and needed to be heard, but I had made the decision to work with a writer and as part of the challenge of learning this process and breaking old, potentially harmful habits, I decided I had to let go of my need to be in constant control and try things his way.
A week later Niklas got back to me with a new draft of the circle and a beat sheet with a tagline (Love is anything but blind) and he seemed to be back in his old, energetic and creative stride. I was excited, and had several ideas I wanted to share with him, but chose to hold my tongue. I did share with him the fact that I had ideas, and told him that as soon as he feels ready I would very much like to share them with him and be part of the process again, to which he happily agreed.
We were on a roll, with time ticking, the Christmas holidays and my deadline fast approaching. And then Niklas got COVID. This meant we had several meetings that got cancelled, as he needed to rest. We did manage to have a short update a week later to discuss our plan of action moving forwards. During this time I decided to use what we had so far and take on some of the responsibilities myself. Using my experience from writing the One Page Pitch using the SEAM method for Sargad2 (Appendix 8) and the outlines Niklas and I had created within our Circle (Appendix 3) and Beat Sheet (Appendix 4), I created a One Page Pitch for Contrasts (Appendix 5).
Over Christmas Niklas had regained his strength and we were able to have another talk. We now had what we needed to create the next and final step of this module, the four page treatment (Appendix 6). Originally I thought I was going to write it and then Niklas would use my treatment to create the script. However, during our discussions we decided it would be better if he wrote it.This would allow him to cement his ideas more firmly before I came in with mine. It also meant that I would have time to start working on this reflective report so that it would be done on time, as I am not keen on asking for an extension and falling behind on my next module. Niklas felt that a four page treatment was a task that would also be easy enough for him to achieve in his current condition. He saw it as an extended beat sheet, rather than a full treatment format, which he explained is almost like a full script minus the dialogue.
Learning and Reflection
This module has been very stressful and has caused me a lot of anxiety due to multiple factors which have been outside of my control. As a person who has control issues, this has been a huge challenge for me and, in retrospect, a fantastic opportunity for me to trust in the process. Most importantly, I have learned to trust those who I have asked for help, to actually provide that help. I have previously been of the mindset that if you want something done right, then you have to do it yourself and you must take on every role and every task. This has led to my not finishing many projects over the years, and losing many friends along the way. I am also a person who is very set in my ways once I have decided on what I want to do and how I want it to be done. Over these past few months I have had to learn to adapt to the constant changes around me due to the ongoing Corona pandemic, which has had a domino effect, knocking everyone else's plans around.. People’s unavailability as a result of these circumstances meant I had to change my plans.
I have been lucky enough to have friends, mentors and advisors who either know me or have enough experience to have been able to talk to me and provide me with feedback and support. This support has given me the confidence to trust my own gut and follow my instincts... but also when to do the exact opposite and shut up, listen and let others do what they are good at.
Looking back at my skills audit (Appendix 1), I can see that despite the changes that I have had to make to my process, I have in fact managed to focus on the key areas I had mapped out.
Story Structure, Character & Plot Development
In my feedback, story structure, character and plot development kept cropping up. This also encompassed the first hard skill that I pinpointed at the start of the module. Having worked with Niklas on a deeper level as he taught me the circle structure, I now feel much more confident in this area and believe that I have a better understanding than I had at the beginning of NM1. However, with this new knowledge, comes the understanding that it is a much more complex topic than can be fully mastered in just a few sessions over the course of a few months. However, I feel that I now at least have the understanding needed to work with someone who has more experience and I will be able to communicate my ideas in a better fashion moving forwards. This will be confirmed or busted as Niklas and I move on to the next phase of writing and he lets me share my ideas. Hopefully I am right in my assessment.
One Page Pitch, Logline, Tagline
Having discussed the one page pitch during the writing cluster, then more deeply with Tam - whose pitch was the example in the discussion - and having now created two separate project pitches myself, I definitely feel 100% more confident in this area. I feel that the One Page Pitch is a fantastic tool and one which I will definitely continue to use with future projects as I found it was a great way for me to get my basic idea into a physical format that I can share with others for fast and direct feedback. Being only one page, people tend to be less put off and are more likely to read it. I know from my own experience that I prefer to receive smaller documents like this that get to the point and, if it is interesting, I will ask for more to read. I have also found this to be the case from those I have sent my own work to. As for loglines and taglines, they are part of the one page pitch and I feel I have a better understanding of them. However, they too are far too intricate a subject to master in such a short space of time. A good logline and tagline takes practice. To be able to encapsulate an entire story, theme and grab attention is a skill that many wish to master.
Short Treatment & Long Treatment
I mentioned in my introduction that I have written treatments for my music videos and for a few short films. I have since learned that they were Long Treatments as they map out the entire story, scene by scene. When my academic advisor suggested I write a four page treatment for my project, I was rather worried and stressed at first as I had no idea how I would structure something in such a short amount of space. Working with Niklas, who has experience writing treatments as his job, really opened my eyes to the different stages of the writing process and how each tool provides its own purpose. When he told me that a short treatment was like an extended beat sheet, that was when it really clicked for me. It was at this moment that I also realised the importance of letting someone with more experience do what they are good at, as what took him a few hours in an afternoon, would have taken me the entire module to figure out.
Working with a writer
In my skills audit, I marked this one as amber (I use a traffic light colour coding system, where Red is least comfortable/knowledgeable/most important to focus on, Amber is medium and Green is important, but where I feel more/most confident already). The reason I marked it that way is because I have previously worked with writers on developing ideas, both my own and ideas of theirs where I was hired as an actor. I have also collaborated with others when writing songs and other projects, which in my mind are similar in their approach.
There were times during the process of working with Niklas when I got flashbacks to several of those earlier collaborations and realised that I had been suffocating the writers’ creativity by holding onto my ego and being far too controlling. This opened my eyes to the fact that a collaborative and creative process needs to be just that, collaborative and creative. Louise [Salter] and I had several discussions where she shared moments where she had collaborated with writers and gave me some great advice about making sure to have contracts form an early stage, that clearly define the nature of the relationship and project; who owns what, who controls what, what are each person's rights and responsibilities?
Niklas and I had discussed these things at the start of working together, but haven't created an official contract. Throughout the process I have noticed that our opinions and wants have started to grow apart and I feel that before we move on to the next stage we should definitely discuss this, and put everything into writing so that we have a point of reference in the future, should any issues or uncertainties arise. I believe this will give us both some peace of mind and help iron out potential inconsistencies from the outset.
Luckily both Niklas and I are both very open and diplomatic people, I think the fact that we are both Swedish helps. Two of my Green marked soft skills are in fact; Communication and Clarity of vision which has definitely helped on this front, as well as Confidence, Stamina and Patience. The latter has also been a large help during these times as it has taken all three to be able to switch up my focus twice and to keep going after receiving feedback that was not in line with what I believed in my head at the time. My Time Management has also been a huge asset as well. I went from believing I had four months to work on a completely different project than I ended up with, to having six weeks that coincided with the festive period during which I have also been working 12 hour night shifts.
Reflecting back over this period I can see that my worries were in a way unwarranted, as I have in fact managed to touch on all of the skills I intended to work on and feel that I have learned more thanks to (and despite of) the current circumstances.
As I am writing this I can already feel the relief of closing this chapter and am excited to begin the next phase of my filmmaking journey. With a renewed clarity of vision where I have shifted my focus back to my own personal overarching goal of producing work for me to act in myself. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to work specifically on my acting as a module within this program.
This module has really thrown me into the deep end of my own internal process and forced me to be brutally honest with my own evaluation of where it is I want to go and what I want to achieve as a filmmaker. I now know with 100% certainty that I do not want to be a writer, and that although I enjoy coming up with ideas and developing them, the act of actually sitting down and writing them out myself is to me like pulling teeth. I have discovered that I do love collaborating with someone who is as open and communicative as Niklas is and am incredibly lucky to have the chance to be able to work so closely with him moving forwards. I believe that the process of working with him will continue to bring new lessons and experience that will allow me to grow in ways that I have yet to imagine. I am incredibly intrigued to see where this new path will lead for us.
Working with Louise has already opened my eyes to opportunities and ways I can approach my work moving forwards as a producer, an actor and also as a coach. We have discussed how I can approach my acting module, how to take all of the acting techniques I have learned over the years and apply them to different acting scenarios within our script. This way I can compare and contrast them and discover how different combinations of methods can bring out different results and what works best in each moment within a scene. This we both believe could have the potential of being a truly interesting and new perspective on the various techniques of acting and may even lead to something publishable within the field.
Moving on from this module, Niklas and I will continue to work on the story and use what we have created so far to continue building the characters and plot. I think the next step will be a long form treatment and then a first draft of the script from Niklas, which I can then chime in on. While he focuses on that, I will begin my work on exploring the key elements of a Pitch Package in order to attract potential investors and gain financing for the production of our film which we plan to begin pre.production for in September 2021.
Ackerman, Hal (2003) Write Screenplays That Sell: The Ackerman Way [15th Anniversary Edition], Tallfellow Press
Cowgill, Linda J. (2005) Writing Short Films: 2nd Edition - Structure and Content for Screenwriters, Lone Eagle
Gulino, Paul Joseph (2004) Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach, Bloomsbury
SEAM (2012) Story Design, Shared Experience Art Machine
Simens, Dov S-S (2003) From Reel To Deal, Warner Books
Election Night (1998) Dir. Anders Thomas Jensen
Skin (2018) Dir. Guy Nattiv
The Lunch Date (1989) Dir. Adam Davidson