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Posted on March 10, 2014 - by writerman
the first step to writing a screenplay
The other day, a friend who wants to write his first script asked me for advice on how to get started. I love answering that question, for two reasons:
1. The first step is my favorite
2. No actual writing is involved
Here’s what I told my friend. The critical first step in writing a movie of your very own is:
Make a playlist
Totally serious. All the cool kids are doing it. Put together a playlist of tracks that you can listen to while you are working. Keep in mind that the goal here isn’t to pick songs that will end up in the movie, but to pick songs that get across the feeling you want the movie to evoke. I also like to include songs that represent important characters. Then I put it on repeat1 while I’m working. It really helps you get in the right headspace, especially when shifting gears between multiple projects.
The longer I’ve been working on a script, the more songs end up in the playlist. I’m always adding new tracks that capture the tone of a certain scene or personality of a minor character. Because scouring the web for music is the best kind of procrastination cleverly disguised as work.
Here’s the playlist I’ve got on repeat today – music for writing the high school comedy. After months of typing and re-typing, the playlist has evolved into a pretty eclectic beast, but the tunes generally fall into three categories:
1. The sounds of the setting
The story is set in a huge public school in Washington D.C., held down by the sounds of Tupac, Biggie and Dr. Dre.
2. Main character music
The hero is a freshman who’s trying to survive his first day in the tangled jungle of high school. He’s a “diplobrat” who had been attending elite private schools while getting dragged around the globe by his diplomat dad, until an incident2 at school in Japan gets him booked on the first plane home to D.C. to live with his moms and attend Hamilton High. He sounds like new-school hipster acts Phoenix and Vampire Weekend.
3. The glorious 80’s
And, because it’s been more than a few years since my last pep rally, this playlist is packed with 80s jams that take me back to a simpler, emotionally-tumultuous time to reconnect with my high-school-self. So yeah, The Cure & The Smiths, but also The Outfield and Cheap Trick. Plus, a bonus track in honor of John Hughes that might just be the best use of music in a movie, like, ever.
Enjoy. And thanks to the Internets for making this so much easier than it used to be.
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