Today, a story idea I have been mulling over for some time was kicked off in an innovative way (at least innovative for the me!) – in a writing group. Over the last few months, lots of opportunities have been coming our way and I needed very much to generate some new screenplays, and this one, ‘The Nightwatcher’, was an obvious contender.
The story, set at a film studios (to be shot overnights at Ealing Studios) and is about a security guard and Production Assistant who works on a paranormal reality show… After a precipitating event, the girl starts to see the ghost of a Victorian woman, and together, they begin to piece together the past to unravel the mystery…
So I asked Lyn O’Donell help out in selecting and heading up a team of writers to put this story into an accelerated script development process, through the mechanism of a writing group. Today was the first day of that process. We plan to meet every weekend until within a very short time frame, we have an excellent first draft.
At 11am, nine writers arrived at Ealing Studios, and together with Lyn and myself, we rolled up our sleeves, got stuck in and developed the story for five hours or so.
I had some fears that egos and personalities could cause problems, but everyone in the room immediately ‘got with the idea’ of writing in a team, and writing very quickly. This is in large part due to Lyn pre selection process too, I think.
By the end of the day we had a whole new structure, a significantly strengthened story idea and characters that were more rounded and thought through. For me it was an incredibly motivating event that I considered 100% productive and successful.
I have had a few emails from some of the guys on the team and so far, the feedback has been positive and very enthusiastic…
It was a really exciting day, working with such a diverse and talented team. We came up with ideas that none of us would have had if we’d been working on our own. And it was great fun. Really great fun. Chris and Lyn brought focus and kept us on track while we played with story ideas, batting them about between us. The hallmark of great consultation is when the group comes out with a product that everyone feels proud of, but no one can remember who suggested which bit. It feels like it belongs to all of you. That’s what this was like. Rod
What we did do though in a group of eight, along with yourself and Lyn, was knock out an astonishing amount of ideas, possible plots, twists, theories and variations on the simple theme of A Nightwatchman guarding a film studio at night and and his relationship to one of its other employees. The day worked well in roughly two hour bursts of creative thought before the blur of ideas and other possibilites tended to fog minds and slow tongues, but a quick coffee break, gulp of air and stroll through small groups of Dickensian extras let loose from their set soon sorted that.
By the end of the afternoon it was quite clear to see the story we had settled on its rough beginnings and development and the script it could become. As you yourself pointed out for the next couple of months weekends won't be spent idling over that second cup with the papers in Starbucks, shopping or watching the footie, we'll be writing a movie that is going to get made. Hopefully see you next weekend. Mark
I really enjoyed today, I thought it was productive and much more interesting than sitting at home alone laughing to yourself at what you come up with and then feeling a bit foolish… Definitely enjoyed working with the Disney method and bouncing ideas off people and would very much like to continue with it – I think we could get a great script and would be very excited to be a part of writing it! Personally, I'm excited that the project is going to happen fast and is aiming to be really great and also marketable – I think good films are good, but good films which are also popular are great. Films which communicate to no-one and only reach an elite are missing the point, and don't make very good business sense! I want to be prolific and versatile, so the fast, cheap and good approach works for me! Loved working in a team and think we all keep each other upbeat and challenged throughout the day and thought it was a great mix of people and creative working styles. Thanks very much for asking me to come along and well done to yourself and Lyn on a successful first meeting! Abigail
I found the experience exhilarating. From one basic outline so many different ideas poured out, and all of them were solid variations on the same story, and as the day progressed it was good to consciously whittle down ideas, or follow avenues of thought, snowballing, even if a few took us down a dead end. For me as an individual to explore all these paths would take me a lot longer than a day. Andrew
You know, this might just work and what a really great way to write scripts… Thanks Lyn for reading 100’s of script samples to put such and band of brothers and sisters together.
Onward and upward!
Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author
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