So it's 2015. I seem to find myself awe struck at those numbers. Of course, It's really about the amount of time that has passed since I began the film makers path. I'll try to steer clear of any fluffy 'Enlightenment' tales but that may prove to be a difficult task. The simple notion of sharing a little personal journey with you or simply looking back in time could be the enlightenment itself. Well, if not for the reflection to see if I've learned a anything since I began. Especially by looking at a younger self portrait as an example of progress in small independent film making.
My current film effort (DIRTY BILL OF HEALTH ) initially was a 55 page pilot script, that ended up transforming into an 80 page feature screenplay, after many (UN-happy) re-writes. Switching formats (TV script to a three act feature film) was an interest challenge that still wasn't working. Luckily, I loved the characters so much I stuck with it. I humbled myself by being the harsh critic and dumped all the crap I wrote and went back to the basics of the characters. I was left with fifteen pages. Yes, after all that I was left with 15 pages... that I was HAPPY with.
Pushing it a tad further, I then decided that If I couldn't have a feature film at this point, I was still going to challenge myself with an experiment. So I applied a little simple math to my story by moving a decimal point on the standard 120 page, three act feature screenplay template to my 15 page short story. FYI- The final film is 12 minutes (including credits- 12:45).
So to clarify further-
Feature Screenplay (give or take in each category)
Act 1 (30 pages) Act 2a (30 pages) Act 2b (30 pages) Act 3 (30 pages) = 120 pages
Dirty Bill Of Health (also give or take)
Act 1 (3 pages) Act 2a (3 pages) Act 2b (3 pages) Act 3 (3 pages) = 12 pages
Click to download the diagram
This was a fun experiment that I thought worked with this particular short story. I put it to the test by submitting to a few Festival Screenplay Contests. DIRTY BILL OF HEALTH managed to crack in to the TOP 5 short screenplays with the Eerie Horror Film Festival jury in late 2012.
Leaping into the past for a moment, I made a short in 2003 called ANNA LYNN as a part of an indie Anthology feature film with Three other film makers (Hell Hath No Fury- 2006). I recently posted the solo short piece online as a reminder for myself. I remember thinking AT THE TIME how awesome it was. I didn't want to cut any dialogue (Script and the editing room) because It was AMAZING. YIKES. My older, red faced, present self cringes watching it now. The actors did a great job with what I had them working with, but this 22 minute piece should have been 10 pages less. That was then. NOW, I'll force myself to watch it as an acknowledgement of maybe I've learned a few things since that time. More importantly though, it's humbling. I figure that in another 10 years from now, I may look at DIRTY BILL OF HEALTH and feel completely different about it, who knows. It's story telling from my point of view at this very moment in time and that's pretty cool.
Back to 2015, I suppose I was thinking if I couldn't have a full-movie with DIRTY BILL OF HEALTH, I was going to try to have a mini-movie (with a cliff hanger... the story DOES continue *Wink-Nudge*). The other challenge (which can be dangerous) was keeping it simple. Indoors, no fancy special effects. Just colourful characters. I asked myself: Is it enough? Can I write well enough to keep today's internet audience's attention? The answer... I don't know but I MUST try. Weather I succeeded or not in this challenge is completely up to the viewer, but I'm so happy about giving it a GO and putting it to the test.
The great thing about this whole challenge and experience is (as I currently tackle a few feature scripts) that I feel (or I'd like to believe) I won't let myself get away with lazy writing. I'll unleash my inner harsh critic. I think the best way to get a decent film is to spend all the time you need on the writing with out rushing through it. The challenge is bigger on 120 pages and most certainly must be done when you're doing it on your own.
In the end, It's your voice and storytelling. So don't be afraid to experiment and/or tell it the way you feel you must. But I always try to keep in mind that we all just want to tell stories. To make films & movies, having something to say, entertaining others and reaching an audience on some level.
Thanks for listening to my ramble and I hope sharing this may be helpful to someone!
Written by Rob Carpenter, Director of Dirty Bill of Health
DIRTY BILL OF HEALTH is an award winning short that has played in over 25 Film Festivals globally and continues through 2015.
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Watch the official trailer: