Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nuts 'n' Bolts - Treatment Workshop

Next up on the March schedule is a 5 day workshop with Paul Chitlik who flies in to sunny Perth from LA tomorrow. Starting Wednesday there will be a total of 15 hours of seminars, time allocated for one on one meetings and very tight daily deadlines for treatment pages. Yes, in 5 days we will have completed a Hollywood style 25-35 page treatment of our feature film idea. There are two of these treatment workshops with 8 projects in each. I'm in the first wave with an older script of mine - a conspiracy thriller - that has recently found favour with a local director. I had sent it to him as a writing sample so good outcome all round.

Originally set on the docks and in the boardrooms of corporate Australia during a time of major industrial strife, we're now moving it to the mining industry (uranium no less) and a radical environmental group (instead of union). While this involves both research and a rethink of settings and mindset, I was happy to do this at the director's suggestion as really it is the story of two intertwined father-son relationships - one a complete fracture, the other a reconciliation - in a time of violent conflict and battle for dominance... over business, over ideology, over each other.

Already there has been preparatory work - breaking the story down into its seven key structure points: Ordinary world, inciting incident, First Act turning point, Midpoint, Low point, Climax and Resolution as well as identifying the premise. Then we had to write a full beat sheet using those structure points as signposts. This proved interesting as I had a full draft script plus notes from a development submission with proposed changes. I did the first cut based on the existing script, then incorporated the changes, then made adjustments from the director's feedback on the resultant beat sheet. The story is in a state of evolution so there are some placeholders in there, particularly the climax. I'm sure the details will get plenty of focus in the blowtorch of the workshop. Which is exactly what I'm after.

Another interesting aspect is that each team shares its project with everyone else. I therefore have the beat sheets of 7 other projects to read and what a diverse bunch they are - horror, satire, romantic-comedy, drama, period pieces, action, the full gamut! Having done an online course with Paul I suspect we will all have an opportunity to comment on each others work which will throw up different perspectives and informed discussion. The details of each project "stays in the room" but it's a good way to gain insight into your own story and also hone your craft skills when you have to give constructive feedback on stories in genres you may not normally gravitate to.

I am looking forward to the workshop, meeting Paul in person, working with other local writers, and adding to my writing 'toolkit'. These building blocks - structure points, premise, beat sheet, treatment - are a valuable way to get your story, characters and structure into shape before getting anywhere near opening your screenwriting software of choice. You would be surprised the amount of time this can save you in the long run!

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