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  • Writer's pictureChloe Cobb

If There's An Emergency - Production Blog #3

IS IT CHEESY IF I WRITE FADE IN HERE? I FEEL LIKE IT’S CHEESY, BUT I’M GOING TO DO IT ANYWAY


The first draft of If There’s An Emergency was terrible.


I should give some context. As I wrote in my previous post (and if you haven’t read that post, you should go do that and then come back and also subscribe to my blog and share this with your friends), If There’s An Emergency started out as a dream. I woke up in the middle of the night, dream fresh on my mind…and I rushed to grab my phone and write down everything I could remember.


The next morning I booted up Celtx - I was still using it - and wrote a very fast draft of a script based on the dream, basically just summarizing it  with different characters. It was bare bones, but it got the idea across.


REWRITE, REWRITE, REWRITE, REWRITE


Every following draft of the script was about addressing something from the preceding one, and I had a mostly consistent process and very inconsistent timeline in writing them. This involved sending them to peers for notes, examining the characters, plot, and themes, what would work on a budget, and what I was truly interested in filming. I would then lay these out with all of the general plot points and character beats, before finally putting pen to paper. Or, finger to key.


Draft 1 had the basic plot and created Harper and the kids: Sarah and Patrick (they had different names at this point).


Draft 2 spent time ironing out the central conflict of the film, particularly between Harper and Sarah, as well as playing with a side character.


Draft 3 was an attempt to make the story more cinematic and interesting. It involved stop-motion ants. It never really made a lot of sense.


Draft 4 nixed the ants and instead redirected Harper’s personal conflict by way of a new character, Kendall, with Sarah and Patrick caught in the middle.


Drafts 5 and 6 developed this conflict further, and I was proud of 6 in particular. I almost filmed it, but shifted focus to filming the short documentary Lavender (check it out on Red Coral Universe!)


Draft 7 came two years later, and completely overhauled the whole thing. It moved locations, got rid of the inhuman monsters of the earlier drafts, introduced a new antagonist, ironed out the conflicts of Harper, Sarah, Kendall, and did a lot to ground and humanize the story in a way that was missing before.


I now knew that this was the version of the story I wanted to tell, so I started preparation for the final draft.


RESEARCH? WHAT IS THIS, YOUR DISSERTATION?


Story in mind, I wanted to do everything I could do to make it feel real. Not realistic, but real. Characters we could relate to, a setting rooted in a lived-in world, storytelling that followed its own set of logic.


My research took two forms:


1). Academic Research - this is the boring part. This was academic articles, books, podcasts, interviews, videos, all to gain the real life context for elements of the film.


For example: Harper wants to start a podcast. I have never started a podcast. So I researched everything involved in starting a podcast - what equipment you should use, how you should structure it, how are other podcasts put together, what are the early obstacles to podcasting, how do you choose a podcast topic, etc.


This was pretty involved, and the podcasts aren’t even a huge element of the script compared to the other story elements.


2.) Inspirational Research - this is the fun part. I looked at movies, TV shows, video games, comics, books, paintings, photography, and even some creepypastas to see how other storytellers have handled similar stories as my own. How did they use writing, color, sound, music, space, or anything else to tell their story? 


Eventually I researched enough that my gut could no longer contain it - and I started writing.


LET THERE BE WORDS


My actual writing comes out best when I do it all at once. Even this blog post, which has had some dabbled drafts, was written in its current draft in one sitting. It’s easier to keep a train of thought when you’re not having to return to a story later.


Draft 8 was written in two sittings over two days. 


Script writing is a lot like corralling, in the sense that not only are you having to control the pace and tone of the script and watch the page count, but you need to keep the characters in check.


But Chloe, you write the characters, can’t you just make them do what you want?


Thank you for that interjection, anonymous reader that I just made up in my head! One of the weirder things to explain about writing to non-writers - not that everyone reading this is a non-writer - is that in a lot of ways, you don’t really have control. Sure, you’re writing the words, but you need to pay attention to the characters. What do they want? How do they speak? How would they react to something that just happened? This can get tricky, since sometimes right in the middle, you realize something that you outlined doesn’t work for a character, and they do something completely different you have to account for.


On the other hand, you’re also corralling the pacing. You might have a full sequence planned out, with all sorts of dialogue and movements, only to realize that the whole thing is dragging and you need to cut it short. 


In the case of If There’s An Emergency, this happened a lot. These characters have full backstories and personalities and a lot of time was spent to make sure they behaved as such.


This script was a blast to write. I’ve had these characters living in my head for years, and I loved being able to subject them to mortal terror and life-threatening situations, somehow all under 18 pages.


And now the script is done and I am extremely proud of it. I am now working on my storyboards and other pre-visualization material, and I am very excited for everyone to see the words put to film.

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