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5 Stages of Production: Film Making and Novel Writing (DEVELOPMENT)

Hello Fans, Friends, and Fellow Film Fanatics,

Today I am going to starting our journey of going in depth talking about the 5 major stages of production in any creative project.  But for the sake of focus and clarity, I will be using Film making and Novel writing as examples in this post.  Most of you who are familiar with the stages of production probably are thinking “Hey, there are only three right?”

This is truth, but there are also book end stages that often get overlooked that are crucial to the success of a project—Your Project.  Yes, that one deep inside of you that you ache to create or finish, but never have the “Time” or the “Resources” to put into action.  My hope is that this list of steps will encourage you and show you the way to completing your dream project.  Now, what are those masterful stages that will help you to get this brilliant idea of yours off the ground?

They are The Stages of Development, Pre-Production, Production, Post Production, and Distribution.  Over 5 focused posts, we will slowly dig a little deeper into each stage and find out what the details are of each one.

So let’s get started shall we?

First up is…

THE DEVELOPMENT STAGE (Concept Idea/Treatment/Funding)

This stage is possibly one of the most difficult to pull together and also the launching pad for your big project—your “Baby” as my former College Professors used to call it.  The idea is deep in your mind at this point, struggling to get out of your head and no matter how hard you push or force yourself to sit in front of your computer or empty canvas, your mind drifts and two hours are wasted on browsing Facebook, useless internet sites, or imagining beautiful concepts in your mind without ever laying a brush stroke.  So, the answer you have been waiting for— the answer to the question “How do I get this idea started?”

The answer is simple.  Effort, Pain, Work, More Work, Early Mornings and Late Nights, Determination and a Rigorous schedule.  Don’t give up and don’t quit, because this stage requires determination and without it, your idea just becomes a ghost in the back of your mental closet that could have been.  Once you have found your center so to speak and got it through your head that “You CAN do this!” then you are ready to Develop it, nurture it, and grow it into something bigger than yourself.  A self propelling and self sustaining project that you bring to life over the course of several months.

When it comes to film making or writing a television screenplay–or even a novel, the development stage is spent in solitude.  I like to spend a few hours a day alone writing everything that I can possibly think of on paper.  It is like sitting in a living room full of characters that you created and scribing the entire conversation and listening to their stories of adventure.  Don’t think of this stage as a rough draft or you will cripple yourself though.  There is a word for this kind of writing and it is “Treatment”–writing a brief look into the world you are creating that gives You, Producers and Investors a clear idea of what your project is and more importantly what they are putting money into.  As I am currently working on a Screenplay for my Television Series known as “Faceless”, this stage meant that I wrote many many scenes that may or may not end up in the final product–at least not for many episodes.  doing this is not only for the Producers and to acquire funding, but for you to get a feel for your characters and witness them in many different situations and acclimate you to the world you will spend the next year of your life fully invested in before you start on a journey with them.  You don’t just venture off with a complete stranger, but you will accept a conquest with a good friend.

Once you have a grouping of Treatments you are satisfied with that give you an insight into the mind and personality of your character and the essence of your fictional world, then you are ready to begin!  Begin writing the Script, or the Novel!  After a series of practice paintings to get the right brush strokes and color schemes, Paint that masterpiece!  There are several ways to do this process of beginning and who you talk to will reveal different styles and paths.  Everyone’s creative process is different (if they were all the same, it would defeat the purpose of calling it creativity) so don’t expect yours to match up perfectly with someone else and their style.  By the way, this may mean that your piece that your poured your heart and soul into will take some time in order to click with an audience.  Be patient and don’t give up in that stage!  The way that I personally write a piece and “Begin” a project is that I break all of the plot points into note cards.  I made 5 major points per episode of Faceless that correlated with the 5 major plot points of the first season.  Once I had those, I broke every note card into 3 more cards that were in an Arc Method.

What is the Arc Method?  Under one of my note cards, I place three note cards in a chart.  One represents the RISING ACTION, one represents the CLIMAX, and another the DENOUEMENT (Or Falling Action) of the particular moment or plot point.  My advice would be that if you so choose to go this route with your writing method, be sure to break all of your note cards down into as many arcs as you can.  Find the simplest form of every idea.  As I am structured and like order in my work, I use different colors to show arcs that are pieced together through different episodes as characters’ stories are broken up and intertwined throughout the season in Television Screenplays to create drama and suspense.  This simple choice makes your wall or floor of information more clear and understandable–Believe me!

Once you have all of your note cards finished and have them in the arrangement that you want them to be in (this may take several weeks), you will be ready to begin the next phase of Development as it pertains to scriptwriting.  Writing the Pilot!  (Or the Prelude or First Chapter if you are writing a Novel).

The Pilot or First Chapter of your project is probably the most difficult to write and requires the most attention to detail as this is where everything stems from and is under a microscope.  Audiences are reaching out, searching, craving a connection and sense of intrigue in your piece and If your pilot episode or first chapter is not captivating and character driven then the audience will change the channel or put the book back on the shelf and keep that $8.99 in their pocket instead of yours.  Not that money is the most important thing.

Once your final Pilot script is clean cut and has been through at least 10 trusted editors’ hands, torn apart, rewritten, edited, edited some more, and driven you mad until you get it polished and completed (or as close to it as you can before releasing it to the world), you are ready to shop it around.  Writing is difficult business and it never is a slow process.  In my opinion, the slower the process, the less interesting the content, because you don’t give it time to take out all the bugs in your story and leave plot holes.

In the next post I will explain how this process continues into the Pre-Production Stage!  So stay tuned!

Signing Out

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