Transforming Adversity into Script

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Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

As I’ve mentioned in previous postings, moving abroad has certainly presented itself with its challenges. One experiences this sort of honeymoon period where it feels like you’re on a leisurely and meandering vacation. Additionally, a lot of Stockholm’s residents pick up and leave in the summer making it feel like you have the whole city to yourself. My photos looked so desolate that my Facebook and Instagram friends were asking where all the people were. It reminded me of how Danny Boyle was able to shoot the abandoned London scenes in 28 Days Later. BAMM! Idea in my head! Because there aren’t nearly enough zombie apocalypse movies out there, I figure it’s time to make a Scandinavian zombie movie. I’ve been using  PocketPocket_App_Logo to store my articles and research from the web. It’s a convenient & free method of storing news articles and web pages across all my devices.

Meanwhile, apartment/house-hunting has been a literal nightmare here in Stockholm. I don’t know how many outside of Sweden are aware, but the whole nation has a housing crisis on its hands. In the span of 272 days, we’ve stayed in 3 different dwellings. We lucked into our current long-term apartment through friends of friends. All the while scanning the expat groups, I noticed a common trend of families moving here on work visas whose situations have gone south for varying reasons. Myself being an expat attempting to establish myself in a new country, I certainly had underlying feelings of vulnerability to say the least. One night, after hours of applying to different jobs, I started Googling weird stuff in Stockholm. After several variations in search prompts, I came across the “abandoned” subway station on the Blue Line. Apparently, it’s an unfinished station that the subway just blows through without stopping due to a planned community that’s never been developed. Of course there are plenty of urban legends regarding the abandoned station. BAMM#2-ELECTRIC-BOOGALOO! Now I got an idea for a short film!

Inside my head ideas are brewing for developing the script for my short story, but where do I start? Back in film school, one of the screenwriting books that worked really well for fleshing out my ideas was Screenplay Workbook: The Writing Before the Writing, which was a step-by-step guide to outlining your screenplay. I thought it was an invaluable tool to use before actually writing the script to help give me a solid foundation of what it was about. Essentially, the steps are:

  1. Figuring out what GENRE your movie is
  2. Who your CHARACTERS are
  3. Where the story takes place, or LOCATION
  4. What’s your BUDGET?
  5. Who’s your AUDIENCE?
  6. CONTENT of your story, what’s in it?
  7. PERSONAL INTERESTS – what do you want to put in the story?
  8. STORY IMPRESSION – a summarising paragraph combining all the above elements into a basic description of your story

Based on the ideas in my head, I have a low-budget, short suspense/thriller based on an expat family moving to Sweden geared for the film-festival circuit. The movie will contain elements of drama punctuated with supernatural VFX. The ideas I want to touch on are vulnerability and risk when emigrating to a new country.

So, now that I have a basic concept of what kind of short movie I’d like to develop, the first thing on my list is developing my characters. Naming your characters can often elude a screenwriter in the beginning. I go to my favourite free app, Character Generator by Michelle Ran, available on both iOS & Android. It allows you to specify gender (including non-binary) and ethnicity to generate culturally realistic sounding names. If you’re not even sure who your characters are, you can randomise the parameters explore the results. It will even give you the personality traits and hobbies of the generated character.

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Now that I’ve got their names, I’m going to develop their characters. The Screenplay Workbook: The Writing Before the Writing has a great chapter on developing characters along with guided exercises and worksheets. Another choice that you have for character development is Wonder Unit’s free desktop app Characterizer that I’ve reviewed in The $0 Budget Software Blog. It’s essentially a digital character development worksheet. Personally, I’ll be using it in conjunction with the workbook above, but the free software by Wonder Unit will surely help you learn more about the inner workings of your characters.

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Well, that’s it for now. Once I’m done with creating detailed characters for my script, my next step will charting out the story and plot line of my short film. See you next time!

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