How I Got My Script Turned Into a Movie
It Wasn't That Hard, Really.
I’m a writer. Usually I write about real stuff that I know something about, but sometimes I like to just make stuff up. Lots of writers do this. Some writers make quite a good living making stuff up. Even if you don’t make a living at it, though, you too can get your work turned into something that people (other than your family and friends, that is) will see. This is the story of how I was able to write a screenplay and get it turned into an actual short film that people have seen in a theater, in spite of having no knowledge of the filmmaking process.
Step One: Write Something!
Other, cleverer folks have said that the biggest obstacle in most writers’ paths is the fact that they haven’t actually written anything. If you want to get a book published or a movie made, you need to write it first, all the way through, from beginning to middle to end. Finish it, proofread and edit it, and then stop fiddling with it. Call it finished. Well done! Maybe your script’s not that great, but you’re already ahead of 90% of everybody who wants to make a movie. Now that you’ve got your script finished, you need to get it turned into a movie. This can be incredibly difficult. It can also be as easy as … a really easy thing.
- myspace page for the Mitten Movie Project
MySpace Filmmaker profile for Mitten Movie Project. Watch, movie clips & trailers from Mitten Movie Project, including films, movies & documentaries.
Some of the Folks Who Made the Film
Step Two: Find People to Help You.
I mentioned that before my movie was made, I had no filmmaking skills at all. I still shouldn't be a director. Does this mean my movie is crap? Nope, it’s really good, though I say it myself. What’s my secret? I found some people who knew what they were doing, convinced them that shooting my script was a good idea, and got the heck out of their way. Easy. If you want to make a movie and you don’t know how, this is probably the best way to go about it.
Of course, it helped that I already knew some people in the local independent filmmaking community. I put the word out that I had a script and was looking for someone who could help me turn it into a finished film. The person who ended up in charge of the project turned out to be a guy I’d never actually met. We knew each other only by reputation. But after a phone conversation, we were comfortable enough with each other that I felt good about having him work on my script, and he was confident that I wouldn’t interfere too much with his work.
Oh, you don’t know people who make movies? Well, dust off those social skills and go make some friends. Go to film festivals. Find out where folks are getting together afterward for snacks and drinks. Find out who directed your favorite films and introduce yourself to them. Ask them questions about their films. Get to know them. I’m not saying suck up to people just so they’ll make your movie (more often than not, this will backfire on you), but rather you should genuinely make friends with people in your local film scene. Once you know a few people, mention that you’ve got a script. Even if your new friends are busy with their own projects (and filmmakers are often busy with their own projects) they might know someone who’s looking for a script.
Step Three: Learn to Let Go.
Look, as a writer, especially one with no filmmaking skills of your own, you’re going to have to turn your work over to someone who isn’t you, and you’re just going to have to trust them enough to make a good film out of your script. The script will get changed. No, it’s not “probably” going to get changed. It will get changed. Deal with that. It’s part of the filmmaking process. The director might have a cool idea that he wants to get in. An actor may bust out with a really funny ad-lib. Budget constraints, time constraints, or the location's physical layout may drive some of the changes. It doesn’t really matter, because the end result is the same: the final product will not match the film you saw in your head. That’s okay.
No, really. It’s fine. You’re going to have to tell yourself this over and over again until you believe it. In any case, the only way you’ll be able to get your concept from script to screen with no alterations is to be George Lucas. And you saw ep1*, right? Anyway, there will be change. Embrace the change. Let the folks who know what they’re doing make the movie. They've paid you a very high compliment by taking your words from the page to the screen. They deserve your trust. Give it.
*George, if you're reading this, I'm incredibly grateful to you for Star Wars and Indiana Jones and all that. But really, Jar-Jar?
But Suppose I Want to do it Myself?
Oh, you can go ahead and do it on
your own. I’m a big believer in the do-it-yourself spirit. To quote author Tony
Hawks, “Things can be done. The people who get them done are the ones who know
that. The rest is everyone else.” But making a movie is an expensive
undertaking. Unless you have some experience or training, figure on maybe
tripling the budget (in both time and money) for your film, since you’ll need
to re-do everything several times, and will probably have to occasionally
stop production for a while to replace the folks who’ve gotten frustrated with
you and walked out. So yeah, you can shoot a movie with no training or skill, but if you try, you'll need to get your how-to advice from someone else. I just write stuff down. Writing is cheap and easy. Filmmaking? That's hard.