I’ve been part of the Create50 community for a little over a month now. There I was sitting in Paris with summer flu, feeling sorry for myself, looking for any excuse not to do housework, when I came across yet another exhortation on Facebook to join Create50. I watched the 50 Kisses film and lo and behold! I was converted (it was a Sunday, hence the religious language).
This may sound overblown, but now I can’t imagine NOT being part of the project. It’s cemented friendships with existing members of my screenwriting tribe and forged new ones with people whose work I admire and who ‘get’ me (which is a big ask, what with my sardonic sense of humour and all). Besides, reading and reviewing scripts is oddly addictive and highly enjoyable.
It is so satisfying to see how the quality of scripts progresses from draft to draft. This assertion isn’t based on gut-feeling. I’ve got an Excel spreadsheet (courtesy of Dee Chilton), which I’ve been tinkering with to compare the ratings of each respective draft. The vast majority have shown improvement. Some have come on leaps and bounds.
Thinking about it this week, I’ve boiled down what I’ve learnt from the Create50 experience (so far) into the following five points:
When I first signed up, I did so with trepidation. ‘The Impact’ sounded a bit SciFi to me, and that’s not really my genre – or so I thought. I also didn’t think I could do comedy, I’d never done anything episodic and I considered myself a marathon-writer rather than a sprinter, more at home with a feature-length screenplay.
Ten two-minute screenplays later and I’ve written a comedy set on the International Space Station, as well as a spoof trilogy sending up Hollywood’s love of franchises (amongst other, more serious entries, of course). And fellow writers have laughed! To say that this has given a rocket-boost to my confidence in my abilities as a writer is no exaggeration.
2. Film School For A Fiver
I wish something like this had existed before I handed over large wodges of cash to do a year-long screenwriting course in London a couple of years back. It only costs £5 per script, which gives you three goes at getting it right. What’s more you can do it all from the comfort of your own home. No schlepping.
The discipline of the two-page limit is a brilliant exercise to make you tighten your action lines, pare back your dialogue and focus on the essential in every scene. If you’re the sort of person who learns by doing, then Create50 is for you.
3. There’s No Accounting For Taste
Not everybody is going to like your screenplay. Get over it. You can learn just as much, if not more, from someone who isn’t keen on your script. This is good practice for the real world which does not necessarily adhere to the excellent guidelines the Create50 team have put in place for the giving and receiving of feedback.
Look at it this way: if someone has taken time out of their busy day to write a review of your work, it means they see potential in it to be better. Of course, differences are going to arise and you may even experience the occasional revenge rating, but on the whole people play nice. They sincerely want to help you.
4. The Keys To The Kingdom: Formatting
While professional standard formatting is not going to get you through the door of the magic kingdom, it will certainly bar it against you. Turn in a poorly formatted script and you’ll go straight on the pass pile. Now that I’ve read over 225 scripts for ‘The Impact’ I understand why industry insiders insist on proper formatting. Anything else takes you out of the read and distracts you from the story.
Do yourself a favour: format your scripts properly. The Create50 team have arranged for a free 2-week trial of FINAL DRAFT, or alternatively you can download the free screenwriting software CELTX from the Internet. There’s no excuse.
5. Story Is King
You don’t necessarily have to be an experienced writer to come up with a good story. One of my personal favourites on the site is by a newbie writer. It’s exotic, visual and imaginative, and thanks to the review process he is learning the elements of screenwriting craft that will help him tell the story in a cinematic way.
From a submarine to the international space station, a brothel to a birthing pool, a church to a cave, there are stories with every setting imaginable, depicting the fears, foibles, generosity, chagrin and humour of humankind (with the occasional furry creature thrown in for good measure). The stories being submitted for this project will make you laugh, cry and feel inspired.
So what are you waiting for? Take the plunge. Get involved.