Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Screenwriting 101 - CSIF Workshop, part I

Once again, I have signed up for a screenwriting workshop at the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers. This year, it's a long format that spans both the spring and fall sessions of the CSIF workshop schedule. The intention is for us to finish the first draft of a feature length screenplay. So I've dusted off the screenplay that I was working on last year before I got sidetracked into filming shorts.

So, since it's still the same project as last year and I'm planning on moving a certain number of my writing posts off of Limes with Orange, my personal blog, I figured I'd start with my posts about last years course.

Originally posted 6.14.2006 on Limes with Orange

I've been all wrapped up in my screenwriting workshop that I took through the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers (CSIF). It finished tonight, so I thought I'd share some of the results of my writing exercises. My homework assignment was to get to know my main character better. To that end, I was supposed to write for one hour (the sort of timed writing that I always associate with Natalie Goldberg and Writing Down the Bones).

The first third was to be written in third person as an outward description of my character. The middle third was to be written in second person (holy crap, that's hard!) as I step closer to the character. The final third was to be written in first person, from the character's point of view. That last part flowed really well. My instructor, Jason Long (co-author of Turning Paige), said that he hears that a lot about this exercise. The third person stuff may be dry or judgemental or somesuch, the second person stuff is hard for almost everyone, but those are the necessary hurdles for the first person stuff to just flow and allow you to discover things about your character that you never knew before.

So I decided to be bold and post the various sections of my writing assignment on this here blog. Today's post shall be the third person section...

Read more...

Katrina Jones walks down the hall in her blue scrubs that identify her as a vet student, distinct from the green scrubs of a faculty vet or the red of a volunteer. Her mousy brown hair is in a convenient ponytail and her mildly pretty face is devoid of make-up. Her expression is pleasant but just distant enough to deter anyone but her closest friends from more than a casual hello.

She tugs at the long-sleeved T-shirt that she wears underneath her short-sleeved scrub top, even though the building is well-heated and nobody else appears cold. That long-sleeved shirt is the only thing about her that stands out. It's as if she's perfected the science of being average.

She walks past a lecture hall where first year students drowse in the darkened room as the physiology professor writes incomprehensible notes on the overhead. Past a group of third year students huddled around a bulletin board, searching the notices for the perfect summer externship. She nods a polite greeting to two of her fellow fourth years heading in the opposite direction in their blue coveralls, coming off of a large animal rotation.

Kat pushes through the swinging doors of the small animal surgery suite, then through another set of doors into the scrub room. She again nods her standard polite greeting to a vet and two other students who are already scrubbing up. Stepping up to one of the sinks, she removes her watch from her left wrist and an elastic band from her right. With a quick glance at the others to make sure no one is watching, she pulls up the sleeves of her long-sleeved shirt enough to allow her to scrub properly. Then she begins the meticulous process of scrubbing for surgery, one side of each four-sided finger at a time. A slight smile turns up the corners of her mouth, almost as if she were enjoying the feeling of the hard plastic brush on her sensitive skin.

Once finished, she enters the operating room, back first through the swinging doors, hands clasped together and held up as if in prayer, carefully not touching anything. One of the technicians helps her gown and glove up before she steps up to the table to perform her first feline spay. The instructor that she's assisted so many times before is now there to assist her.

He hands her a number 3 scalpel to make her first incision, which she does with none of the hesitation typically shown by students performing their first surgery. Something else about her that isn't average. This unexpected confidence is evident throughout the rest of the surgery.

Afterwards, she celebrates her first successful surgery in the cafeteria with Lorne, her best friend and fellow fourth year. They "clink" their Styrofoam cups of bitter coffee as Kat relates the details of the surgery. As she talks, Lorne notices a rare, unselfconscious animation of her features that is really quite becoming to her. What a pity he was gay.

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