Dispatch from The Quest: Brandon Cohen

November 28th, 2012 by

The Quest participants have been hard at work pounding out a first draft of their original screenplays, but Brandon has found the time to compose a dispatch for us.

I’m back from the dead. I hope you’ve all been able to get by without me. I trust it’s been a rough road. I’m making some serious strides with my first draft. I’ve written more in five weeks than I used to write in five months. It’s not that I’m any more vested in this story than I was in my past stories, it just further proves to me the value of a detailed outline prior to actually sitting down to write. There are some things that I’ve tweaked along the way and some holes I’ve filled as the story presents itself, but having the knowledge of where I’m going with this thing makes everything so much easier.

We learned a ton from Scott’s class, and I have pages of notes to prove it. Between Scott’s class, all the books I’ve read, and all the info I’ve gotten from various other screenwriting blogs, when I actually sat down to write, I panicked for a bit. I was kinda overthinking everything. There were so many tips and tricks of the trade floating through my head, I was worried that there were a lot of things I was forgetting. It reminded me of my golf swing. I’m a terrible golfer, but like most golfers, I have some flashes of brilliance. Whenever I take a lesson, the first session I have back on the course by myself is usually a nightmare. I’m trying to remember what he said about my arms, and my knees, and my shoulders, and I’m trying to do so many things that it ends up just screwing me up. I play my best when I try to keep those things in mind, but I’m not obsessing over them, I try and keep my swing natural and have some fun with it.

That’s what I learned to do with this first draft. For the most part, all of the things we learned with Scott, I applied to my extremely detailed outline, and I’ll come back to it during the rewrite. But for the first draft, I just wanted to write. I wanted to get everything down and most of all, I wanted it to be entertaining. In the first draft, my guiding principle was simply “don’t be boring.” If I hit all the beats, the characters are fleshed out, and it feels original, none of that will matter if the scenes that make up the movie are boring. All the tips I’ve learned will be invaluable when I come back for the rewrite and punch this thing up, but I think that to get too wrapped up in all the technical aspects of writing in a first draft will just detract from your natural creativity.

When it comes to the rewrite, it won’t be that difficult to fix subplots, punch up my action lines and cut down scenes, but it would be extremely overwhelming and demoralizing if I read through the entire thing and found it to be dull. In my opinion, it’s way harder to fix “this is really boring” than it is to fix “this is really long.” Just like with my golf swing, for my first draft I’m just going to try and do what feels natural and have some fun with it, and when I return to it for the rewrite, I’ll come at it with more of an analytical eye.

Well said, young Padawan. To invert the comment: It’s much easier to fix “this is really long” than “this is really boring.”

To that point, I told the Questers not to worry about page count in this first draft, rather focus on finding the entertainment in the story.

About Brandon: NYC native, fan of all things comedy. I cry every time I watch Big Fish, Forrest Gump and Marley & Me. Don’t judge me. Twitter: @brandandco.

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