1, 2, 7, 14

February 8th, 2013 by

Here is a simple formula about three things — Read Scripts. Watch Movies. Write Pages. — you need to do to expand and deepen your understanding of the screenwriting craft.

4 numbers for you to remember:

1, 2, 7, 14.

1: Read 1 screenplay per week.

Pick out your favorite movies. Or do a genre study of several scripts in a row in one genre. Try scripts in genres you don’t particularly like to experience different tone and atmosphere. But every week, read at least 1 full-length movie screenplay.

2: Watch 2 movies per week.

Go to a theater and watch 1 movie for sheer entertainment value. Rub shoulders with a real crowd to remind you of your target audience. Then cue up Netflix or pop in a DVD, and watch 1 movie to study it. Note its major plot points. Better yet, do a scene-by-scene breakdown. Maybe 1 new movie, 1 classic movie. But every week, watch at least 2 feature-length movies.

7: Write 7 pages per week.

That’s one page per day. It may take you ten minutes, it may take you an hour, but however long it takes, you knock out a page per day so that every week, you produce 7 script pages.

14: Work 14 hours per week prepping a story.

This is how you will learn the fine art of stacking projects. While you are writing one story, you are prepping another. Research. Brainstorming. Character development. Plotting. Wake up early. Take an extended lunch break. Grab a few hours after dinner. Stay up late. Whatever it takes, carve out 2 hours per day for story prep. Create a master file Word doc. Or use a spiral notebook. Put everything you come up with into that file. You’d be amazed how much content you will generate in a month. Most professional screenwriters juggle multiple projects at the same time. Here’s how you can start learning that skill-set: Writing one project, prepping another. Two hours per day so that every week, you devote 14 hours to prep.

1, 2, 7, 14.

Those are simple, clear goals. Daily goals, weekly goals.

If you do this, here’s what you will have done in one year’s time:

You will have read 52 screenplays.

You will have watched 104 movies

You will have written 2 feature-length screenplays.

Spread that out over 5 years: 260 screenplays, 520 movies, 10 original screenplays.

That means you could have read every one of the top 101 screenplays as voted by the WGA, plus 159 more.

That means you could have seen every one of the IMDB Top 250 movies, plus 270 more.

That means you could have written the exact number of original screenplays Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Bodyguard, The Big Chill, Grand Canyon) wrote before he sold his first one.

All by setting these simple goals: 1, 2, 7, 14.

UPDATE: And now Sergio Barrejón has translated this post into Spanish on his blog here.

[Originally posted January 1, 2012]

6 thoughts on “1, 2, 7, 14

  1. Shaula Evans says:

    This is a great repost for the beginning of the year. I link to it all the time at forum and we talk about it all the time, too. I created a Film Club area to discuss what we learn from the films we’re watching and a Script Room to share thoughts on the scripts we’re reading. I find I get a sense of momentum from knowing other people are doing this, too–just like with GOYOQ.

    I’m working like a fiend to hit a deadline at the end of the month, but once I get past that, I really want to commit to this system and build good habits around stacking projects.

  2. Nice, Shaula. I worked on this formula last year, it’s in my face every morning and it does motivate, for sure. Compared to before, I do actually read a ton more screenplays now and after an initial writing slump, am working much faster. It certainly pays off if you keep going…

  3. One thing would be useful to add is a number for also generating ideas, like 2 ideas or more a week to keep us writers going….

    1. Shaula Evans says:

      That’s all great to hear, Aarthi. And what about an idea a day? When you interact with other people, read the news, or put any other information into your brain on a regular basis, it isn’t that hard once you build up the habit.

      P.S. You and I are kindred spirits: we have an Idea Factory at the forum, too!

  4. Hey Shaula, you have a point, I always get anal about making sure they are good ideas but you never know when one might just turn into one. I will certainly do that and check the forum too. Thanks!

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