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Observe and Interact With the First Draft

April 25, 2013

One of the twelve principles of Permaculture is to “Observe and Interact.” Wikipedia (I link here because I like the concept of free knowledge, though I realize it’s not perfect) expounds on the concept by stating, “By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.”

I think it can be helpful to keep this Permaculture principle in mind when writing the first draft of a screenplay. I do not think it’s a good idea to go into a first draft with a rigid structure that you feel you must adhere to. Creativity must be allowed to flourish. Not just allowed, but ameliorated. As you form that first draft, keeping the critical mind at bay, observe the nature of your story, let that nature dictate the structure. Don’t worry, the first draft does not have to be perfect, but it does have to be YOURS. The first draft will serve as a blueprint, but no aspect of it is set in stone. Play around – observe and interact with the characters. If they do something you don’t want them to do, observe yourself. Ask yourself why you don’t want them to do it? Why not? Observe your critical nature and set it aside; this is merely a first draft – a concept, a map. You can not edit the piece if you don’t know where it’s going to end up. And, you can’t possibly know where it will lead you, until it has lead you substantially in that direction.

I never knew I would be writing about the intersection of Screenwriting and Permaculture, until one day I just did it. I had previously learned about both. I never intended to combine them. One day, it just seemed natural. I had observed my life, what I had learned and interacted with it, naturally. The parts came together without planning, without foresight. There was a lot of preparation that went into the process, if you account for all the education I’ve garnered in the two realms. And, preparation is great and necessary. In the end, my life experiences dictated the final outcome – the combination of Permaculture and Screenwriting. Let your life experiences dictate the outcome of the first draft.

Observe yourself when you’re writing that first draft. Are you being too critical? Are you stifling the creative mind? If so, amend your approach. You must find your voice by finding yourself in that first draft. If you can’t find yourself in that first draft, it might be hard to maintain the passion to write and re-write the screenplay through twelve drafts.

The second part of the above quote is “design solutions that suit our particular situation.” In other words, write a screenplay that suits you. Write something you want to watch. Write to your strengths. Find the story that only you can tell, because only you have that unique set of experiences that will enlighten that story. Tell that story. Try not to pay too much attention to what naysayers have told you.

Less than one hundred distinct people in the history of movies have won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. That’s not a lot of people. Would you like to listen to those people or everyone else? The voice of those few people is not loud and boisterous compared to the cacophony of everyone else with their screenwriting guru books and how to’s. But, who do you think is more worth listening to? Tune in to those few, exceptional voices, if you can. Observe their work. Ask yourself how many “rules” they broke. You’ll never scribe a most original screenplay if you’re handcuffed by the laws of hacks who make a living merely off of telling you how to write a screenplay. Observe them too. Why are they writing the books they’re writing? Are they making movies? Quality movies? What are they writing? Find people who’s work and opinions you cherish. Learn from them. Not from someone who is writing “How To” books just to cash in on the industry created by the cornucopia of people dreaming to be screenplay writers. Observe and Interact with your own screenplay education process (there’s an abundance of free resources available in this internet age).


From → Permaculture

One Comment
  1. Oh yeah, the self declared gurus… Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.
    The annoying thing is, the famous three act structure is hard to ignore. You start with introducing your protagonist, showing who he or she is. Then you set up your challenge/conflict/problem/whatever you want to call it. Then you build it up untill your grand finale. Most good stories just work that way, although there are some brilliant counter examples, like Memento.
    Actually, I noticed the “good storytellers in the bar or at parties” often unconsciously make use of that structure.
    But you don’t need to spend any good money on books or courses to catch on. Watching movies and thinking about they work will teach you a lot more, I suppose. And it’s a hell of a lot more fun.

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