A lot of time you can get caught up in all the tricks, the cameras, the gadgets, and even brainstorming, storyboarding, and lighting – but in the end, especially with narrative filmmaking, you still have a story to tell, no matter what shortcuts you take, you can’t skimp on the story. My name is Mandel Lum and you’re watching Behind The Scenes, a weekly internet series that brings you backstage to show you how I make my films.
When I was in grade school, I spent one summer vacation watching and rewatching the entire Star Wars original trilogy because my mom bought me an issue of Disney Adventure magazine that had Star Wars trivia which included movie mistakes. That summer, I found every mistake I could in all three movies. Did you know that Luke actually yells “Carrie” as in Carrie Fischer, instead of “Princess Leia” when he returns to the Rebel base after destroying the Death Star? Did you ever notice it? Or the dozens of flubs and camera goofs in Star Wars A New Hope? Things like this got me thinking about movie magic even when I was a kid.
Above all, the story of a film is most important because when the story is engaging, and the audience is following along, it won’t matter if the editing isn’t perfect or there are continuity errors – nobody will recall a mistake had ever been made. The audience is satisfied with a great story.
My story development process is actually pretty simple, but to do it well takes practice. First, Brainstorming is integral to creating anything, but it’s easy to lose yourself in the process. I like to set a timer for 30 minutes and see what I have by the end of it. I feel my first impressions are typically spot on and are most valuable. Also come up with the theme, the message, the audience and the style of your video.
Next comes the treatment, a half-page to a page-long synopsis of your video that is a list of action statements that happen during the video. No spoken lines, no descriptive statements. Just action verbs that tell the plot of your story.
Try creating an elevator pitch, a 30-second description of your story, its characters and the general plot. Leave out the ending, because you want your pitch to be short, sweet, and totally intriguing. The elevator pitch is a great tool for asking for funding, but if you don’t need to fundraise, it still makes telling people about your film a lot simpler.
Now that you have a pitch, get some feedback on your story. Bounce your ideas off your peers, and see if there are any points of confusion, and if the story is clear.
And that’s it. When you have completed your story development, you will notice that your ideas are clearer than before and writing the screenplay is a lot easier than just starting from scratch.
That’s all. Brainstorm for 30 minutes, make a treatment, an elevator pitch, get feedback, and start writing your script.
Thanks for watching Behind the Scenes. You can subscribe right here. If you’ve got any questions you’d like me to answer, put them in the comments and I’ll answer it in a video. Check back in tomorrow as this is our series premiere week and we’re releasing one show per day from April 30th to May 4th.
I’ll see you tomorrow.