From Synapse to Script

Feature film screenplays generally run 80 to 120 pages (it’s a simple metric: one page = one minute of screen time, approximately). Unfortunately, their narratives are not “born” fully formed. There is no single path to developing a screenplay: some build the story via (physical or onscreen) index cards; others build the story via the writing of one or more outlines; some try to bull their way through the script by writing it from “FADE IN” to “FADE OUT” (the latter is not an approach I recommend). Combinations of these approaches are pretty typical.

I’ve developed screenplays solely via index cards, but more recently, I’ve been favoring the writing of treatments (which are more detailed prose outlines that can run 20-40 pages). The treatment provides a trustworthy roadmap for me while I write the screenplay: I can maintain momentum, and avoid getting hopelessly lost, by following the treatment. It requires a lot of the treatment: the more detailed it is, the more I know where I’m going.

James Cameron is famous for writing very long treatments for his screenplays: he’s been known to write 70-page treatments, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s written even longer ones.

My producing partnership, Vista Bella Films, is now raising independent funds for three low-budget screenplays to be shot in New Mexico, using predominately New Mexican casts and crews. We’re excited by all three film projects: unique, character-based contemporary stories shining a light on worlds we don’t typically see cinematically. Additionally, all of the productions will qualify under the SAG-AFTRA Diversity-in-Casting incentive: another plus, as we see it.

Wearing my producing hat, I work on fundraising virtually every day. But writers write, so the first 3 months of 2022, I also developed 3 new low-budget feature film treatments. The goal was to see which one might be the best screenplay to undertake in the immediate months ahead (the others may get their turn in the future).

Somehow, the artiest and least commercial of the concepts emerged as the next project … because it was the one I was most passionate about. Fortunately, it’s also the least expensive to produce, and continues my focus on character-based, diverse stories. My mantra has been “no guns, no violence, no spaceships, no superheroes.”

So that’ll be my Spring and early Summer: hunkered over the laptop, immersing myself in the storyworld, trying to craft something original and beautiful.

You can get a glimpse of what I’ve been doing the past couple of years via and my IMDb profile, which shows projects in development.

While my personal projects are all written on spec, I am available as a writer-for-hire on other people’s screen projects, and I also do script consultations for a reasonable fee. Be in touch if those services might be of use to you…