3 days in our Taipei: a screenplay treatment

Here’s my treatment for the screenplay that I mentioned in the last post. From what I understand, a treatment is a condensed, eg one to two page, story of the intended screenplay. It’s used to help communicate the plot and characters and is meant as a tool for early feedback. So, here it is! Love to hear what you think. I’ve sent to 10-15 friends and will collect their thoughts and questions and plot holes, and then iterate a few more times on the detailed scene-by-scene outline before I really dig into writing each scene.

PS. In writing this story, I imagined Jean as a white girl from the West Coast or South, if we can find a suitable lead actress here in Taiwan / Asia. If we can’t, maybe I’ll try to cast for this role back in the States

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Working title: 3 days in our Taipei

Logline: A young American woman travels to Taiwan to salvage her relationship with a Taiwanese American man. She soon discovers that he is a changed man: He does drugs, parties constantly, and might be cheating on her. During their fallout, she meets and is drawn to a local man.

Synopsis:

Jean is a young American girl who met her Taiwanese American boyfriend Nick in college. A year after graduation, Nick moved to Taiwan in the hopes of becoming a musician. Long distance has been hard on the couple, and Jean visits Taiwan in an attempt to salvage their relationship. She doesn’t tell Nick, however, that she plans to move there.

Jean arrives in Taipei and is greeted by her local friends Angela and Denise. They reminisce at a neighborhood cafe, and then prepare to meet Nick and his friend Sam for dinner and drinks.

Dinner is a rowdy affair at a local Taiwanese restaurant. Jean’s reunion with Nick is a little awkward. She soon learns that Nick is not only job less, but generally aimless in life. He parties constantly, drinks heavily, and might be doing drugs. Jean also notices some flirtation between Nick and Denise.

The group heads to a popular bar where they have more drinks and play beer pong. By chance, Jean meets a cute and funny guy named Allen. Everyone is getting very drunk. Later that night, Jean sees Nick flirting with an unknown girl. She goes to confront him, but she’s drunk and disoriented and falls. Angela helps her up and takes her home.

The next day, Nick and his friends recover by hiking Elephant Mountain. After the hike, Nick and Jean meet up. Things are initially tense, but Nick half seduces half coerces Jean into sex. It’s passionate and intense and they soon fall asleep. Jean is woken by Nick’s vibrating phone. Denise is sexting him. Jean attempts to leave, but Nick stops her, and in the ensuing argument, she becomes convinced that he’s cheating. The confrontation becomes physical but Jean escapes.

That evening, Angela is consoling Jean when they run into Allen. Soon Jean finds herself being taken by Allen on an impromptu date. She is drawn to Allen and to the city he shows her. They wind up at the night market, where they bump into Nick and his friends. Nick accosts Allen, who becomes embarrassed and frustrated when Jean doesn’t defend him. Allen attempts to grab a taxi. He asks if Jean wants to join, but she’s unable to decide. The ending is a split screen of two possible outcomes – one where Jean joins Allen in his taxi as they drives away, and one where she’s pulled back by Nick.

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.

Writing and making a film: the ongoing journey

I’m writing my first “real” screenplay, from start to finish, and I plan to make a movie from it right here in Taipei, Taiwan.

Along the way, I’d like to share that adventure on the blog: who I’m meeting and their roles, what lessons I’m learning, the struggles, the questions and fears. I’m even considering launching a podcast alongside it, where I interview people in the film and entertainment business (mostly in English) across Asia, as a way to meet people in the industry, learn from them, and grow an audience.

So what’s happened so far?

For starters, I’ve constructed a detailed story outline and continue to change it based on friends’ feedback. The most common feedback points were:

  • There was a power imbalance between the characters that didn’t serve the story
  • Since the protagonist is female, there was a concern that I couldn’t properly write her character (and maybe I should consider finding a female co-writer)
  • There was a lack of character arcs throughout the story (the characters didn’t change in response to events and experiences; there was no development)
  • There was too much telling (characters sharing their opinions) instead of showing (characters acting on their opinions)

What’s the story about? In one sentence, it’s about a mid-20s girl who moves to Taipei to try and salvage a long-term relationship, and the ensuing complications of modern love.

Besides writing the screenplay, I’m re-watching inspirational and comparable films (examples that I think fit thematically or tonally include Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy and Aziz Ansari’s Master of None). I’m studying the technique and process of writing a screenplay (for example, one piece of advice I heard on a podcast with Kumail Nanjiani is, as a general concept, to start a scene in the middle of the action, and to end a scene before the action is completely over; for example, if the scene is a person walks into the house and has a conversation and then leaves, start the scene with them walking into the kitchen, and end the scene as they approach the door, something like this)

I also met a local TV producer who may help me when I’ve finished the screenplay. A producer’s job, as far as I understand it, is to manage the money, put the various human pieces together, and make the trains run on time.

Given my complete lack of directorial experience or knowledge, one important decision he said I’d need to make is whether to hire a main Director who owns the project, in which case I would lose some creative control but gain that Director’s vision and skillset, or hire an assistant Director / technical Director to work under me and essentially execute my vision on how to shoot each scene, in which case I’d gain more creative control but it would add a lot more responsibility and risk.

In the next post I’ll talk about how the screenwriting is coming along, talk about budget and expenses, and share whatever else has happened on this movie making journey. Thanks!

Hi! I write about habits and spirituality and random whatevers. Click here to see the daily habits that I track. Find me on Twitter @kgao.