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.