Project Horror #2: Writing the Script

In my last post I explained that I am producing a horror short in the coming months and I want to bring you all on the journey with me. Today I want to talk about the scriptwriting process.

I had never written a script before so I was apprehensive about how easy it would be to put ideas on to paper. I had several pages of notes scattered around my desk detailing the storyline as well as key aspects of the set or sound that I wanted to be used to sell certain moments, but when those ideas need to be focused into a script I realised just how much detail was going to be needed throughout in order to get my point across.

From my experience, I can say that if you are going to write a script on a half-baked idea, then the process will really get you to think about every aspect of your scene and exactly how you want your audience to understand this story you are telling. Everything from sounds, costumes, movements, framing, pacing and scene focus, to what the actor in the scene is thinking and how the audience will know that. Be prepared to do battle with your idea. You will soon find out if it can stand up to the scrutiny you will put it through to get it on to the page.

I used a program called Celtx to write the script. It’s a free word processing program that auto-formats the text as you type to match the industry-standard script layout. This saved me a ton of time I’d otherwise have spent in Word trying to mimic the style, and it helped me keep in the flow of writing without having to constantly worry about formatting. The final script can be exported as a PDF so anyone can read it, which has been great to get friends to peer review it. I highly recommend using something like this if you are writing a script.

Having a properly formatted script means anyone who picks up my script can straight away understand how to read it. Script formatting also gives plenty of white space on the page which will definitely come in handy once I get on to set and start making corrections or adding footnotes. Hollywood script formatting is also well known for a page of script translating to roughly a minute of screen time, which is very useful for working out how long a scene is going to be, and therefore what kind of preparations will need to be made.

I’m going to be a massive tease and show you the first few lines of my script…

Project Horror Script
The first few lines of the horror short

That’s all for this post. I’m in the process of getting the camera gear I want to use for filming, as well as figuring out who I can use as my actors. Steady progress.

Project Horror

2013 has already been a big year for broadening my video production horizons. It all started with The Arrest, a two-part documentary about my friend spending a night in a police cell. The intro especially was something I really loved putting together. From there, Only Flirt In Flirt was my first foray into fiction storytelling with a short piece about a couple who are struggling to find love. Then, Ze NSS finally got finished after years of delays, another fiction story this time centred around dialogue, that saw a Mafia-like gang kidnap a student and force him to answer the National Student Survey. Finally, my Stop Motion Japan attempt, aiming to focus on telling the detailed story of an exciting journey using no words, instead focusing on visually-striking compositions.

Together they have developed my story pacing, eye for cinematography and emphasised the importance of sound. After Only Flirt In Flirt, I started work on developing an idea a few friends and I came up with a few years ago to produce a psychological horror-type web series. The story followed the new editor of the student newspaper as a series of more and more horrific kidnappings and murders were carried out in and around the University of Surrey Campus. It was to be a 7-part series, with each episode 5-10 minutes long. There are a lot of brilliant ideas in the series, and it would be really fun to film and work on at some point, but the scope is just too much with where I am right now. It would involve months of full-time planning and then weeks of shooting with good actors to pull off well. So I had to tone it down.

I was still captivated by the idea of producing a horror short, I just needed something that was a smaller step forward. One of the anchors of the web series story was the idea that campus is actually a pretty freaky place at night, especially if you’re on your own. So I took that idea and started to think about how it could be turned into a short story…

It wasn’t until July, after speaking to a few friends about ideas I’d had that we came up with a story that ticked all the boxes. After a few weeks of writing and perfecting a script, I’ve finally got to a draft I am happy with; and got people on board to help with make-up and lighting. There are a lot of aspects to this project that are new to me, such as cinematic lighting, and areas where I can really hone an old skill, like editing the piece together. The plan now is to shoot towards the end of October, and use the time between now and then to compile a really comprehensive shot list and play around with some of the ideas we’re going to use during the shoot.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because, unlike my previous projects when it’s all been very hush hush until it’s finished, I want to bring you guys on this journey with me . I’m going to try and cover everything from the scriptwriting process, filming and camera choices, to casting, music and gruesome make-up. I’m really excited about this project and I hope you’ll learn something with me as this adventure unfolds…