New Year, New Medium

No, I’m not going to turn into a fortune teller. Actually, wait, that sounds sort of fun. I bet you can get online certification for that. Why yes, yes you can.

But back to business. I have so many talented friends, and one of them emailed me last week asking if I would like to be part of a project to create a short film this summer. He wanted to try his hand at directing, and looking around at our circle, we had a videographer, a graphic artist, a working actor, and myriad creative types. “What we don’t have,” he wrote, “is a story.”

Just a little over a year ago, I started writing film scripts. I got involved mainly because I knew nothing about it, had not spent years studying it, and therefore could completely fail at it and not mind a whit. I participated in ScriptFrenzy, adapting one of my novels to the screen as a way of trying to edit it down to the essential story. Turns out it was the perfect method for me. I realized where my story’s turning points were weak. I shored up dialogue. And ended up with a much stronger manuscript that immediately started getting requested again by agents.

But then a funny thing happened. I entered a screenwriting contest, and advanced to the quarters on first try. I wrote another screenplay, and it advanced as well. I joined screenwriting groups, and made some contacts, and upon hearing my story ideas, directors were asking to read my scripts.

This was all very strange to me. I had studied novel writing for over twenty years, and still had not broken into the industry. And here, with amateur knowledge, I was having more success with scripts than all my years of writing combined.

As so often happens in film, far more than in book publishing, things fall through. Special effects aren’t in the budget. Another script has more energy. I didn’t mind. I was having a blast.

And I’ve kept my scriptwriting exactly for that — fun. I am now in charge of ScriptFrenzy in April, and love every minute of it. Since my friend asked for ideas for what to shoot, I’ve come up with several: two four-minute comedies, a five-minute art film (which I am totally going to shoot myself if we don’t do it), and a fourteen-minute psychological thriller.

If art is about feeling that happy creative buzz, about that sensation that you are living in the moment, and taking down your impressions of life to be captured in something more concrete than time, then screenwriting is exactly what I love to do.

I still write novels. And I’m still serious about them. In fact, one is out with agents and one is under heavy revision. And with all these story ideas blossoming in the last few days, some of them might become short stories instead of film scripts.

But I am so inspired to try this new medium. The director and I meet tonight to go over script ideas and decide the level of scene changing, number of actors, special effects, and sound we can accomplish with the equipment we have.

And of course, films like this definitely make me want to stretch a bit, and reach for something lovely and lasting.

A Thousand Words from Ted Chung on Vimeo.

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