I finished the first-draft of the Salesmen Abroad treatment late yesterday. This is the first time that I've tried using the 'correct' process of creating a 40-card beat-sheet and then write a synopsis/treatment based on that. And what do I think? I found it surprisingly easy.
A few years ago - when I first started writing seriously - I read as many 'how to' books and articles as I could, as well as following numerous writers' blogs detailing the screenwriting process. I read Blake Synder's Save the Cat and Syd Fields' The Definitive Guide to Screenwriting. But this is the first time I've actually sat down and followed the beat-sheet process that these two heavyweights advocate. Why? I think it's because I'm writing the treatment for someone else, and not just for me. By being invited to write the treatment by professionals it gives the project more of an importance, somehow. There's more at stake than just getting something down.
I've blocked-out the format for stories before, sure. And when I came across that concept (about five or six years ago) it came as a revelation. "What? I can actually work out what's going to happen in the story before I start writing? Wow" It made the whole process much easier. I could see where plot gaps were, where there were pauses in the action or where avenues for character development could be slotted in.
The projected running-time for Salesmen Abroad is ninety minutes, so with 40 beats it means that when I come to actually write the thing each beat only need an average max of two-and-a-half pages each. Sure some of those beats will only be a short visual but others - the 'talking' scenes etc - will help smooth out the average. The same as a page of script evens out to a page a minute, I guess.
Anyway, before I get into horse-and-cart territory, the treatment needs to be approved by Scott Barber and Paul Wallis, before it'll be passed onto Steve Hughes. With only a few amendments and tweaks (I hope) it'll be time to sit down and write the screenplay proper. I'm goign to review the treatment later today then take the plunge and mail it ove to Scott and Paul.
If I thought that the beat-sheet / treatment process was scary then I'm sure to have a few sleepless nights in the weeks to come ...