If you’d asked me what I was looking forward to on the Film and TV Production course at York, I would have said writing; writing stories, scripts, treatments, films, episodes, all of it! Of course, knowing me, I’d probably ramble on about it for a good few minutes too.
And, so, when I was assigned my first writing assessment, I couldn’t be more excited or more daunted. I remember seeing the announcement pop up and grinning, running story idea after story idea through the reel of my imagination, before pausing – what if I write something that isn’t good?
However, as I have realised throughout my first term, that’s not what it’s all about. So, I’ll be documenting my progress over the next week or so to show you fellow perfectionists that, hey, even assessments can be fun (at least when you’re in the Department of Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media anyway.)
While I’m sure some of you reading this will read the phrase ‘Story Proposal’ and nod, fully aware of what it means and how to write one, I’m also sure that most of you will see that phrase and think the exact same thing that I did:
What the hell does that mean, and how do you even attempt to write one?
I was intimidated at first; after all, a proposal that markets, defines and breaks your story down to its basic elements seems so reductive. It was something that I thought was exclusive to industry professionals. Of course, I forgot we were learning how to be those industry professionals.
But, in actuality, I found writing a story proposal not only interesting (which is obviously a huge help when it comes to assessments), but also super beneficial to developing my story.
The story proposal involves a sort of log line, followed by a short plot outline. Initially, I thought Pfft, I know about story structure – we studied this last week! But transforming my plot into tangible sentences highlighted the plot holes that glared up at me in the form of typed words on a screen.
And then sharing these story proposals with my seminar groups gave me the opportunity to see my story from different perspectives. Too often, we’re so caught up in our ideas that we forget that the story is actually received by other people. So, it was really refreshing to get feedback from my seminar leader about the most basic but important elements of my story.
And, yes, sharing can be scary (trust me as a person with anxiety) but I’m so glad I did. Despite the initial mistakes in my story, in the end, I know it can only help me out.
Laying the Groundwork
So, I’ve had feedback on my story itself. Great! But what do I do now? You’ve read it; you know what needs fixing – but how do you fix that?
For me, plans are the things that keep me organised (and keep me sane). After getting this feedback, I sketched up a sort of skeleton plot outline. Editing and readjusting the story beats or character elements that I was told may need altering for a more solid overall structure.
The thing that really helped me constantly innovate and reflect upon my story idea was the fact that our first-term lectures, despite being on various areas of filmmaking and TV production, all weaved together to form a more well-rounded perspective of filmmaking and storytelling in general. This meant that I was able to go into the Holbeck Cinema, which is where you will watch most of your module screenings, and watch the essential screenings. Then I’d use what I’d learned to extract elements from the films and apply or compare them to my own ideas.
Taking the Leap
Backspace: a writer’s most used button (probably.)
Getting started is always the hardest part. Perfectionists will know the agony of trying to write an award-winning script right off the bat.
In getting past this hurdle, I remembered the writing activity we did in a seminar recently. In pairs, we wrote dialogue for a short scene, one line at a time. Alternating between the two of us in the pair. It shifted the focus from a scene to a line. Helping you just keep writing instead of freezing and agonising over whether everything was perfect.
Obviously, I don’t have a partner for this assessment, but writing in a similar way for my first draft has really helped me get my ideas down, rough as they are. Editing can come later and, after all, you can’t edit if there’s nothing there, right?
Good luck with all your writing endeavours!
From Ollie (he/they)