Finding the story’s soul is the most important aspect of screenplay development.There is more than one way to write a screenplay. When consulting filmmakers on the topic of screenplay developing and budgeting, they often argue that their story cannot be told with a microbudget. Now I will confess, some screenplays are special cases, such as war movies, period pieces, or political dramas. All of these types of movies require a certain level of budgetary consideration. In those special cases, I advise the filmmakers to find an established producer with a track record who can champion their project. That goal within itself could take years. When looking at a screenplay, I try to look at the soul of the story. What is this screenplay about? What is the message? What is it trying to say? Many times, the idea is better than the execution. Sometimes simplicity can help a story or plot thrive. Here are a few examples of screenplay ideas that could be reshaped to fit into a microbudget.
The Big Budget IdeaPlot: Two soldiers have to cross enemy lines to deliver a message that will save the lives of thousands of soldiers during the First World War. Technique: A seemingly one-shot experience, making the audience feel like they are in the movie with the actors, crawling through the mud and the hell of war. Goal: An immersive experience, showcasing the First World War and paying tribute to a grandfather. Story message: War sucks. Saving lives today is futile if a war continues tomorrow.
Your Microbudget IdeaPlot: Soldiers pinned down in a trench while trying to deliver a message that will save the lives of thousands of soldiers during the First World War. Technique: A seemingly one-shot experience, making the audience feel like they are stuck in the trench with these soldiers. Goal: An immersive experience, showcasing the First World War and paying tribute to a grandfather. Story message: War sucks. Saving lives today is futile if a war continues tomorrow. You’ll notice that the goal and story message are exactly the same, but the technique used here is consolidated. By trapping the two heroes in a trench and allowing the “theater of the mind” to play bigger than fear itself, we have saved the production thousands, if not millions of dollars, in production costs. Despite the dynamics of a particular screenplay, the soul of the story is bigger than its baggage. If you find your budget loftier than your current wallet’s realities, then it should serve as an opportunity for an evaluation of the type of movie you are trying to make. Perhaps this one needs more time. Perhaps you can trim it down and make it manageable. Perhaps you can start with a smaller project. One thing I can promise you, however: the longer an idea sits unfunded, the less likely it is that you will stay in this business. You need points on the board. Not tomorrow—now! Until next time, be safe, healthy and prosper. -Kelly Schwarze, Indie Film Factory, LLC Author of “A Filmmaking Mindset” and “What Film Schools Don’t Tell You” available on Amazon.