How to spend your commuting time productively #81 – write a screenplay.

Posted: July 4, 2014 in Michael's Films, Random nonsense, Up-and-coming productions

I’ve just finished writing my new feature film script ‘The Gifted’. And I did it all on the tube. I’m pretty chuffed! (God knows if it’s any good – but it is finished.)

It was a New Years resolution to write the script this year, and I didn’t get round to starting it properly until the beginning of March. I also had written a fairly long synopsis of what I thought the story would be before New Years, so had a decent idea of what I was working to (although that plot changed a fair amount on the way). But I did pretty much all of the actual script writing on the Tube. Which proved to be the most productive time for me to do it.

Some writing coaches recommend you spend just half an hour a day writing your script, and ‘you’ll have your script in 3 months’, something you can and should find time for even if you work full-time and are fairly busy. Sounds good, I thought, and achievable. Surely I can find half an hour each and every day. But I soon became disheartened as weeks would go by without doing at least one half hour stint – either because of work, social life, home commitments, or just bloody weak willpower. So this – using Final Draft on the iPad on the hour or so to and from work – was a revelation for me.

That said, it was not by any means easy, or always successful. There were some mornings I took the iPad with me, looked at the stage I was at, and felt no inspiration. There were other days when I’d been listening to music, had the inspiration flowing, and then was on a stuffed train, no space to write- and by the evening journey home I was so exhausted inspiration was dead. And there were other days when my partner demanded she needed it more than I did. She usually won.

But when it did work it was great. It’s a wonderful wake up call, a diversion from the standard grumpiness and angst that can face you on London Transport. In the same way you escape into a book, or escape into headphones, escaping into your own writing, your own world, is something else. In fact, the biggest issue when arriving at my station could be forcing myself to stop (I did occasionally miss my station – most of the time accidentally, some times not).

I admit- I did not quite achieve all of it on the move- 95% was, 5% was done on the laptop at home. And there’s definite benefits of doing it in larger uninterrupted chunks than on the tube. There’s a threat of disjointedness, and of repetition with not keeping a clear consistent eye on it. I anticipate finding that when I come to the second draft.

I should also admit;
1) this is not my first feature film screenplay- it’s my third.
BUT I did the second draft of my first screenplay ‘The Fields’ entirely on the iPad, on the commute. This is how I discovered that writing a full screenplay, from scratch, may be possible.
2) None of my screen-writing experiences have been conventional ‘sit-down-at-a-laptop’ experiences. In fact, I prefer writing on the move, and that may not work for everyone. I wrote the first draft of ‘The Fields’ as notes through my travels a few years ago, and sat down when we had a week pause to pull them all together. A slightly different writing experience then. The second, ‘Transient’, was written- largely as its title suggests – in a period when I was transient, verging on homeless, on coaches to and from London – and the script largely reflects and documents that experience.

3) None of these 3 scripts have been made into films! So – who knows if they’re actually any good. But my short scripts have. My two last shorts ‘Move’ and ‘AK’ were written on a mixture of bus journeys, traveling and evenings after work. And the sense of achievement of having completed a full feature length script still stands!

4) I’m 2 months away from becoming a first-time dad. Now, if that doesn’t put a rocket up your backside in terms if motivation, I don’t know what will!

My point is – don’t wait until you have that ‘half hour window’. Because in many of our lives, those windows don’t come. Or, the best windows are when we’re sat on the train for over half an hour. Next time you’re on the tube, that rare moment you glance away from that device in front of you and wonder what you’re doing with your life – do something with it. Do something right there and then. Start using your Notes app as your (poor substitute for a) moleskin notebook. Start using that (increasingly decent quality) camera on your phone and film something. Download one of those apps that suits your interests and USE IT!

PS for those hoping for a hyperlink to ‘How to spend your commuting time productively 1-80’ – sorry, I lied. Make up your own. I’d love to hear what you come up with.

PPS I’m about to start work on my next screenplay. It’s about a guy suffering severe sleep deprivation… More than likely based on forthcoming real life events.


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