How to Screen Write: 5 Ways a Screenwriting Partnership Worked While Writing a First Movie

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how to screen write

Today, we have an article on screenwriting that teaches you a process of how to screen write. Filmmaker Angela Caito will take you through her process in detail and I’m sure there will be plenty of a-ha moments here!

I am Angela Caito and together with Erik Kitchens, the founder of our company 30 Daze Productions, we partnered to write the screenplay for our first short film, Driving Shame.

Erik already had a storyline in mind and in under two days (yes, I said two days!)  the two of us worked round the clock to bang out what we felt was an incredible script for our movie.

We, of course, took time after those initial two days to tweak some scenes and add other content to the script. But when all is said and done, we like to say we wrote a brilliant script in just two days.

5 Ways a Screenwriting Partnership Worked While Writing a First Movie And How it Continues to Work Today

When you think about screenwriting partnerships it’s easy to think of writing teams who have built very successful careers due to the work they have done together.

In 1997, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote Good Will Hunting and while they haven’t written a screenplay together since, the film helped launch both into the limelight and on the road to success in the film industry.

Another incredible screenwriting partnership that comes to mind is of course, the Coen brothers. Joel and Ethan Coen hit the ground running in 1995 with Blood Simple.

From that point, they have worked together on hits including Raising Arizona (1987) The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000), No Country for Old Men (2007) and recently, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) among more than twenty other film works since they got started.

Screenwriting partnerships like those have made it look incredibly easy to sit down and write a script with a partner.

A question that Erik and I have both been asked more times than we can count is, “Is it easy to work with a partner on a screenplay?” Our answer has resoundingly been, of course it is! Who knows, maybe one day the Caito/Kitchens screenwriting duo will be a household name just as Affleck/Damon and the Coen’s already are.

There are, however, more important things to consider than whether your name is going to make the headlines when you’re working with someone else and those include being able to write something meaningful, engaging and directed at the right audience while maintaining a clear path to complete the screenplay without conflict arising.

how to screen write

Behind the Scenes during production of Driving Shame, a 30 Daze Productions short movie, Actors Dominic Peterson and Sierra Ann Ford

Building an Effective Writing Team

One of the biggest challenges for me, as a writer who usually works alone was to find a way to write together with someone without feeling the need to “take charge” and take over the screenplay. When you’re used to writing alone, being a team player is not always an easy task.

Fortunately for Erik and me we were both on the same page when it came to creating the screenplay together. That is something that matters. You most likely wouldn’t pair up for a screenwriting partnership with someone who wrote dark horror if you wrote only light and airy romance.

We took time to discuss what we wanted with the screenplay, how we wanted to convey emotion including sadness, anger and even humor as well as scenery that we wanted to ensure we wrote into the screenplay and quite frankly, we both agree that we want to make films that have meaning, depth and are essentially true to life.

For us, one of the keys to success is working with someone who has the same vision and creative skills to bring a character to life, create scenes that encapsulate the senses and a plot that will cause people to think as well as maybe even bring a few tears, cause laughter or just make people think.

how to screen write

As we were writing the screenplay for Driving Shame, we used the screenwriting resource Celtx, pre-production software that allows writers to collaborate on scripts.

There were many “a-ha!” moments as we wrote because it allowed us to (in real time) make changes, add depth and even cheer one another on during the writing process.

When you have an idea yet to be put to paper and your writing partner suddenly begins to type a thought that you haven’t yet mentioned, it’s a pretty great feeling to see that the person you’re working with is clearly on the same page.

Effective writing partnerships work together to create something they both (or all if more than two) believe in, want to see on the screen and feel connected to.

When you work with someone who has the same creative vision, it seriously helps make the work flow smoothly and solidifies the overall partnership by helping each person know they are working together with someone who can bring their own imagination to the table to create a smooth flowing concept with someone else.

Here’s the official Driving Shame movie trailer (on Vimeo):

Decide How to Write Together

When we wrote the screenplay for Driving Shame, we worked several ways and those included:

Writing Alone

We knew the storyline and how we wanted things to flow, but we had to figure out the best way to write without:

  1. annoying one another or stepping on toes, and
  2. keeping the integrity of the script together.

Writing alone worked to give us each the freedom to add what we felt sounded good we found that writing together worked better so we could bounce ideas off one another and kind of “pick brains” to ensure the characters were developing right and that the plot wasn’t being altered.

Writing Together

With the use of the script writing website we were able to write together to make changes, add to the storyline and further develop our characters.

Something about writing together that we found beneficial was having another creative mind to bounce ideas off and to reassure each that what we were writing sounded good, blended well within the storyline and made a difference in the overall impact of the screenplay.

Along the way, plenty of constructive criticism and loud, extreme praise for a job well done is not only acceptable but is necessary to ensure the team works like clockwork.

Alone Yet Together

Another way that we wrote our screenplay was alone, yet together. There were times when one or both of us needed to step away, regroup our thoughts or just take a brain rest and have family time away from the computer.

Breaks are important to maintain a creative flow. Often during the writing process, one of us would sit down and write a little (or a lot) and wait until the other was able to hop online and read what we wrote.

This not only allowed us to release our individual creativity, but it gave each of us the chance to sit back and see how well the other wrote. It also gave us an opportunity to feel like we were almost competing with one another to write the best scenes and the best lines just to impress the other. And impress we did!

Every writer is different and what worked for us may not work for the next writing partnership, but when you work as a team its important to work together to see which scenario works best and then, try another just to see how you do.

We tried all and when we finished the screenplay, we knew that what we had was precisely what we wanted.

how to screen write

Screenwriter and Director Erik Kitchens at the sound studio Primordic in Erwin, Tennessee with musician Brittany Kitchens recoding a song for Driving Shame.

Dedicated Writing Time

A big challenge that we have found working in the film industry is finding people who believe in working during the same hours we work. Both Erik and I are early risers and we each have a family that we need to spend time with.

Working in the film industry often dictates long hours working on set, long hours meeting with the public and even longer hours holding intra-company meetings to make decisions and determine which path to take our work.

One important thing that we decided as we wrote the screenplay to Driving Shame was that when a script is written for anything that we produce as 30 Daze Productions, we work together as a team to write the screenplay and we make sure we both agree on how the storyline goes.

Since we deiced to work together on every screenplay we do, being on the same page with the hours we work is important to us.

It doesn’t mean that we order the other person to sit down and write during a specific time frame, but it does mean that we respect the hours that we both work best, and we know when the other will be available to write together.

Disagreements

In life, we all know that we’re not always going to agree with those we work with. It’s human nature and all a part of being an individual person. Sometimes we feel that our own ideas are far superior to someone else’s and other times, we go with the flow.

One thing about having a disagreement is to keep in mind that when you disagree with your screenwriting partner, you can’t look at the disagreement as a personal failure. Instead, take time to look at the bigger picture.

You’re working together with someone to create a masterpiece and masterpieces take time, effort and lots of rethinking before they are complete. Something you should consider when writing with a partner is, “Who came up with the original idea for the story?”

If you come to a part where you’re not agreeing, it’s important to listen to the one who originated the idea for the storyline and see where they personally envisioned it going.

The husband and wife writing team, Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa, the duo who wrote the screenplay for Rise of the Planet of the Apes once stated during an interview that they decided early on that whoever came up with the story and took lead would have overall say if a disagreement came into play.

This works well for a writing team and when Erik Kitchens and I wrote the screenplay for Driving Shame, it was only natural for me to ask him upfront where he saw the story going and how he wanted to go about getting it there.

Does that mean we stuck with only one way to write things? Not at all, but it helped develop an action plan for us and we both knew, and agreed, where the story was going to go and how it was going to end.

how to screen write

Behind the scenes during production of Driving Shame. Actors Sierra Ann Ford and Dominic Peterson on location as a drone takes overhead shots.

Push Your Partnership

Every book writer wants a bestseller and every screenwriter has dreams of that one in a million offer from a major motion picture studio to buy their script and put it on the big screen worldwide. One of the key aspects of this is the individual writer pours every waking hour into writing a script that has a deep meaning to them personally.

This is great of course, but it can also cause you to spend far too much time worrying about the minute details that in the long run, won’t matter and chances are, won’t garner the attention you really need for your film.

However, when you’re working with a partner, one of the greatest tools you have for success is another mind to share your vision and create with you.

That partnership is an ideal way to not only create a script that matters, has deep meaning and will garner attention, but it’s also a great way to get noticed by the right people when it’s time for you to pitch the screenplay, share your film to potential investors and sponsors or work on your next project.

how to screen write

30 Daze Productions team members, (left to right) Chasity Thompson, Angela Caito and Erik Kitchens

How to screen write – My Thoughts on Working with a Partner

I’ve been fortunate to work with a partner who shares the same creative visions for the work that we produce.

With 30 Daze Productions, Erik Kitchens and I are not only working together to write great scripts, but we’re also currently working to bring more film production to our region in Northeast Tennessee. We both place quality first and want to create realistic. meaningful films together. That is something that every filmmaker wants.

For me, as a screenwriter and film producer, working with a partner has been an incredible experience and I feel lucky to be able to work with one who is just as focused on our company values, views and work ethics as I am.

Be sure to watch out for our upcoming short movie, Driving Shame, a dramatic thriller about a young woman who clings to her closest companion as she embarks on a road trip back to her small home town to find herself again after the harsh realities of life blindside her. We plan to release the movie in Spring 2019 and from there, we plan to take it to festivals nationwide.

We’re also working on a script for a feature length film as well as currently in production for our upcoming documentary, Sub Culture, which focuses on opioid addiction but we’re bringing some things to light in a way that has never been done before.

We plan to release Sub Culture before the end of the 2019 year. Making a documentary is truly an incredible experience while also one that takes careful planning to navigate challenges.

Keep in mind that not every writing partnership will work the way you want it to work. The key is to stick with those that work well with you, and work hard to build the success you and your team envision together.

We hope you’ve found this article on how to screen write informative. What has been your experience working as a screenwriting partnership? Let us know in the comments below.

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