Monday, January 10, 2011

From Writing To Film

 -- From Writing to Film --

We are pleased to present to you an essay written by Jacquitta McManus, sharing her journey into the world of writing, while balancing a film project.  Jacquitta's recent children's fantasy-adventure novel is now available via her site:

As a little girl from KY I didn’t have a lot of outlets that allowed me to explore 
what drew me to those stories.  All I knew was that they were exciting adventures and I loved the experience of the imagination. As I got older and it was time to 
make a decision about what to do as a career I realized that the only thing that 
interested me was animation. So I headed off to college for a digital animation 
degree. I loved computers so it seemed like the obvious choice.

So, I was in college taking my courses… taking art classes, taking animation 
classes and of course the basics. P.S. I was one of the students who hated taking 
the basic courses; my focus was getting into my animation classes.

During the end of my college experience, and my last couple of semesters, I had
my son. Although my grandmother thought I wouldn’t finish, I did. I got my 
degree in Mass Communications with an emphasis in Digital Animation with 
minors in Art and African American studies. Oh yeah, I did a study abroad in 
Africa. That was a great experience. I also started to get into directing films in 
my last year … which is still a passion for me and will one day be a reality.
I got married, and we moved to Atlanta and we had another baby, a girl.

It wasn’t until my daughter was growing out of watching Sesame Street and
Blues Clues that I realize that there was not a lot of things out there for her. 
And when I say that I mean … fantasy/adventure stories with characters that
looked like her. It bothered me. It bothered me a lot.

But even then I didn’t start down the storytelling path. I remembered writing
down a story concept, very vague with little details about what I had envisioned 
on a piece of paper and that was it. At the time I was working on my first short 
film. I was producing and directing and it consumed me. I had a strong desire for
it to be right and I had to prove to myself that I could do what I thought I could
do. Even then I wanted to direct a fantasy story, I knew that financially it was
easier to go the drama route, so I did. I wrote, produced and directed a short 
film and was pleased. It wasn’t all I thought I could make it, but it was good 
for the resources I had. Everyone who was involved in the project loved it and 
wanted me to submit it to a film festival, so I did. It was picked as one of the top
five finalists, we didn’t win - but I was happy with it all the same.

One thing that caught my attention after the film was made and screened was my
direction in writing the script. When it was all done I saw places I wish I would
have handled differently and some places I wish I would have given more room.
And although I wanted to keep it under 15 minutes I wish I wouldn’t have let the
story dictate its own length. I think it would have given the story more room to
connect with people and would have allowed for more moments that would have
rounded out the characters.

After the short film I got a lot of questions about the 2nd part and what I was 
planning to do with the rest of the story. My hope at that time was to turn the 
storyline into a series. So with the help of two other people I began the process 
of writing the series. Our goal was to write the first twelve episodes. It was 
around episode three that I realized that I didn’t like the drama genre as much 
as I liked the fantasy/adventure genre. So, I picked up a pencil and pad and for
two weeks I wrote out an outline for a fantasy/adventure trilogy. It took about 
six legal pads. I mapped it out by chapters.  I was hooked in the fantasy- 
adventure genre. Now the easiest thing for me to do is probably write it in 
script form. I see things visually and scripts seem to allow me to get what I 
see out the quickest.  But I didn’t want to do that.  Something inside said write
it as a book.

So I brought a writing program to help me organize everything and I got started
writing. I got to chapter six and I was pretty happy with what I had. I mean, it 
was the biggest thing I ever wrote… 30,000 plus words and I wasn’t even 
halfway through the first book.  It was when I got to chapter seven that I 
realized that the story wasn’t going the way I wanted it to. Although I had
taken the time to write a full outline of the story it was feeling more and more 
like just a big brainstorm. My character arc for my characters was there but the
world was not developed enough. I got stuck on a scene that needed background development and when I looked back at the previous chapters I knew I was going
to have to start over… page one, word one.

Foundation… I had to stop and focus on the foundation. I started first by 
sketching out a map of the world and started working on the characters of the 
story. I hired an illustrator to do some character concepts. I began to read 
anything and everything that I could. That journey began at least two years ago.
Now I have a complete world with more than a half dozen races, with background
histories, locations and all. And I’m loving every minute of its development. I still 
go back and tweak parts of it - I might even completely rearrange a section of it
and although I feel like I’m 90% there with it, I still have to complete the other 
10% of it before I really get back into writing the book again.

It has been a journey getting it here but it’s here now. And one of the rewards of
all of this is the feeling of being on the path that I was meant to be on. That can’t
be brought or given. It has to be earned.

To great adventures!

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