Lately I’ve been struggling with screenwriting, so I thought I’d take a break from that to write about part of my process. If that doesn’t sound like a fledgling, wannabe writer, I don’t know what does.
I’ve been working on a feature-length script…and it doesn’t always come easily. I’m a fan of outlining, but it’s a rabbit hole I tend to tumble down — I just keep outlining, sometimes the same thing, ignoring scenes that are actually giving me trouble. At the moment, I’m trying what Darren Aronofsky calls the “muscle draft.” Get it on paper, quick and dirty. Truth be told, it’s a lot dirtier than it is quick. (Perhaps I’m neglecting the positives of this approach.)
Anyway, one of the things I’ve found helpful is music. Not just any music, but a collection of songs curated to the tune of my project. A few months ago, I finished a coming-of-age script, and I spent a lot of time listening to songs I hadn’t heard since middle and high school. I wanted music that made me feel like I was in that time and place. (Teenage Garrett cringes at the thought.)
But the project I’m working on now is a creature-feature. I’m not gonna delve too much into plot description, but it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know it’s a horror film. Here’s what I’ve been listening to…
1.) “The Passage” from “Alien” soundtrack
2.) “Love” from “Under the Skin” soundtrack
3.) “Above Earth” from “Gravity” soundtrack
4.) “Symphony No. 3: Passacaglia – Allegro Moderato” by Krzystof Penderecki
5.) “The Church” from “28 Days Later” soundtrack
6.) “Down the Pipe” from “The Descent” soundtrack
7.) “Crossing the Crevasse” from “The Descent” soundtrack
8.) “Debris” from “Gravity” soundtrack
9.) “Hyper Sleep” from “Alien” soundtrack
10.) “There Will Be Blood” from “There Will Be Blood” soundtrack
11.) “Car Crash” from “Collateral” soundtrack
12.) “Flight to Compound” from “Zero Dark Thirty” soundtrack
13.) “Agnus Dei” from “Alien 3” soundtrack
14.) “Vincent Hops Train” from “Collateral” soundtrack
15.) “Gravity” from “Gravity” soundtrack
I’ve ordered the mix so that it kind of follows the structure of my script. (I know the story’s signposts at least.) “Love” is very sad, designed to evoke my main character. It’s placed where it is to coincide with her introduction in the script. “Car Crash” sounds introspective, complementing the lull before the third act. The marshaling of forces, the calm before the storm. And “Vincent Hops Train” is heavy on percussion, very action-oriented, representing a climax for both the playlist and the script.
I often listen while I’m writing, but sometimes I take a walk and play it on my iPod. Generally, I try to avoid music that I’m really familiar with. There are some scores and films I know a little too well. I can’t be writing a scene, hearing a music cue, and thinking, “Now the shark’s surfaces, Brody jumps back and slowly walks into the cabin.” That’s why you won’t find any “Jaws” on my mix, even though scary creature-features don’t come any better…obviously. For a while, a track from “The Social Network” (“Hand Covers Bruise”) had the place of “Love,” but I removed it. That’s another one I’m just too familiar with. Wouldn’t want Mark Zuckerberg finding his way into my script.
What are some of your writing strategies? How do you get inspiration? Comment below.