My experience writing Escape has been a brilliant one. I opened myself up to a lot of feedback with this script and I got some amazing feedback that allowed me to get the script to where it is today. The version I have handed in was the fifth draft and it has come a long way since the first draft, and I hope to take it even further, because even though it is a standalone story I envision it to also be able to translate well to a series of episodes of maybe an hour in length.
I struggled a lot with the idea for this script at first. For example I toyed with the idea of a story set in a future where you can “plug” yourself into a virtual reality, and it was so real that people became addicted to these other lives because they were so much better than their own current ones. Whilst this was a good idea and I have set it aside for future use I didn’t think a thirty minute film was the best place for it because of the back story that would be required to set up the device. If this didn’t have to be self-contained then maybe I could have ran with the idea building on the back story as the series progressed or even over the length of a feature film.
But I was so hooked on this idea that it was hard to see past it and look for another one. But eventually I managed to look past that idea and search for another. My idea for the story how it is now came to me whilst thinking of ideas for another module, the idea of someone knocking at a door and seeing something they shouldn’t. Which is exactly what happens with Ian when he sees Benji tied up to the chair at the beginning of the script. This was my base and I started to ask the question “why?”. Why was Benji tied to the chair? Because he has something that his captives want.
It went on like this until I had enough of a story to begin writing. I had the beginning and I had the end but the middle alluded me at first so I decided to “just write”, which is a funny technique, because sometimes the words can come out and make complete sense and other times your story can become confused as you create new situations.
In the case of Escape I think just writing helped a lot and once the first draft was done I had a good point to then start culling the bad bits and adding to the good parts.
This was helped in part to the amazing feedback I received from the people I showed it to. I sent it to friends and family and even uploaded it to my website to get the feedback I needed. A few people on my website got back to me with really in-depth feedback and it helped shape the story how it is at the moment. For example, in earlier drafts, Sarah’s scenes were set in the past to provide a disjointed narrative that finally merged at the end when she reaches the flat, but a lot of the people I showed it to were confused by this, at first I thought it was because I had not specified the time jump in the scene headings, so I added “PAST” to the scene headings:
INT. SARAH’S CAR. DAY. PAST.
But still people seemed confused, with certain people assuming the “time shift” was a magical thing, but I was stubborn at first and I was adamant that it would work better on screen, but over time I began to realise that the disjointed narrative did not actually add to my story, I thought it was clever and fun to do, but from the initial reactions I was getting and my self-critique I found that, as mentioned above, it did not add to the story. In fact I began to think it affected the script in a negative, if the readers were confused maybe the audience would be confused and lose interest. So in the fourth draft of the script I rewrote the ending and changed Sarah’s scene so they were now chronological.
Other feedback that I received was in regards to the final reveal, that Marcus was the person who Isaac answered to. People suggested that it was a little obvious but I could not decide whether this was because they had read previous drafts or not. One of my website readers suggested that maybe the courier company at the beginning could be the “leader”, but I didn’t like this idea as the reason behind the courier company being there was so we can lead the audience to think it is actually about this courier, Ian, and then he gets to Benji’s flat and then suddenly he is dead. This is a device I used to set the mood and I did not want to use it again for the final twist so I decided that instead I would change Marcus’ role. He now doesn’t know that Sarah is involved, which helps with continuity, because if he did would he not grab his daughter when she went to visit him, and also throws you off the trail. It throws you off the trail due to replacing the majority of Marcus’s scenes with a new character called Evan. Evan is obviously a contact of Sarah’s but he seems quite needy when he asks for the statue and the case.
Another query was in regards to the lack of backstory with the statue, but I felt the statue wasn’t a huge part of the story, although it did create the story in a sense.
My biggest lesson from Escape is definitely that feedback is a great tool, and also the ability to not get stuck on one idea. If the idea doesn’t work, then don’t force it to. File it away and come back to it if the opportunity does arrive and instead focus on finding an idea that does work. If I was to write this script again I may work a little back story in about the statue but as mentioned above, I don’t think in the version of the script the statue is the important factor, it’s the tension of whether Sarah will get to Benji in time, but in a longer script it would definitely need building on.
- “Escape” Script Feedback (wordsformwindows.com)
- Escape Script – Draft 4! (wordsformwindows.com)
- 30 Minute Script – Draft 3 (wordsformwindows.com)
- It’s That Time Again (wordsformwindows.com)
- 30 Minute Script – Completed Draft 1 (wordsformwindows.com)