Written by James de Paula Hanika
I then set about writing the draft script. Incidentally, the entire script was written and developed on an iPhone using a combination of Scripts Pro and Celtx script apps. It’s incredible how much you can get done on a smartphone these days. I have a busy working life, but I get a lot of script work done on the train or in a warm coffee shop. Being able to do this work on my iPhone means I can do it at all sorts of odd moments throughout a day. Scripts Pro has a great set of features that allow you to write and format the many parts of a script in a very concise and simple interface. Celtx, along with the free account and Mac desktop software, is a little more involved and offers many other features for planning a film. Both allow you to export the scripts for printing, but Celtx has a very good backup ability to your free Celtx account. You can also download the script to the desktop software on a Mac.
The outline I had on the single sheet had laid out all of the key moments in a very simplistic way, and the draft script would join these moments together in a sort of post apocalyptic road movie. I had some very specific ideas for this journey that come out of the many conversations we had had together. Our main protagonist would be on a journey that would take him from a country safe house to a potentially dangerous city location. During this process, it was important to see that our man was damaged in some way. He has fled a raging city, lost his family and had gone to ground, making a point of not meeting anyone. The opening scenes would introduce him and his situation, as well as some details of his past and torment. All of this would span a single 24 hour period.
Locations were a big concern, because a number of the scenes involved car chases, gun play and the occasional stunt. I discussed these issues with the local Police, who put me in touch with the Police Film Unit (Yes, there is one). In the UK, and I suspect that it’s not much different in many other countries, it is now illegal to go outside with a real or lifelike gun. In the UK we can buy electric or gas fired BB guns that are very realistic, but come in bright orange or blue. The very act of painting them black or to be realistic looking, immediately renders them illegal. The idea of a squad of CO19 (SWAT, to our American readers) descending on our unit was worrying, to say the least.
An alternative was to hire the Police Film Unit to cordon off roads, have a presence during gun play scenes, and generally support the production. For a low or no budget film, this was clearly out of the question, and we developed the story with this in mind. A number of shots would be filmed against green screen and motion blur, background and additional affects would be added in post. We could do this with only a few shots, and the final gun battle would be shot on location. The finale had to be something more than a modest shootout, and we needed a private location that was not overlooked and suitably out of the way to film it. This would become our most difficult sequence to film, but it can’t be allowed to drag the rest of the production down.
A car chase involves breaking a number of rules of the road: Driving too fast, on the wrong side of the road, or in a generally dangerous way. Clearly, the Police would frown on this, but with a little preparation and clever editing, a very realistic sequence could be created. Given that this stage in the film would be out in the countryside, I drove out to find a reasonably long road that would not be too busy early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. I took a number of photos as I went, which would help to plan the scenes later on. Not only would we shoot these scenes early in the morning, it was important to make sure that we had the cars and actors in place to complete the shots, which we knew would take a good few hours to achieve. With a number of possible roads in mind, I could then refine the script to cater for the locations I had found. During this time, we included some shots or scenes that we designed for a particular reason and to insert a number of links that directly related to the Depleted lore.
Once the draft script was completed, we read it through and worked out how long the film would run to. The old formula for scripts is that one page equals one minute of screen time. This is not entirely accurate, because some staging notes can last a while longer than the three sentences on your script, but it is a good gauge, all the same. Certain scenes would play as scripted, but on a few occasions, additional effects or stagings would make these scenes longer or shorter. We had already agreed that even though we set out to make a 10-15 minute short, we would allow it to expand a little if the story required it.