How I Write Every Single Script for Every Showreel Client

Sometimes the words flow at 100mph, and sometimes I stare at the page struggling, wondering if I’m ever going to write again.

These days, the latter happens more and more. But when the words do come out, the scripts tend to be of a much higher quality than what I was writing even a year ago.

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There have been times when I’ve worried the scripts are getting samey. After all, I’m one guy who has committed to writing every single word in every showreel I create; so there is going to be some cross-over. The guys in the office next to me joke about my scenes being ‘very Dan like’; which is usually when they see a break-up scene I’m editing.

There’s some truth to it. When it comes to a showreel scene, I like the stakes to be high. Break-ups are great fodder for reel scenes because we get to see characters at their worst, in moments of personal hardship, and when watching a break-up, one thing matters: truth. We need to believe what we’re seeing. If an actor can handle a kitchen domestic, they can handle many things.

Any complacency I feel when writing is soon beaten out of me, by myself. I guess the more you do a thing, you can either go one of two ways — you become a creature of habit, churning out the same thing again and again, or you find new ways to develop and improve what you’re doing.

Right now I feel I am writing better than I ever have before. I’ve just written a scene for a young actor called Ed Morgan, which I think will perfectly nail his casting and I can’t wait to direct him in it. It’s a scene about one guy confronting the other about sleeping with his girlfriend. Sure, I’ve written similar things before – but this scene has a dramatic twist that makes it feel really fresh to me, it’s unexpected. And it’s going to be a great scene. I’m also excited about a batch of scenes I’ve written for Rachel Keys; they feel experimental; entirely different to what I’ve done before. I have to credit her for that too, she was keen to do things that aren’t the same as you see on every reel.

I’ve also changed how my consultation meetings work. I like to dig a little deeper with the actors I meet. Rather than just asking generic things like, “so what is your casting?”, I like to find out more personal things. What excites them? What are their fears? What thing in life provokes them or rattles them?

The more personal questions enable me to get to know what makes the actor tick. The stronger a sense I have of the actor, the more their characters are going to ring true.

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Of course, a big part of acting is making things up. Sometimes I write murderers, doesn’t mean you have to be a murderer. But if during a meeting the actor tells me about the time something really bad happened in their life and they remained really detached and cold, maybe that will plant the seed of a character idea, like a cold calculated killer, for example.

The more I write, the harder it gets, because I’m obsessed with remaining fresh. But it’s a challenge I’m really excited about.

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