Trying to Create a New Form of Media? Use an Old Favorite as a Template

Many creative types switch between types of media they create. Sometimes people decide to try something creative for the first time. What these two types of folks have in common is the need to learn how to do their new project.

Let’s take screenwriting as an example. Maybe you write books, or blogs, or any different writing types. You decide to switch for a bit and try your first screenplay. You soon realize screenplays are a different monster all together. The screenplay has strict formatting and the way you lay out your story is more dialog driven. This can cause confusion.

One way to get around this confusion is to use a template, but not the type you think. Not something you download or get from screenwriting software. No, I say go watch a favorite movie. Once you watch your movie, open up a screenwriting program and put the movie on again. (Celtx is a great choice for your screenwriting as it also works for novels, comic books, and much more.) Now write the movie you are watching. Don’t worry about getting all the dialog down perfect, concentrate more on the scenes and the acts.



Once you have this done, go back and revise. Keep the scene and act structure but start to change the action and the dialog. Change the setting. If it is an urban setting, switch it to sci-fi. If it is sci-fi, switch it to a western and so on. Rewrite the dialog and make subtle changes to the story along the way.  Change the characters, not just names but genders and motivations.

Once you have gone through this you should have a script done. Maybe it will stink, but you got the practice in and you now know how the process works. Now you can go one of three ways. You can do this again with another movie. You can go back and yet again revise and tighten up the script. Or you can start your own script from scratch.

It is important to realize this is not a shooting script. You never have to show this script to anyone. Actually, you probably should not. This is all about getting in the practice and learning the process.

What if it is not a script you want to create? What is it is music? I have used this very same trick a couple of times to get the feel of how to produce my music and also to get past a block in my music production.

Ready to GO!

Ready to GO!

Instead of a movie, load up a song that you like in a genre you want to produce. Put this into a track in your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) of choice. Now you have a template to create your new composition. You have a template of how the beats and bars fit together to make verses and choruses and bridges. Start with creating your beat and then adding other tracks.

As you get going, you will reach a point where you can mute the original track. At this point continue until you have the song you hear in your head.

Will you have a masterpiece? Probably not the first time, maybe not for many attempts, but you now have working knowledge of creating music. Now open up your DAW and start a song from scratch.

You can use this technique for any type of creative project you want to try. Most important, just create. Don’t give up. Keep trying until you get exactly what you want to create.


2 thoughts on “Trying to Create a New Form of Media? Use an Old Favorite as a Template”

  1. Well said and concisely written. This is the first time I’ve heard or read anyone mention this technique. Using a movie as a mental template and changing the content for practicing screen writing. I also believe it keep passion in a writers heart. Favorite movies and favorite books is why we get into the business anyway.

  2. Thanks Paul. This is a technique I have used for some time. I find I come at projects from odd angles. Most sites, classes, and experts teach technique, substance, story, etc. I find not many just focus on building habits and process.

    Sometimes people quit projects just for the confusion of where to start and what to do next. I believe once someone learns the process, the creative juices are more free to flow and the total craft will get better as a result.

    Everyone, do yourself a favor and check out Paul’s work!

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