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How I Wrote a Screenplay in 30 Days: Part 11


Props, Wardrobe and Location Passes

Download a copy of the screenplay, A Girl Named Trouble.

The next set of rewrites I tackled were these passes: one for props, one for wardrobe and one for locations.

Guns are Status Symbols

I started at the beginning of the script and read all the way through to the end, considering my choice of props. For example, before I started the screenplay I knew the main characters each carried a signature gun. As I wrote and rewrote, those guns changed along the way. From her backstory: Trouble carried a simple service revolver. Her father was a cop. And if it was good enough for Dad, it was good enough for her. After doing the prop rewrite, I changed her gun to a Colt Python. Maybe she carried a service revolver a few years back, but she’s grown out of it. Trouble needed a more impressive gun in her line of work.

Breadcrumbs in the Choice of Car

A character’s car is an important clue to their personality. The Dodge Challenger was an important decision. In early drafts, Trouble’s car was only described as a beater. But I thought if I changed it to a Dodge Challenger, it might signal something to the reader. Roman has a beat-up Dodge Challenger, too. And on page 1 he owns a new Dodge Challenger. This might not make complete sense until the big reveal at the end of the story.

Clothes Maketh the Man

Likewise, wardrobe says a lot about a character, in particular Calix Jace. It’s why I chose to introduce him by focusing on his bowler hat. Cane’s black full-length trench coat makes him feel like he has superpowers – super dark powers. Kong’s solid-gold tiki charm tells the reader he’s proud of his heritage.

Location, Location, Location

The last of these three passes was for locations. I asked myself: Are all the scenes set in locations that create the most tension or jeopardy? For example, Roman stealing a bus filled with passengers is better than stealing a car. A shootout in a crowded Mexican restaurant has more jeopardy than an abandoned warehouse. Burning down a coffee roastery doesn’t evoke the same emotional response as burning down a mortuary.

I got through these simple passes pretty fast. But the next few really slowed me down. Next week we’ll examine rewriting exposition and action.

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Mike Johnston is a production executive and advertising creative in Seattle. He is available for consulting, writing and directing. Contact Mike.

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