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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.


Start the series from the beginning.

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