The Director’s Cut

Directors Cut.jpg

Woke up with a bunch of people on my mind literally because God has given me five productions to work on simultaneously.  I’m starting to understand what Tyler Perry, Shonda Rhimes and Ava Duvernay go through working on multiple productions at one time.  The productions that I am working on, will manifest in 2017-2018.  So there’s a bunch of people (characters) in my mind daily. I get questions from my fellow writers and audience members, asking what’s my writing process?  How long did it take me to write my scripts?  What’s my writing rituals?….. and more.  So I decided to give you a step by step view of what I do as a writer and please remember, whatever you do, make sure that your writing process, is your own.

In a typical production, the premise of the production naturally comes first and then the ideas gets to flowing out of my head and into my journal.  I rarely use my phone unlike other writers who use certain apps or the notes section in their phone to record their thoughts.  I’m old school, I get a natural high from writing with pen and paper first.  To me, you retain more information that way and it’s just something about your hands feeling the pages as you write.  You can purchase a journal or spiral notebook almost anywhere.  I also like to use this method because, I carry my journal with me (same as my phone), just in case an idea pops up and I need to write it down before I forget it.  I can be talking to someone having a conversation about anything and an idea will spark.

Next, my productions usually takes months to piece together because of the script outlining, researching and interviewing my sources, story mapping, etc.  For example, in my short film, Coming Home, I came up with the premise to film a story about a young woman who had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina and was returning home 11 years later.  Without giving away too many details because the film is still in the production stage, it took time for me to research that and other hurricanes, to better understand the geographical and science parts of how hurricanes occur and what makes them deadly.  I had to go to New Orleans physically, several times to obtain stories from other survivors to add to my the character development, I also used those trips to New Orleans to visit actually where the levees broke and the homes and neighborhoods that were destroyed to have an emotional connection to what I was writing about.  I took photos of each scene that I was filming, and later once I got back home the first time, I did a story map with the photos and identified some missing links in my story and you guessed it, I flew back to New Orleans to film the rest and got more photos to add to the story map and B-O-O-M, put everything on an external hard drive and off to the editor it goes.

Another example, is with my first self-published book, God, Do I Hear Wedding Bells?, which took me a year to write because I wrote it as the experiences happened the year I left my abusive ex-husband.  Other books, because I was telling a fictional story, it only took me two weeks to write.  Each writing project is different and requires different amounts of time for you to work on.  I love having multiple writing projects to work on because if I get stuck writing one of them, I can easily go to the other and write.  Eventually during that process, ideas will spark for the project that I got stuck on or had “writers block” on.

After the timeline of pre-production, is the actual writing process of my productions which can take anywhere from 2-7 days to write the script.  I write at different times.  Some writers have a specific time of day or night to write but mine often changes.  I usually get the initial premise and ideas between 3-5am so I am up, writing in my journal those beats that come to mind for the story.  But the writing of the actual script, only takes me a few days.  I will take a trip somewhere to write because it helps me get out of my everyday environment with T-O-N-S of distractions.  I highly recommend using AirBnB to find you a nice cozy in or out of the country location to get your write on.  In my journal, (you can use a calendar for this as well), I create a schedule for the writing of my productions.  In that schedule, I block off time to take a trip, book it and go!  

I’m not that traveler that go to other cities to drink and party (although there will be some drinking while I’m there), but I take my writing and productions seriously, so to me, I’m there to work not party.  I don’t post on social media my entire journey to my destination and back.  I just show up and get to work and post pics of some things while I’m there.  I usually take a trip early Friday morning, around 5am thru Sunday evening.  That is enough travel time for me and enough time to write.  I can’t stay in one place too long like a week at a time.  I’d easily get bored and then get distracted.  So I take a quick trip to get the writing done.  I like to write in cozy places, almost like my home writing studio but with a twist somehow.  A twist can be a place with a balcony or a hammock outside in the back.  Somehow, that helps me relax and my creativity comes out more.   Again, I suggest you search some cool places on AirBnB instead of a typical hotel that costs too much money and has a basic look and feel to it.

Once the writing is finish, I reflect on if there’s a particular person I want to cast for a certain role, I contact them if so, and then I facilitate a casting call for the remaining characters.  Usually, the last cast member needed requires a special prayer from me and then I’ll host one final casting call and the person I want to come from all of the email submissions, usually is the only actor that comes.  This system has been working for me since my first play in 2016 and I continuously use it, in each production.  I am a firm believer that prayer works!  Once I have all of the cast, we rehearse for three months (if it’s a play, rehearsals are weekly, if it’s something shorter such as monologues, we rehearse bi-weekly).  The audience then sees the production in month four, so add that up and that’s about five months of production.  I’ll do a separate blog about the timeframe for creating short films.

My favorite part of my productions would have to be the first rehearsal (which is often a table reading) because that’s the first time my words in the script, literally come to life.   I get this hum in my soul that often times, I can’t explain.  Next, would be the first time I walk into the theater for rehearsal after the table reading.  When I click on the lights, I know my project which may have taken months or a year to gather and write, is officially in the production stage!  As with any other production, things happen and go wrong oh sweet baby Jesus.  But I am constantly in prayer for my productions and covering my cast in prayer, because without them, I don’t have a production to show an audience.  When things on set happen or arise, I take a deep breath, fix what I can, change what I can, and keep it moving, that’s all you can do.

My first production was in May, in Chicago, for once it was hot, the night before the show, the air conditioner went out.  What could I do about that? N-O-T-H-I-N-G! The technician came out to the theater, couldn’t fix the issue at that time, so we were left to keep all the doors open, bought cases of water for the cast and audience, turned on fans, apologized a million times during the show and kept the show going.  Again, the day of a show, things will happen, it’s just apart of the life and the industry lol.

This is just a peak of my life as a writer.  You have to be disciplined in anything that you do.  If you’re a writer, you have to tell stories that people of all walks of life can relate to and have their own dialogues about.  Are you a writer?  Comment your writing process, timeframes or the craziest things that has happened to you as a writer.

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