the 39 steps


Every wonder what it was like to write a screenplay? Perhaps you already have and wonder how everyone else does it. Well, writing a screenplay is one of the most unique forms of writing (as there are many rules a screenplay must comply with) yet each writer is an individual with his or her own style and routine.

Style. What a screenplay must consist of and how its set up are very different from how the writer goes from "fade in" to "fade out." There is no wrong or right way this can be achieved. For example: Some writers prefer to brainstorm on an idea, complete the entire story in their head, and then make a dash for the PC and compose the whole script within days. Others prefer to flesh out single scenes and then build a story around them. Even others still, prefer to start on page 1 and just go from there. No one way is wrong. That's just the writer's style.

Another aspect is the writer's routine. Some prefer early morning, others late evening, while some can write anytime of day. Some writers work on a script here and there for maybe an hour every day while others prefer 8-10 hour stretches on the weekends. It doesn't matter when you write or how much you write, just that you do WRITE...and read...and write....and read. Yes, reading is just as important as writing.

The very first book I read on screenplay writing was SCREENPLAY by Syd Field which provided me with a wealth of information regarding story, plot, character, etc. - a great book for starters. But like Coppola stated to Hopper in "Hearts of Darkness," "...first study the lines, then forget about them." So while I have created my own style of writing, I've also studied the basics first (with Field and others) and continue to build on them. I didn't just create something out of nothing and neither should you, so... learn your lines and then forget 'em.


Okay, let's get started. Remember now, this is only the way I write a screenplay. Like I said earlier, there is no right or wrong way.

The first course of business is to find a story idea I like. I then devise a beginning and an ending. Once that is accomplished, I create my two plot points. (For terms, go to glossary.) Once I have established my four anchoring points, I then create the characters. I usually create character bios in order to "get to know them better" but much of this information is never revealed in the actual script. Once the leads are established, I begin to create individual scenes. This process requires handwriting each scene idea on index cards (ala Field) which are then scattered on the floor and mixed around until scenes gel into sequences.

Once I establish the narrative line, I then flesh out each scene (still on the cards) with names of characters involved and what each scene does to drive the entire story forward. At this point, I usually have the entire script in my head (minus dialogue). When I feel all the scenes gel and the story moves along smoothly, I begin to script the story.

The first draft is usually composed in a notebook. I then make major revisions (2nd draft) and then type it into the PC (3rd) while making further corrections. I print out the copy, make more corrections (4th), add corrections to PC copy (5th) and then reprint it - sometimes adding finishing corrections (6th). How long does this take? 1 month per draft. I devote to 4-5 pages per day which yields me a 120 pages in a month's time. This is where I am the most strictest regarding time. The most IMPORTANT thing that keeps me on schedule? I never go back. Straight through each draft (never revising previous material). That's the pitfall. Continue to revise what was written the prior day or week and you wind up with 20 revisions of the first 20 pages and never a completed script.

Where time is less a factor is before the story is created; otherwise known as "the research phase." How long does research take? Varies. My JUMPCUT script was researched within a week. I lived it, so there was no need to do extensive library and web searches. My "William the Conqueror" script was another story. About 9-12 months on initial research yet I continued to research the web as I was writing it. Start to finish? Little less than two years.

That was the exception. Normally, I shoot for a 9 month commitment for each script. The script that I'm now working on will hopefully conform to that time limit ... but research, so tedious, so time-consuming, yet so very important.


This is my first attempt at an adaptation. What's tricky here (for me) is that I normally create the characters around the story but in this case, the characters already exist, hence I now have to create a story around them.

The story itself? With the slew of comic related characters gracing (or tripping) onto the big screen, I have taken on the challenge of adapting Marvel's DAREDEVIL for the cinema. (For complete background information on DD, visit Kuljit Mithra's site.) It is my intention to portray the characters involved, not as costumed super-heroes (which create a "cartoony" or "campy" look), but as credible individuals, involved in plausible situations, grounded in a real setting. A crime-noir piece without being overtly dark or riddled with insignificant gun-play/death/sex, drugs, & rock-n-roll. No "POW," "WHAM," "SLAM" here mister!

There is various talk around Tinseltown about a potential DD movie. Most recently (as of early '98), Chris Columbus & 20th Century Fox were rumored in producing a DD script penned by Marvel writer J.M. DeMatteis. At the moment, that episode is in hiatus (or even dead) so who knows what will happen. My script (working title: BLIND JUSTICE) will take several months to complete and by then, a new DD movie might be in the works making my script a "dust collector." Doesn't matter though. I feel this script will be successful no matter what circumstances arise regarding an eventual DD film.

Once complete, I'll post the script (in its entirety) on this website and you can be the judge. For now, let's focus on the script at hand and move on to the journals.


Finally. This is what this page is going to be all about. Sure, you can read screenplays. You can read articles about screenwriters and their scripts. You can even read about how to write and sell screenplays. Now, you can read what its like to actually be inside the writer's head as he develops and writes a feature-length screenplay.

From the beginning aspects of research, through the planning of scenes, character development, to the actual day-to-day scripting, I will be bringing you the whole enchilada. You'll even have the opportunity to voice your opinion as I script each scene, allowing yourself to become involved in the actual process (an inter-active screenplay you might call it). Just remember, while I welcome all responses and will respond back, the state of a screenplay-in-progress is just that - "in progress." A scene or sequence of scenes today, might be gone tomorrow.

At first, the journal entries will be more sporadic (about 1-2 a week) as the research phase continues. Once I have all the information I need and begin the actual construction of the screenplay, I will be more consistent in updating journal entries (possibly every other day). Until then, please stay tuned.

All right. Let's get cracking. Sharpen up those pencils. Put on that thinking cap. We're writing us a screenplay. Click for the JOURNALS.

UPDATE: June 28, 1999
The journal log is complete - though slightly more than the proposed "39" steps. A total of 55 entries spanning 14 months. The script can be read in its entirety here but I hope you take the time to read the journals as well. They make an excellent supplement to the script and show how it all unfolded. Highlights include my meeting up with Kevin Smith (present writer of DD) and the pictures taken at the 1998 Big Apple Comic Con in Manhattan.

theater 1 | theater 2 | theater 3 | theater 4 | theater 5 | theater 6 | theater 7 | theater 8 | theater 9 | theater 10
theater 11 | theater 12 | theater 13 | theater 14 | theater 15 | theater 16 | theater 17