After I had written my first stageplay, a one-act titled “Snowfight in Providence,” I felt bad I spent that time away from writing more scripts for screen. So when it came time for me to write my idea for a full-length stageplay I had a realization.
Broadway for years before that time and still today always tends to produce shows based on movies, even some of its big budget musicals; Catch Me If You Can, Ground Hog Day, etc. so that got me thinking.
What if I do the opposite? If I were to write stories for the stage which would also translate to a film production, I would double the number of properties I build up over time. So with my first stageplay “24Hours and Something Original” I did exactly that. And that’s what I’ve aimed for with every stageplay I’ve written since.
Every story I’ve conceived since 2000 has either been developed in a way it can be made a screenplay or teleplay with very little rewriting.
I would say the only titles I’ve written which may not translate well is “The Twilight of Nantucket” simply because most of it takes place during Studio record sessions and that limited scope wouldn’t translate well to film. I think it would be a little boring from a visual standpoint. And the other work would be “Dadly Intentions,” my first musical and maybe that’s because I don’t see musicals translating to film to begin with…at least not without some sort of grandiose facade like “Into the Woods” or “The Greatest Showman.” But that’s just me. Everything else I’ve done for stage I feel would also make a good movie, or at least one I would want to see.
In fact, I was talking with my wife recently and we felt after we establish a few goals for this year, one of my plays may be getting turned into a digital motion picture. But I’m not making that official announcement just yet.
So how do I write a stageplay with the intention of is translating to film? There’s no absolute answer for that but here’s a couple things I make sure to do style wise which helps.
1. Any monologues I write for a character can usually be told almost completely with visuals without the character having to say a word.
2. Most of my conceptual set designs are locations which could be obtained by a location scout or relatively easily built in a studio. I don’t make them too lavish for that purpose. Also I don’t want to turn off a potential theatre producer by having huge set requirements.
3. I make sure I add scenes which didn’t happen on the set but referred to outside the material. Like a character saying “The other day I ran into Laurie.” For the screenplay, I’d actually write said scene instead of describing it in dialogue.
4. I don’t let EVERY scene be anchored to the set. Some scenes are casual “get to know ya” type scenes which are developing character. Those scene which do not require the set specifically could be taken out and placed in someplace casual like a coffee shop or race track or anywhere really. Any place which could add scope to a film version.
5. Lastly, I watch the timing of my beats. Beats are bits of the plot or character development which drive the story or development forward. Most movies have a shorter time span between these beats, which usually means a movie version would run faster than the produced stageplay. But when I write a play, it has become my style to try and time my beats the same way a movie would. That way, the material is already timed for a film, for the most part, and require as little adaptation as possible to maintain them.