I have always had a strange relationship with deadlines. Maybe because I am a procrastinator by nature. Especially in high school, I can remember instances where a due date for a term paper would be ever approaching on the calendar, but everything else in the world just seemed so fascinating. Sit down and write my paper? How could I possibly do that when my room is such a mess? Just look at the dust that has accumulated on those base boards! No, it’s not time to write, it’s time to clean. Almost anything would prove to be more interesting and important than the task at hand. Why write your paper when there is a riveting program on PBS about the manufacturing of drywall? Given the choice, I must say, gentle reader, there is no choice at all, it’s going to be drywall. Then there is the transition from procrastination to boredom. Once I would finally force myself to sit down, and write the term paper, there would be that all too brief feeling of relief and freedom, but five minutes later, the freedom to do all those things that seemed so engrossing when I had a paper to write, would turn into mundane chores that I realized I didn’t want to do at all. I just wrote a term paper, and my reward is cleaning base boards? I think not. Let the dust continue to gather, I want to do something else, anything else. Such is the life of a procrastinator.
One thing that I have always disliked about deadlines is they seem to be ever present. Even as I got older and learned to do things in a more timely fashion, I could always feel the deadline looming over me. If I put in a good days work on a project, and was finished for the day, or taking a well deserved break, I could never fully banish the deadline from my mind. It just sat there, growing ever closer, waiting to crush me. Even when indulging in procrastination, I could never fully relax. The deadline was out there, and it was coming for me. I could not escape it until the project was compete. Then relief would be mine, usually followed by boredom.
However, not all deadlines are created equal. There is the deadline imposed by outside forces, (a boss, an instructor, or event) and then there is the self imposed deadline. I don’t know about you, gentle reader, but my brain knows the difference between these two. Outside deadline: ever approaching sense of doom that insures that all will be lost if not met. Self imposed deadline: meaningless. Who is going to know and who cares? Absolutely nobody. Nobody is going to come calling if the self imposed deadline is not met. Chances are, that no one even knows it exists. Thus, I have found it to be almost powerless in propelling me forward. However, the self imposed deadline does share one common characteristic with an outside deadline. It makes me want to procrastinate. Again, as if by magic, almost anything else sounds like way more fun than actually doing what it is I have set out to do. And without the power of the outside deadline to crush out all life, I have found that when I impose a deadline on myself, most often that deadline passes with the would be project remaining unfinished.
One of the things that the “Big Break” contest provided for me was a real live, honest to goodness, deadline... and it was coming. In fact it was coming so fast that I wasn’t sure I was going to be able have a film to submit. I had two months to finish my script, find actors, shoot, and edit a feature length film. I was pretty sure that was too big of a hurdle to overcome. So did superguy15847, and he said so. But "Beyond the Trailer" host Grace Randolph, felt that superguy 15847 could do it, so I decided that she thought I could do it too! (which may have been a little arrogant on my part. After all, I’ve never met superguy15847, maybe he is some sort of film making genius). The race was on.
Looking at my M&M calendar, I decided I would give myself two weeks to finish the screenplay. That would give me six weeks to shoot, provided I could get cast, and one week to edit. A daunting task with a real deadline, but I decided to go for it. If I edited the scenes as I shot them, one week of late nights, of fine tuning the film, should be enough to put together a decent project. However, the first mini deadline that I gave myself was to finish the script. If I did not have something to shoot, there was no movie. I figured I would give myself until the first week of September to have a finished script, if I couldn’t make that deadline, there was no way I was going to make the deadline for the contest.
Thanks, in no small part to the Srceenwriter’s Workbook, I already had a pretty solid outline and about twenty-five pages written. I now had two weeks to fill in the rest. It was my hope to have the screenplay come in at around seventy-five pages. Best case, I would get eighty, worst case seventy-one. Since the “Big Break” contest was for feature length films, I wanted to make sure the screenplay was long enough, and I wasn’t sure what the magic number was to qualify something as being “feature length”. In my mind I thought it had to be over sixty minutes, and seventy-one was where I wanted to set my minimum requirement.
I began to write. About three hours a day. Everyday. Pounding as many words into the keyboard as I could think of, to ensure that my script would be long enough. My page count began to grow as did my confidence with each passing day. I was actually going to be able to do this. Friday, August 27, found me typing in the final “Fade to black”. I had finished my screenplay. The first deadline had been conquered. Ahead of schedule, no less. Game on.