The found footage film is here to stay as long as it grows and adapts. Adaptation is the key to this. The western, the gangster film and the horror film changed over time. The horror film of the silent era grew up to become the four star films produced by Universal films in the 1930's. The genre nearly died off and then came back with a vengeance in the 50's. Led by Hammer horror films and aided with a massive wave of the newly introduced scifi horror film.
We all know the formula by now. A group of people, one armed with a recording device, find themselves in a life and death situation. This situation is usually supernatural or thriller related. Despite the best efforts of the mostly brain dead or functioning brain damaged lead characters they end up getting themselves killed while the camera is still recording. That death is symbolic for the death of the genre.
Found footage, must become footage films. This is done at the screenplay level and that is the reason for this post.
What I have found is that most found footage films are not written they are outlined. They are usually structured in the form of a treatment. The basic scenes are written in normal screenplay style. The interiors or exteriors are noted and then there is a description of what the characters are suppose to do and talk about in the scene without actually stage direction or dialogue being written. As a writer you are leaving to much to chance in the found footage genre.
The footage film screenplay is the wave of the future.
What is a Footage screenplay and have I ever seen an example.
The footage screenplay is a screenplay that incorporates footage shot by someone or a series of people and or security cameras on screen and mixes it with footage from a third person shooter (the cameraman). The best example of this kind of film making is the movie End of Watch. Where the editing is done so well that you have to really focus on each scene to notice when and where the switches are made.
Below is a great example of how footage and found footage can be combined to produce a quality low budget film. Screen was shot on a budget of about four thousand dollars and combines footage from iphones and the Canon 5d mark II.
This style of screen writing gives control back to the writer to deliver a quality story. If you are going to put your name on a found footage screenplay even if you only wrote a twenty page outline you are going to be blamed if it stinks. For the sake of your writing career the Footage screenplay gives you more control over the content that will comprise the finished product.
You will have to pick your devices and where and when to embed the on screen devices. Writing one of these films will require you to think at times as a director within the film itself.
When inserting them into the script put these scenes down as point of view (POV).
Character’s name and then POV.
POV of security cam or webcam.
You will find the best way of doing this. Just think in terms of footage rather than found footage and this will be a gift both to characters and audience. The audience that views the finished product will thank you. The characters that survive rather than finding themselves laying dead in a pool of their own blood beside a sputtering camcorder will love you.
Now go write some great scenes so that you or your director can go out and shoot some great footage.
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