My First Short Film: Part 2 “The Script”

Dying to Live Poster

It takes strength to put your heart out there, to write a book, or a script. It might not be good but if you care enough, if you want to learn, if you can accept criticism, you can grow and create something that might amaze people or at least entertain them.

I’ll be forty-one in ten days. It’s never too late to start. This is just the beginning for me. I’ll do a few short films, and then dive into making an independent feature film based on my most popular book When We Join Jesus in Hell. I’m sure I’ll learn a lot by then to really knock the feature out of the park.

The script for Dying to Live was based on one of the first short stories I had published (Boys Without Faces). The original version was a true story for the most part, about people I knew, but it’s changed drastically in the rewrite due to Timothy Robertson’s help. We’ve sat down for five hours at a time to run ideas back and forth. It’s been a lot of fun.

At first, the script was just about this teenage girl who lost her innocence in a brutal fashion, and through eleven rewrites it’s become so much more than that (although that is still the heart of it, along with how adults can still lose their innocence too). It’s about loneliness, grief, trying to heal after tragedy strikes two families, and how sometimes our obsessions can destroy us.

I can’t wait until our film goes into production in March. It’ll be roughly twenty minutes packed with content and conflict and subtext.

We have such a great team and great cast. I’ll be sharing about them after New Year’s as well.

If you want to write, if you have a story that’s been on your mind, grant yourself permission to dream big. Surround yourself with people who have joy and talent and enthusiasm. People who can share successes with you. The stronger and more harmonious your team, the better the experience.

Thanks to anyone who spreads the word and points people to our film’s Facebook page.

My process when approaching a new idea is to brainstorm the story in a notepad, and then use 3 x 5 cards to organize my scenes. Amazon Studios Storybuilder has a great online 3 x 5 card system I use. It’s free and you can try it here.

Scriptwriting software:

I use Amazon Studios Storywriter for TV pilots because they have an ‘act start’ and ‘act end’ buttons. It’s also very easy to use, and formats pretty much automatically. You can download your script in PDF. I usually write everything with pen and notepad and then type it into Storywriter, which makes it easy to kind of do a second draft on the fly as I’m typing it.

Good Books on Scriptwriting:

(I haven’t read a ton of books about writing scripts since I prefer to read and study scripts instead, but here are a few of my favorites I’ve read a couple times each this year.)

TV Showrunner’s Roadmap

Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show

John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story

Writing Movies for Fun and Profit

To really get a feel for writing scripts, it helps to read as many great ones as you can. Here are some of my favorite scripts:

Nightcrawler               True Grit

No Country For Old Men                   Collateral

The Incredibles                       Leon: The Professional

Up                                           A History of Violence

Breaking Bad Pilot                 Fargo (Movie script and TV pilot)


I’m so glad to have so many people on this journey with me. I’m grateful and hope I can pass on some of the things I’m learning while in the trenches of making my first film. I’ll share more about the process soon!


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