Something in Return Screenwriter Pre-Production Journal

Hacker Stock Photo


For the pre-production step of this project, I was tasked to write the screenplay for my team. I spent one night cranking out the first draft, and spent four days working with my team to edit and perfect the screenplay to the best of our ability. I made an effort to contrast time by __, and use a little bit of inter cutting in to keep the plot moving forward at a fast pace. I looked at fight scenes so I could figure out how to write fast motion for the fight we have in our film. I wanted to use visual foreshadowing, possibly with shadows and focus on items that don’t initially seem important, because it is something that I love to see in film. I also love seeing wardrobe reflect a character’s true identity, so as I crafted characters, I toyed around with color motifs and attempted to visualize what tropes I associate with certain articles of clothing.

Drafts of Script

I found myself adding new scenes as I wrote, and developing characters and actions more.

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Correctly Formatted Script

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Character Development

We come to understand that the team is very similar to a family. We see them interact, and grow attached to them, even though they are technically in the wrong for the movie.

John goes from a threatening authority figure to more of an equal We expect him to be “right”, but he’s more out for himself than the team is.

Lots of the character development comes through realizing the actual role of the characters with the rest of the team. We see Kris emerge as a reluctant but formidable leader, Marten as a snarky and intelligent hacker, and Chuck as the protective fighter.

Influence from Movies

  • John Logan, Robert Wade, and Neal Purvis – Q and 007’s banter from Skyfall and Specter influenced some of the banter between the team.
  • Emil Pagliarulo – John’s moral ambiguous but ultimately good personality (neutral good) was inspired by Nick Valentine from Fallout 4.
  • Jeff Davis – Criminal Minds inspired the common tropes for the hacker team, and the idea of a criminal team in general.
  • Lawerence Lasker and Walter F. Parks – War Games for the idea of snark and a race against time.
  • Morgan Davis Foehl – Blackhat for spy/hacker movies in the modern age.


  1. On the first day of pre-production, I pitched several movie ideas. The team conversed and decided to focus on the action genre, with a hacker movie.
  2. After a day of working on the screenplay, I brought it back to the team. I proposed one ending, and the team sugguseted another. We compromised so the ending was both ambiguious, like I wanted, but still had a sense of ending, like the team wanted
  3. On the 5th day of pre-production, the director/cinematographer Kameron and I looked through the screenplay. We rewrote some everly cheesey dialoge


It’s modern day, and a small hacking ring is causing minor chaos. They seem themselves as a group of Robin Hoods, stealing money and information from the elite and sharing it with the world. Common citizens have very different opinions on if the hacking ring is doing right or wrong. They’ve been working together for a couple of years, and are clearly very close. One of the teams in the ring, in a nondescript city, is suffering. Three teammates are working together in an attempt to break the leader of the team out of prison. One of the police detectives in the city is assigned to the case, even though their personal beliefs align more closely with the hacking ring then they do with the law they are supposed to uphold.

Costume/Props that help characterization

  • Kris wears bright, colorful clothes opposed to John’s neutral ensemble
  • Marten wears glasses to establish himself as the intelligent one early on
  • Chuck is in athletic wear. He’s fit, and blends in with the rest of the word easily
  • Room is a mess, overflowing with papers and computers. The team is running out of time, and chaos has become the norm

What I Learned

I learned a lot about compromising for this project. I also looked at places that I hadn’t previously looked before for inspiration. I also learned to be a little more fearless, and to just dive headfirst into something instead of letting fear of my writing not being good enough holding me back. I also discovered how much we unintentionally draw inspiration from other sources. I also got better at cranking out a project on a short deadline.

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