Wednesday, 27 November 2013
I left off the last thrilling instalment of the Tracker with the question of whether, now that I had finished the full second draft (with a good amount of back and forth in between) the script would be deemed to be in sufficient shape to send out to a director, or to cast.
The answer to that was, for the last month at least, not… quite… Another few tweaks and nips and tucks, in particular a couple of key scenes picked over again and again to make sure we are all absolutely happy with them. Because however annoying and late in the day all this work is, it is worth it. You never get a second chance to make a first etc etc. And nowhere is that more true than in the creative industries. If you’re going to travel 99 miles, why not go one more to make it The Best You Can Possibly Do? This really is the only lesson ever worth knowing as a writer.
So now I can say, with a degree of confidence and an equal measure of exhaustion, that, right now, it probably is. Any more work might start to take it backwards. And it is certainly time to get fresh eyes on it. It has been over a year since this core group of one writer and three production companies set off on our merrie way. Now it is time to add more travellers to our fellowship, to ferrie us onto the next stage.
So is it going to directors and cast? No! More excitingly, in fact, it’s going to a real live film studio, in Los Angeles of America.
This relatively happy ending (they’re all relative), and the fact that we’ve reached instalment X, seem to make this a fitting time to bring to an end the official portion of my Writing Assignment Tracker. It’s been emotional, I’d like to thank my dog etc.
I’m not going to do a comprehensive round-up of Wot I’ve Learned other than to say that contracts can never accurately predict how the writing process will play out, so as long as you are aware of that when you’re discussing them, and don’t try to stick to the letter of the legally negotiated agreement afterwards, you will probably have a happier and more professionally harmonious experience. Don’t be afraid to go the extra yard, even if you’re sick to death of rewriting that scene. If it ain’t workin’, it ain’t workin’. And probably MOST importantly, do whatever you can before the project begins to ensure that you and the rest of the team are at least roughly on the same creative page. If you’re heading in the same direction, there will be strength in numbers, and that will make you look good. If you’re pulling against each other, someone is going to get ripped apart, most likely you.
I shall keep you informed of any relevant progress. I’ve put the ‘final’ chart at the bottom of this post. The two remaining steps are, I believe, to accommodate studio / financier notes, and then director notes. After that, who knows? They’ll probably get Princess Leia in to do a rewrite and pay her fifty times what they paid me. I shall blog about that if it happens, believe me.
In other news, I’ve sneaked in another rewrite job in and around this big commission. It’s been a crazy ride and I’ll tell you about it one day, but it was another case of ‘just write the first draft so we can see what we’re working with here’ (as with most rewrites, this was one of those ‘Page One’ ones). I bashed out twenty pages a day for a week, submitted a first pass at 113 pages, and have spent the two weeks since whittling it down to 94 pages. I could have sworn on my dear dog’s life that there weren’t twenty pages (of genius, naturally) to be cut out of the first pass. But there certainly were, and it’s all the better for it. First drafts are the shoot. Lots of energy, noise, fun, creativity, and you never quite know whether it’s brilliant or dreck. Second to eleventh drafts are spent in the editing room. That’s where the work happens.
(Side point. This job is another case where I have done about a month’s worth of work, and delivered it, and still have to take it on trust that I’m going to be paid some time. This crazy business!)
What more? Lots more. Between now and Christmas, I’m working on three or four new projects that are all in the concept / treatment / early first draft stage. A couple of TV series ideas (WHEN is someone going to pay me to write a TV series, I ask you?). A kids’ TV idea, inspired by my occasional moments of self-harm whilst watching Peppa or Wibbly-Wobblies or whatever with my kids. I think I’m onto a corker but need to play it slow. And I’m also working on a couple of feature ideas, one old (revisited) and one new. I’m spending lots of time working out and writing up the treatments, which will then get taken to the BFI / BBC / Film 4, which will then get turned down and get put back in the Drawer Where Ideas Go To Die. But it’ll be fun while it lasts.
I’m finally joining the WGA and, for what it’s worth, wish I had previously joined the WGGB as that might have saved me $2,500 in the long run. So look into it. This will be my first experience of organised labour (labor) so will let you know if that transforms my working life in one way or another. See you on the picket line, comrades!
I’ve also had some very gratifying emails from readers of the blog over the past month. Thank you for those, nice to know it’s not just my mum etc. And on a related note, CHALET GIRL is getting a lot of air time on Film Four at the moment, with corresponding twitter activity. I have actually written some people’s favourite ever film. I am a golden God. Happy Christmas.
Here’s that updated chart:
First Draft Treatment
Initial Step Outline
Initial Step Outline client comments
First Draft Treatment
First Draft Treatment client comments
Second Draft Treatment
Writer response (not treatment)
Second Draft Treatment
Second Draft Treatment client comments
First Draft Script
First Draft Script client comments
Revised First Draft Script
Revised First Draft Script client comments
Second Draft Script
Second Draft first act
Second Draft first two acts
Second Draft complete
Second Draft revised
- a lot now…
Second Draft Script First Set
Second Draft Script Second Set
Monday, 21 October 2013
But I love lots about what she has to say here, about the communal experience of watching a movie, and the essential role that storytelling plays in our lives.
I liked most of all the idea that you need to leave space / gaps / ambiguity in your work, because that is where the audience gets in there and makes their own, personal, unique connection with the story that you are telling. That's where talent, judgement, confidence and experience all come into play, and it's the journey of a lifetime trying to perfect that art.
Movies began as a communal experience. Even though we now watch them as DVD’s, sometimes alone on our computers, mostly in the history of cinema it has been a communal experience. And even now, we prefer to go to the movies with a friend, with our family, with our partner. Even at home, we’d rather watch with someone else, given a choice. It’s a different experience to watching a You Tube clip, or playing a videogame, or watching Come Dine With Me.
There’s something about movies that makes us want to watch them with others. Those of us who make movies know that filmmakers always have this in their heads. We talk constantly about ‘water cooler moments’ - the moments in a movie that are going to have everyone talking on Monday morning around the water cooler or the coffee machine, the discussion making everyone else want to go out and buy a ticket so they can join in the discussion.
So - that’s the ‘when’.
At the beginning, characters have goals - to ask the girl on a date, to rob a bank, to be reunited with an estranged father, to land on an alien planet, to win a horse race and so on. If the story is working, the audience cannot stand up and leave the movie theatre because they need to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. This simple desire is what drives everything. The guys around the campfire knew that just as well as the screenwriters of today.
**********CUE: RUN CLIPS: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT SECTION:
The correct term would be INTERESTING. Why is the character INTERESTING? Why do we care about the character and what happens to them? What stops us drifting off and breaking the movie’s spell? Why do we keep watching the screen? Why don’t we start wondering about where we parked the car, or what we’re going to have to eat at the restaurant after the movie, or whether we left the oven turned on at home?
So the most interesting characters keep us hooked. Not likeable ones! Iago, Shylock, Darth Vader - are they likeable? Do you want to invite them to dinner? (Well, it might make for an interesting night).
But they are sympathetic: because each has been created to feel he was wronged or in search of a complex goal. And most importantly, they are INTERESTING. Each does crazy, mean things to other people, but we understand why they do what they do. We understand their human nature, because we feel those things ourselves.
************CUE: RUN CLIPS:ALISON MOVIE REEL
This sounds absurd, but I hadn’t even consciously noticed I was doing this until Tanya pointed it out. I have made a career telling the stories of extraordinary women. Because, well, someone’s got to ;-)