Thursday, October 04, 2007

My Partner and Me

So the quarterfinal results of the Expo screenplay contest were announced today and Bamboo Killers is nowhere to be seen.

My very first screenplay did better than that four years ago. Then again, there were twice as many entries this time around and Writing Partner and I both agree we need another pass at the script.

What annoys the crap out of me is why the hell I didn't enter my favorite short. I have no idea, but it would have kicked the shit out of the competition. This isn't the one I shot, this is the one I want to shoot next. It's about boxing and everybody who reads it loves it. I love it too. But somehow I forgot to submit it to the Expo.

Alas. Onward and upward.

Yesterday David posed a question about writing with a partner so I will now address what I know about the issue. It was only about a year ago I was asking the question. What a difference a year makes.

First of all, I know so very little compared to Terry and Ted of Pirates of the Caribbean fame. Read this article about how they work together first. That will probably answer all your questions because they've actually made money doing this and I haven't made the quarter finals.

But in case you still want my humble experience I'll give that too. If anybody's still listening.

I've got a bunch of posts that have dealt with specific issues that have come up between me and Partner that you can peruse here. I also may have posted on this topic before, but not in as much detail as I will here.

Partner was actually a friend staying at my apartment for a month when he had some domestic troubles last year. He went to film school and directed a few shorts, but most of his direct film experience was in acting. I don't believe he'd ever written a feature length script, which of course I had.

Partner, although I give him much grief, is actually a fabulous person. He drives me bat-shit crazy, but he's also one of my best friends.

I digress.

So we were sitting around one night and I started talking about this idea I had for a TV show about events that follow a school shooting. It was a little bit like The Wire meets Boston Public. Partner loved the concept so we started working out the story beats. Then he moved away to a cold land in the north and we wrote the script over email. It was a giant pain in the ass because I was using Movie Magic and Partner had to use Word. Thank God he now has Movie Magic as well so that nightmare is over.

Anyway, once we had a loose outline of how the story would go one of us - me, I think - started the first few pages. I got about 10 pages in then ran out of steam, so I sent what I had to him. He took a look at what I had, called me, we discussed the next move, then he added some more pages then sent it back to me. Then I called him, we discussed, I added pages and it kept on like that until we had a first draft.

Then that guy shot all those people at Virginia Tech. Thanks, ass face.

So we dropped that script for a while and mulled over where to go next. Then one day we were joking about a night when he was staying with me when we played a game of Taboo with a couple of friends. Then we started building a story out of the events. And using the same back and forth method as before we pumped out 12 pages pretty quickly. Like over a weekend.

It was okay. The characters were fantastic but the story was boring. Then we brainstormed until we came up with the idea that ended up driving this whole thing and making our story go from mediocre to freaking awesome. After that we discussed what else needed to be fixed. We divvied up the tasks. I would take one character and give her a stronger arc and he would take another. Then we were done with the short and I commenced plans to film it.

But we kept talking about these characters and where they could go. And we kept talking about what we would do next. And one morning I woke up with an idea about how to combine both and write a Pulp Fictionlike film we could shoot one story at a time.

Then it was easy. I took two characters and Partner took two characters and we each wrote a short to reveal an interesting look into their character that pushed the larger story at the same time. We tied it all together with a short I'd written a few weeks before that we realized we could revise to serve our new feature.

At first each short was way too much in our individual styles. He's more comedy, I'm more drama. So I did a pass where I changed anything that sounded 100% him and he did the same on my material until it all sounded more even.

We still have a little work to do on our feature since it didn't clear the quarter finals and all, mostly on one of the chapters that's a tad too slapstick comedy to match the rest, but all in all I feel prouder of this script than anything that came before it.

I don't know if we'll write together again; this may be the only thing we complete together. Everything I've started since has been my own personal project and he's gotten pretty heavily back into acting, but I learned a great deal from the experience. I can now show that I work well with others, but I also have scripts of my own that prove he wasn't the one with all the talent.

I guess if you want me to sum up what I learned I'd say two things.

1) Communication. Partner and I were on the phone for as much as six hours a day, sometimes all at once, sometimes in increments. On occasion I would not like something but I wouldn't say anything because I thought Partner loved it. And every single time this happened it turned out that he hated it too but thought I loved it. So you have to be honest and open and communicate.

2) Be open minded. We fought constantly during the writing process. Then again, we'd fight even if we lived in the land of milk and honey and everything was perfect because that's just how we are. So when we disagreed and I'd hang up on him - which I did, frequently - we'd both go to neutral corners and ponder. Then he'd come up with an idea and I'd come up with an idea and we'd meet somewhere in the middle. But if one of us couldn't convince the other it was a good idea to leave in the part in contention, it was out. I believe I got that from Ted and Terry.

Tomorrow: Writing Partner finally tells his side of the story.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post and sage advice. Although of course my situation is different, I still will be able to take a lot from what you said. Thank you! And looking forward to hear from Writing Partner.


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