Monday, June 18, 2007

Uncharted Waters for Emily

Lead Actor has been wanting for some time to workshop Game Night in his acting class. But Game Night is 12 pages and his acting teacher will only allow five minute scenes in the interests of getting the class out before 1 am. So now my mission is to turn a 12-minute short film into a 5-minute play.

But I can't say no to a challenge. A mental challenge, anyway. I'm not really going to take a dare to bungee jump into the LA River or anything.

So I hacked off the first few scenes where our characters play Taboo. It's great character reveal stuff and shows Lead Actor snorting coke, but in order to shave the story down to its bare elements it had to be the first part to go. Lead Actor will just have to sniff a lot and act hyper and hope the audience gets it.

Losing the beginning dropped the script from 12 pages to 9 and I did it in like five minutes. The next 4 pages won't be so easy.

But it makes you wonder just how necessary those extra scenes are. I think the story loses a little without them, but at the same time it might be a good idea to trim them a little since it was so easy to drop them from the script.

I never wrote a play before. Lead Actor wants to produce a play in the fall, but he's not much of a writer so he wondered if I'd be interested in writing something off a pitch that he could star in and produce for the stage. Because I'm not doing enough for his career already.

But I never back away from a challenge and I accept all invitations. Stupid Lead Actor, knowing all my weaknesses.


I got it down to 3 1/2 pages in play format. Bare bones, missing some character development but still maintaining the core of the story. In the process I really cleaned up some dialogue. When you have to hack pages at that rate you don't have time for speeches. Some of those changes will stay.


  1. You have to rewrite completely. I don't think you can just cut out scenes. If you can, then the scenes were too long anyway (for a screenplay at least).

  2. Oh I should probably clairfy then. Game Night is one location and has very little blocking so it's actually already set up very much like a play.

    But after I minimized the stage directions I dropped another two pages.

    So yeah, at this point I'm just trimming dialogue.

  3. That's awesome that he wants you to write a play for him. It's a huge compliment, and it helps broaden your writing chops.

    I like the word chops.

  4. I've found that I can usually trim pages by forgoing my "one helicopter crash per page" rule.

    Sure, the resulting piece sometimes reads a little less dynamic and exciting, but it does save pages.

  5. Emily, thanks for clarifying. A play is written differently anyway, so when you write in play form you can save some more space.

    see here:

    Have fun!


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