Monday, January 24, 2011

Fourth draft, here we go

Damn macro notes.

I've been thinking for the past week or so about how my protagonist doesn't have a clear goal. I wrote what is essentially a character-driven plot, an exploration of what it means to release the demon inside you and rope it back before it goes too far.

The problem is, this is an action script. Action scripts aren't delightful character pieces. They are strongly structured plot-driven films. I know this, but I sort of hoped the awesome bits in my script would hide all that.

And last night, surprise surprise, the writers group noticed. That's why I love these guys - they do not let you get away with shit. I wailed, I threw things, I called them all assholes.

I was partly joking. At one point last night I shoved my notebook across the table and swore I would set the script on fire.

Then I went home and started thinking of how to fix this situation, and lo and behold, I saw a way to fix it thanks to a suggestion made by one of the guys.

This means a lot of work, but I didn't start on this journey to give up. As we say in group, "The difficulty level of this script is high." This is the kind of script that takes a lot of work to put together, but if I do it will be a perfect showcase of my abilities.

That's what this spec business is, I think. Taking the bits and pieces that don't work and finding a way to twist and turn and slide around the puzzle pieces until you have something great.

And I won't settle for less than great - not on this one. This script is my calling card, and by God I will make it so incredible that anyone who reads it will be dying to pass it on.

So today starts the next round of rewrites. And at the next meeting, if I get another macro note, I'll wail and cuss and throw things. And then I'll get back to work.


  1. Depending on how you feel about Blake Snyder.... pick up his last (and, sadly, LAST) book, "Save the Cat Strikes Back." A lot of the script issues you may be encountering are covered rather wonderfully in this particular book. It's all about "troubles" with our drafts and how we approach them. At worst, it'll lessen the blow of whatever truths your group presented to you and give you a cheery outlook on your next set of toe-to-toe rounds with the draft.

    Lock n' load Emily!

  2. Thanks, but I don't really believe in any of the gurus. I believe in exploring the natural flow of the story and not obsessing over whether or not I meet a specific formula.

    This is draft 3, so I've already worked through major issues.

    I know people swear by Snyder and I'm glad he works for them, but I'm wary of any definitive method that isn't mine.

  3. Hamboogul10:38 PM

    Please blog more often. I'm running out of ways to procrastinate while I'm working on my outline.

    Oh, related to your fourth draft yada yada, I'm trying to adhere to outlines so the Kim Team (the name I assign to my entourage) can discuss the script without me actually writing it.

  4. "Thanks, but I don't really believe in any of the gurus. I believe in exploring the natural flow of the story and not obsessing over whether or not I meet a specific formula."

    We need more screenwriters with this attitude.

  5. Hamboogul, I will do my best to help you procrastinate. I usually post every week day, but honestly I'm running out of ideas. Some days nothing happens.

    Recovering, I want to clarify that I have nothing against Snyder. I know his methods have helped a lot of people, but anyone who's quoted that much as THE way to write a script makes me nervous. I read Syd Field back in the beginning and haven't read any formula books since. I sort of think as long as you have regular reversals and get your inciting incident out there early, the rest is flexible.

  6. Anonymous2:07 PM

    Excellent advice, not following script gurus. Excellent. That's the way I'm going lately. I go with the natural flow of my creative script writing "talent".

    Natalie Portman said that we should do what we like and the rest will come. She likes dancing and musicals...well this Feb, she will win best actress.

    Are you a fan of Natalie Portman, Emily?
    If you had to write a script for her, what would be that logline or storyline?

    All the best,

  7. Yeah I'm slowly becoming an unapologetic Snyder-ite. I'm finding a lot of his suggestions are raising up the level of my work, filling in gaps, that sort of thing. I may be a rube but if I'm a rube with a completed draft in my hands, I can live with it. ;)

  8. Jeff, whatever works to make you the best screenplay possible is all that matters.

    Mickey, if Natalie Portman asked, the story would be whatever she wanted it to.

  9. "this script is my calling card."

    I feel the exact same way about my new one. I just need to stop dicking around and actually finish it.

  10. Fabulous you see the next level, Emily. May you get fireworks and rainbows with your upgrade, just like Sailor Moon.

    I skimmed script books like I skimmed parenting books, just enough to find the truths that are universal. Figured out there need to be certain rhythms underneath the story, to most effectively engage audience, and Snyder, such a dear man from everything I've read, made it the most accessible. I also learned scene length has gotten substantially shorter over the decades, and from Paul Shrader, that effective narratives evolve along with the medium. From art I learned it's all about emoting. Twang our heartstrings, attach us to the character, that's the heart of it.

    For my first full length? Antihero, hidden nemesis, unexpected death, etc, as complex as possible because I'm an idiot. But love my character, and would love to see the movie, and I know the story is in there, in that beautiful shiny marble of the moment I see, I just got to pull out the right threads and weave it together.

    Emote, emote, emote. Distill, distill, distill. Now twirl and bob and do it all again. That's my dance. I trip a lot.

  11. Hamboogul9:19 AM

    I think it's important to know some of the basic language of scripts, such as the 3 Act Structure or even 8 sequence method so that you can adjust your language when you are speaking with industry folks.

    And probably if you read some books, they'll explain in 300 pages what a sane person can state in two paragraphs.

    Blog something new, dammit!!!! I have nothing to do while awaiting notes from my managers.


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