Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Progress Report

There is no progress to report.

I’m finishing up the Lifetime script, that should have been finished long ago. Big problem has been the notes on the treatment - many of them didn’t sound like they would be difficult to deal with, but have ended up creating huge problems. Oddly, a minor note from the director asking that I combine the ex-husband character and cop character has been the biggest problem. I thought the whole horror-severed tongues / beheaded-pets thing was going to be the biggest issue... but that ended up being just a matter of toning down the bloodshed (and later deciding to return the full amount of gore for the DVD & foreign versions). Though Lifetime may read my gore version and blanch, all of the offensive stuff can easily be removed in the editing room. I think the producer and director would rather shoot that stuff for the post-Lifetime markets.

But the cop / ex-husband thing is kicking my ass. See, now one character is:

A) The cop investigating the killings.
B) Brother of a murder victim.
C) Ex-husband of our leading lady.
D) Father of the leading lady’s kid.
F) On the killer’s hit list.

He has become the center of the universe! Now, every crime scene is also a "What happened to our marriage" scene and a "You need to spend more time with your son" scene. These scenes just topple over under the weight of all that! Because the relationship between the cop and the leading lady has changed dramatically, all of those scenes became completely different than what was in the treatment... and all of the leading lady and son scenes changed... and all of the leading lady and ex-husband scenes changed... and.... well, the 33% of the story that was the horror stuff changed a little, and the 67% that was relationships became a page one rewrite! Every single scene where people weren’t getting killed had to be re-thought, re-planned, and sometimes there was that domino effect where a small change on page 15 created massive changes down the line. Who knew a minor note would have such a major effect?

Actually, I knew. That’s part of my job - to imagine the impact of each note. But it ended up being even more of a problem than I expected. I really wish that people would consider their notes - think of how it will impact the entire script - before they open their mouths. That’s one of the most frustrating parts of this job - a director or producer or development exec who may have only done a quick read of the script will come up with some idea off the top of their heads without ever considering the ramifications. They just throw this stuff out without really thinking about it... and it’s up to me to figure out how to make it work. Sometimes, it can’t work.

Sometimes, in the story meeting, I say: "This note won’t work because..." and explain how the dominoes will start falling. But usually, they can’t really imagine the dominoes falling, and want me to use that note anyway. If it doesn’t work, I’ll just do another rewrite to undo it. Problem is (at least from my POV) that the time and effort and brain cells that go into making the change that can’t work would be better used on some other change that can work... or even writing another script. Sometimes the pointless rewrites take as much time and energy as writing a whole new script! In fact, the worst notes are the most difficult... and most likely to not work at all even after you’ve tried every single way to make them work. The producer or director or Devo scraps that draft of the script and you go back to square one. I wish I’d spent that time writing a new script!

I have this huge stack of scripts waiting to be written (actually, a stack of blank paper). Every one of these pointless drafts is one more script I won't have time to write in my life.

Do you know how much time (and work and brain cells) I’ve wasted on rewrites that never had a chance? A couple of minutes to think through the notes first would save us *all* a lot of time... but I don’t see that ever happening. Producers and directors and Devos are never responsible for their notes. I have to justify every single frigging word in my script, but the "what if they’re cowboys?" notes can be "just a thought I think you should explore". Sometimes, I think this town would run smoother if the producers and directors and devos had to pay for each rewrite that doesn't work out of their own pockets. Then they’d think twice before coming up with some note off the top of their heads. There would be fewer wasted drafts and scripts might actually improve with each new draft.

But, then, I’m a dreamer.

Of course, part of my "no progress" has been a handful of brand new script tips, some blog entries, some prep work on a new screenwriting book, an article for Script Magazine, and several other writing related things that don't add a single page to the script I'm working on.

Anyway - Lifetime script will be finished tomorrow or the next day, then I’m writing up some new classes on audio CD and also doing a page one rewrite on my DIE ROBOT script which will now be called STEEL CHAMELEONS - it’s over a dozen years old... but has a very similar plot to I ROBOT... but with an INVASION OF THE BODYSNATCHERS thing - the androids have "liquid skin technology" and can change to "become" anyone they touch. They are part of plot to take over the government... by replicating the President!

After that... probably one of the "stockpile" scripts I’m writing for a big studio spec sale.

Oh... and there’ll be a new blog entry tomorrow.

- Bill


Cunningham said...

I also got the note: Can this werewolf movie also be a western?

True story.


My favorite note (yes, I've received it more than once):

"What do you think about having TWIN SERIAL KILLERS?"

Yeah Buddy... Good stuff. LOL.


aggiebrett said...

So have you tried explaining the problems with the note to the note-giver? Maybe they've simply not bothered to consider the full ramifications of condensing so many plot lines into one character's arc-- that's a huge storytelling bottleneck if EVERY key thread goes through the one central character.

Or maybe LifeTime just isn't the best market for a gory horror movie.

Sally forth. March or die. No sleep til Compton.

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