Monday, July 06, 2009

The Writing Week (Vol. 2) part 79 - The Drafts They Are A Changin'

It's pretty common to find us Leaguers hunched over a damp wooden table in some Greenwich Village bar, talking about the degree to which we would let producers' notes influence our scripts. For the most part, this talk is purely hypothetical. "OK, they like your script and want to buy it for $500K, but they want you to make your action hero a woman. And a paraplegic." Or, "You'll get a sale, but they need it to become a coming of age comedy, and not a werewolf horror flick. Teen werewolf comedy and the sale is yours." "Would you sell the script if they wanted to make your Roman soldiers actually lovers traveling through time to modern day San Francisco?"

Read any book on film development or production from the studio side of things, and you'll hear more stories than you can count on one hand about the ridiculous ways that writers have been encouraged or flat out asked to change their scripts. We Leaguers like to pose these "suggestions" to one another as tests, seeing where the breaking point is. A year or two ago, we had very little bend incorporated into our interpretation of ideas. Bend at all, and the idea breaks.

Now, though, the discussion has become less hypothetical, and we've become more malleable. I've spent the past few weeks working with notes from Kevin and Gretchen (my manager and producer, respectively), and have to admit that I'm nearly 100% behind almost all of the suggestions. At first, I was just excited to get notes. Then, after thinking on them, I was on board with most of them. As the rewrite process has gone on longer, I've come to see the reasoning behind the remaining notes. And for any that I'm still not entirely behind, I can at least see the way to do it without compromising my vision of the material.

That, compromising the integrity of the initial idea, is my biggest concern in doing these rewrites. No, I haven't felt that happening yet. However, I did have an idea that could have completely redirected the purpose of the script - if I let it. Kevin and Gretchen had an idea to emphasize one element of the script, which I had not thought about beefing up. Doing so, however, risked diverting the protagonist's goal drastically. So, I revised a key sequence, managed to keep in what I wanted while adding the additional scenes, and wound up being pleased with the way the puzzle fit together. The current version of the script is different, but the character's ultimate goal is the same. I guess I know how I answer that hypothetical question now.