It's been a long, loooonnnng time since I've sat down to begin working on a screenplay that was anything other than the post-Apocalyptic spec. So long, in fact, that it feels a little strange. (Well, maybe that's an exaggeration. But a year or two ago, I was used to starting a new project every five or six months. An outline aside, it's been closer to a year now, I think.)
On Saturday afternoon, as I've been doing a lot this summer, I took my laptop into my back yard and sat down to get an hour of work in. (Yes, you can have a back yard with real grass and trees and everything in New York. It's crazy to get home grown tomatoes and grapes from someone in New York City, but that's what my neighbor hands me over the fence with regularity.) Tanning while working, I set my playlist to accommodate the right kind of air-drumming music and got to it.
About a half an hour later, I had two shots and a total of about 3/4 of a page down. Not my best pace. However, in that brief time, something interesting, important, and unusual happened. I realized that the outline I was working off of was in need of change, major change. The protagonist is a fire fighter, but I never thought to include the other members of his engine company in the script. Well, the chief's there, but the other guys never factored in. Half way through the second shot, I realized that they'd have to play bigger roles. Instantly, the script had changed - for the better, I hope.
Outlines are supposed to be flexible. A script can change organically while being written, rendering certain things unnecessary or outdated (compared to in the outline). Having a malleable outline also allows for more fun while writing, inviting surprises to creep onto the page and provide a fulfilling writing experience - versus one that is, more or less, an exercise in transcribing from outline to screenplay. Still, despite all my awareness of an outline's flexibility, I've never had one change so early into the writing.
To be honest, I wasn't 100% satisfied with the outline. It was workable, sure, but also seemed a bit too linear (a common first draft problem) and lacking in pizazz. The realizations that I had within that first 3/4 page will hopefully breathe the new life into the outline that I needed. I look forward to getting back to it tonight and seeing how the story evolves.