Monday, May 03, 2010

The Writing Week (Vol. 3) part 122 – Editing for Content and Page Count

At the top of last week, I’d just printed out my 122 page draft with the hopes of cutting 6 to 10 pages out and targeting beats that were either redundant or needed to be included. I accomplished one of those two things.

To say that I went into my edits with a hint of trepidation would be an understatement. I was convinced that the draft I had printed was rife with plot holes, redundancies, inconsistent character actions and voices, and a number of other structural deficiencies. It was a pleasant surprise, then, when I re-read it (over the course of four days – I spent a lot of my free time preparing to move, which I did this weekend) and discovered that there were not nearly as many missing elements as I feared. Sure, there were definitely beats – there still are- that need some work. For the most part, though, I was much more comfortable with the pages than I expected to be, and that’s always rewarding.

The edits for page count, however, were a little less gratifying. My estimate at having cut an average of two lines per page was way past the mark. Out of a total 122 pages, I only managed to bring the edited version down to 118. Not great, although not too terrible. Modeled much more after films like CHINATOWN or MINORITY REPORT now than something like THE ROAD, the script has a bit more room to grow than the average action spec. Still, 118 is a bit long in today’s market, and I’d ideally like to bring it in at 116, if not closer to 110. To that end, I employed another trick today: the mighty pdf.

By converting the script to a pdf, I could pull it up on my screen and look at each page as a whole. Which – if any – have lines comprised of one single, short word hanging by itself? These sentences should be reworked to nix that roll-over word and bump an entire line out of the script. Going further, which pages seem to end with an extra chunk of white space at the bottom of the page? Movie Magic (which I use) will often keep a sizable chunk of page blank to save from breaking up an extended piece of dialogue or chopping up a new scene oddly. But those unused lines at the bottom of the page are valuable real estate, and a few tweaks to the text above them can bring in a whole piece of text that was held over to the next page. A few edits in this direction can also eliminate a page or two from the final draft. (It’s still amazing to me how using all 57 lines allotted to each page in Movie Magic can make a difference of up to 5 pages over the course of an entire script.)

So, tonight’s goal (besides continuing to unpack my new apartment), is to target the scenes that are still troubling me – it’s no surprise that they occur between pages 60 and 90, the common problem children of any script – and knock a few more pages out, if possible. Either way, I’m hoping of getting this draft off to my producer this week. I am definitely ready for a new set of eyes to look at it (and tell me everything that’s wrong with it).