Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 262 - Three Hours in a Cafe

Conducting a page-by-page review of a 109 page screenplay is not as taxing as you might initially assume. Or, it's way more so. Depends on your impression of how long that would take. Either way, it's how my collaborator, W.A. and I spent the hours between noon and 3pm last Thursday.

I took the train just outside the city to Westchester, where there's a bit of an industry glob. W.A. took me to a cafe, where immediately I overheard the diners next to us discussing production tiers and projects of varying budget sizes. I grabbed us a couple coffees, as W.A. replied to a few quick emails about SXSW, which he flew down for this year. 

We started with a couple big notes on the script overall - that pesky scene in early Act One that I described in previous posts still wasn't where it needed to be, though it was close, so we focused on that a while. There were a couple other beats here and there, but before too long, we were able to jump into the nitty-gritty. 

Starting on page one... actually, scratch that; we started on the  title page, deciding credit placement for the draft. Then, we went through and checked our edits against one another's. "They would say this word, not this for the science." Or, "I don't think we need that description, but should use a super instead." Page by page by page. Some changes would inform others, but for the most part, the edits were localized enough to treat autonomously. 

Things got a bit more involved in the second half of Act Two. Any of us who has written a screenplay knows that it's the quarter of the story that follows the midpoint that can be hardest to structure. You have to keep the pace going, while also giving the characters a breather from whatever just ruined their plans or made their day on page 60. More so, you have to make sure that they audience continues to receive new information. Your characters can't just sit around talking about what happened. They have to do something about it. Or at least figure out what they want to do about it later. Most importantly, you can't duplicate scenes or information - this rule goes for the entire screenplay, but is especially true for this portion of the script, wherein a lot of the earlier dots are starting to connect.

W.A. had some great suggestions for collapsing two scenes into one, or otherwise moving information around so that the story continues to build without slowing, but that we got to keep the larger emotional beats. I went home feeling really jazzed about the changes (and had falsely lured myself into believing that they would only take an hour or two to implement). I wound up dedicating much of the weekend to revising everything, and the hard work seemed to pay off. I'm still not sure whether all of the science adds up, or if the protagonist's and antagonist's plans track throughout the entire script, but that's why we're showing the script to our producer. She gives great notes, and if she says she's confused or something doesn't add up, then we'll know right away it needs work.

Until I hear back from her, I'll have a little time to work on other ideas, which have been simmering for the past year, since I got on board with this one.