Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 283 - Outlining (Again)

It has been 22 months since I first began collaborating with actor turned director-writer, W.A., on our sci-fi project. I have since lost track of the number of drafts of the outline and script that I've written, but it's up there. A few months ago, we sent the script to our representatives for their feedback, hoping they would be on board to start shopping the material around. Unfortunately, they didn't think the script was ready yet. After my initial disappointment at their qualms with it, I came to see the points and understand the flaws they had picked up on. I then went back to the drawing board. 

The major problem with the script, as pointed out to us, was that the first half (and especially the first half of Act Two) failed to excite. A lot happens exposition-wise, and there is a strong science component that the characters focus on. However, as my agent said, we created a heightened other world that the story is set in, but then just have characters sit around in a room for a long time. While an exaggeration, it's not too far off the mark. The more I reread the notes, the more clearly I saw the weaknesses of the first half. Yes, things happen, but it's not riveting, nor is it visually compelling - at least, it's not as aesthetically exciting as a story set in the world we've devised should be. Something big happens at the midpoint that both elevates the emotional resonance and capitalizes on the world and action potential established early on, but the 50 pages before that barely scratch the surface. Our big obstacle in rewriting, therefore, was to make better use of the first half of the script.

W.A. and I got on the phone (a few times) to hammer out ideas. I pitched him one that actually struck me as we spoke. I didn't know if it would be too out there or too disruptive, but the great thing about working with W.A. is that he's always totally game for whatever idea, as long as he thinks it could work. He thought this radical one would be the perfect way to address the first half shortcomings, so we started spitballing using that as our base. I since went back to outlining, as neither of us wanted to spend any time writing before we were positive we had the new direction firmly set. It took me a while to crack the first half of the revised second act, but after a call on Monday with W.A., I think we're there. 

The change I proposed ups the emotional impact of the script very early on, moving a major reveal from page 70 to page 10. IT catapults the characters and story in a way that the inciting incident hadn't yet before, and (we hope) it buys us a little more time before we need a major action beat. We still push the action up, but in really looking at the rules of the world that we've established, it became apparent that certain things simply cannot happen - at least, not organically - and therefore limit how and when we can have a tentpole, edge of your seat scene. Still, with the new incarnation, the major first half of act two action sequence moves up from page 42 to somewhere around 32, which is great.

So, now, after months off, I am about to dive back into pages for the script in what's almost (but not quite entirely) a page one rewrite. In the meantime, I've had additional reviews go up on Under the Radar. You can read my two latest online exclusives there, for Last Days on Mars and Expecting. Suffice it to say, I was underwhelmed by both films I saw.