The Bag Means Your Mind

A delightful mix of insightful comments and ignorant assumptions about screenwriting... and such.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Left Turn at Albuquerque

So I finish reading my first draft. I was expecting to find excessive bloat. I imagined an excruciating read rife with boring scenes and wasted opportunities. I thought its faults would be glaring at me like a clown at a wake*. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending how you look at it) the story flowed well. There were a lot of spots where I was proud and the bloat that I thought would be obvious was not easily detectable. I’m left with a 165 page script that I need to cut 45 pages from (at a minimum).

Now I’ve got to put my script in a press and take the welding torch to it. I have way more questions than answers, because I’m not exactly sure how it’s all going to happen. What if my story is, in its heart of hearts, a 140 page script? Unlikely, but possible. What if getting it under 120 means cutting it to the point where my original story no longer makes sense, so I have to blow it up and start anew? That frightens me, but I have to take solace in the fact that, in the end, the story will tell what it wants to be. I just have to listen.

For now, I’m going to write an outline from my existing draft. For each scene sequence, I’m going to write down how it affects the main plot and any relevant subplots. I’m going to write down all the characters involved and what their want is for that scene. Then I’ve got to answer the most important question: why? Why does this scene need to exist. On a separate file, I’m keeping track of all the subplots and how many scenes are involved in each. I’m hoping that I will be able to look back on it and glean some information that will help me wrangle this monster in.

Condense. Compress. Combine.

I think that will be my motto for the foreseeable future.

*What? I thought it would lighten the mood.


  • At 7:42 PM, Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said…

    Why do people always give wake clowns such a hard time? They've come through for me on every project so far. Don't let the naysayers get to you. You're on the path.

  • At 1:23 AM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said…

    Make it 185 pages! Do it! DO IT!

  • At 11:41 AM, Blogger Systemaddict said…

    It's hard man...cutting down when everything seems to fit. But you're right, the story will tell everything it needs to, so long as you let it.

    Hope it goes well

  • At 12:00 PM, Blogger Brett said…

    I think it was Goldman (it's always Goldman...) who confessed to sometimes having TWO different drafts of a script: the one he uses to show people, and then one he actually sees as the one for use in an actual movie.

    On the one hand that seems an odd and possibly wasteful way of working (doubling the workload, right?), but the more I think about it, the more I think I see what he means. In the "reader" script he honors the requirements (in your case, under 120 pages) and makes it read more novel-like so that it feels better. But in the "movie" script he goes into more speciif cdetail about scene and shot descriptions (and if you've read a Goldman script you know what I mean).

    You might try that here, even if only in your mind. Try creating a new draft copy of the 165 page thing. Label it "reader script" or whatever, and shrug off any paranoia that you are ruining your baby by rationalizing that this ISN'T your baby-- it's another baby, one which just happens to look and sound a lot like your baby. It's a PHOTOGRAPH of your baby you can show to people, and then later you can show them the REAL baby which is far more interesting than the smaller simpler snapshot.

    Get it to 118 pages by any means necessary. if the story is great, the producers will likely be more interested in fleshing out and reconstituting where need be.

    Write -- don't think. Thinking can only hurt the team.


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