So you're all done, ay? Good to know. Give me one more draft!
hear that again and again when making a film, commonly even up through
pre-production. I'm so used to rewriting that it's tough to consider
myself done with anything as a writer just about ever. But sometimes
it's time to truly stop and safely assume your script is ready to be
shot. My feature, Trust Us, has been through so many drafts over
the years that I really think I've lost count. It went from a 10 page
play, to a 30 page play, to a 120 page or so script... to a billion new
drafts of that script. I have to say, though, every draft seems to get
better, and when I think I'm done, there's always a way to improve it.
I'm convinced that fact never changes. There's a point, however, when
changes start to hurt a script. I thought I might be at that point,
but, as a few newcomers have come to help out the project with a fresh
outlook on the script, I learned very quickly that's it true: there's always
room for one more.
Trust me, I'm the last person on this project who thinks I need a
rewrite. So many people have responded so well to the script already.
But then I heard why some things could be tweaked and therefore
improved. Perspective is an interesting word when applied to writing.
When I finish a draft of any of my screenplays for the first time, I
know there's work to be done on another draft. I also wrote down what I
thought was best at the time. I know I need to step away and come
back. Suddenly, my perspective changes. Man, I could really improve
this. This isn't what I thought I wrote. This is a GOOD thing. This
means you're ready for your next draft.
In my case, I've done this several times. But sometimes a new
perspective is useful at the very end of the writing process. It's not
even about what's missing or wrong with the script at this point. It's
more about how can I really put this over the edge. What things can be
done that my team and I have been overlooking this whole time? How can I
explain this to those who don't know the script like the back of their hand? Folks, we
run out of new readers with fresh eyes over a couple of year's time. Everyone you would
show the script to has read it. Everyone's comfortable. This is
exactly why that one last draft could be necessary. You really know
this when you start hearing of ways to improve your script, and you as
the writer simply get excited.
I haven't touched Trust Us in over a year, so going back to
it now isn't so bad. It's one last chance to try going to some places
you didn't go to yet. Maybe two characters interact that you thought
never would, and it becomes a cool scene you wish you always had! Maybe
there's a new way to explain information to make it easier for the
audience. Maybe one character needs to add one aspect to make him or
her a hundred times more interesting. Maybe it's better to flip the
order of two scenes. These places usually exist in the script, and as
the writer of a million drafts, you may not be qualified to find them
anymore. Rest assured, when someone does, and it's good stuff, you're
going to be salivating to get it in there and make last minute tweaks.
Now, there's always a time to stop rewriting. Don't drive yourself
crazy feeling like you NEED to rewrite. You may not, and you'll know
whether things work or don't work when you give it another go. The only
way to know this for sure is to stay true to the script. But please,
don't ever feel you're the only one who can improve your own script.
That's very far from the truth. I've had people read and
re-read my script and give comments, and if they're
good, you'd better believe I'm fixing things. I'd be arrogant (and
foolish) to not listen to anybody. Film is far too collaborative and
complex for that. Don't just take any critique that comes your
way either, though. Make sure it's the best thing for your film. Stick
to your guns when necessary if you think everyone's
crazy, but if there's even a hint of logic in the consensus: they're
probably right, you're probably wrong. Just as us writers and directors
need to scrap every bad idea that comes
our way, sometimes we need people to scrap our bad ideas that come
their way, too. In film you're surrounded by
such creative and smart minds, why would we not use that to our film's
advantage? That's craziness! My script is so much better because I
took the advice of people I trust. At some point the film has to become
even bigger than the filmmaker in order to make it work. At the same
time, as the filmmaker and creator of the project, I have to be true to
myself in process. I'm realizing now
why we call our movies our "babies." Once born, I have to put its needs in
front of everything, even me.
So this isn't about the rewrites we do before we show our screenplay
to people, it's about the rewrites you do after. The kind that has to
impress everyone involved: the producers, the cast, the audience, the
marketing, and in non-indie cases, the studio. After all, aren't we out
to impress everyone with our film? We want the audience to love it too,
so don't count them out because you think you have a monopoly on what's
good. Save that stuff for the old guy with the monocle. That's not
what filmmaking is. When outside forces (NOT you) start to form ideas,
opinions, and directions, you just may see things you simply weren't
concentrating on: plot holes, character choices, logistics, the order of
events... whatever. Once pointed out, these things are hard to ignore,
and you would have probably never seen them otherwise. And
my movie is about time travel! If that's not something that would
create questions, concerns, and needed explanations, I don't know what
I've had several drafts, but I recently learned there's room for one more draft of Trust Us.
This is how I hope to turn what I think is an excellent idea, to a promising
script, to a good script, to a great script, to an excellent script. (We
all think our scripts are excellent, can't I too?) Just know, one
helpful way to be excellent is to be done... then have just one more draft!