Posted tagged ‘Projects’

One Crazy Summer (The Not-Savage Steve Holland Version)

October 18, 2009

Jeez, where to begin.  The past few months have been ridiculously busy.  The saga of the Wedding Comedy now contains more twists and turns than a Six Flags roller coaster; we’ve got funding to the tune of $3 million, the Director is still on board, the script has been rewritten and tightened to her satisfaction and that of the producers and the financier, the production was budgeted and given a tentative start date of the first week in November… and then we hit a snag involving rights issues and one Big Studio which, to put it bluntly, is being a giant collective douchebag over the matter.  And because of this problem, we may lose our star for reasons too convoluted and tedious to explain.

Fortunately the financier is still willing to make the movie with or without this guy, but given that I’ve spent the past couple of years tailoring my original spec for him, it would be a bit of a drag to have him suddenly bail like this.

My work has been done since Labor Day, which was my deadline to turn in the latest draft for budgeting and scheduling.  (The two weeks previous to that holiday was one of the most intense writing experiences I’ve ever had, and worthy of its own blog post — but I was just too damned tired to write it at the time.  Hopefully I’ll get to it in my next post; given my posting pace in the past six months, that should be sometime before the New Year.  Maybe.)  Since then I’ve just been sitting on my ass, getting periodic updates from the producers and the Director and crossing my fingers that the whole thing finally comes together and they make the movie.

In the meantime, I’ve been struggling with the rewrite of my latest spec — the Domestic Comedy, one of the scripts that I jammed out before the Peanut was born in July of 2008.  For whatever reason, it’s been virtually impossible to focus; every other dumbass idea I’ve ever had seems more interesting than this script at the moment, but I’ve got to buckle down and get it done.  It’s been way, way too long since I finished a polished spec, and my writing partner and I have a tentative agreement to get our first collaboration going in January, so I want to clear the decks before tackling that one.

While I do battle with my own creative inertia, parenting has become even more of a challenge as the Peanut becomes a toddler… a very, very moody toddler.  If I had a quarter for every meltdown and tantrum I’ve witnessed, I’d probably have enough money for the down payment on a nice-sized house.  The Missus and I are exhausted every night, though after 15 months of being parents, “exhausted” has sort of become our default mode.  Factor in my day job and such distractions as the Xbox, movies, books, and, well, sleep, and sometimes I’m amazed that I can still  complete a sentence, let alone a screenplay.

But that’s bullshit, of course.  I finished my Wedding Comedy draft and it was well received (one of the producers told me I knocked it out of the park, which certainly gave me the warm fuzzies until I decided he was probably just blowing smoke up my ass for reasons unknown), and I did it in record time. I CAN finish the spec at hand.  I just need to believe that I can.

… And if that fails, I could just ask the Missus to nag me to finish it.   The only reason I even wrote this tonight is that she urged me to pay some attention to my “poor blog,” as she put it.  Yes, I can be guilted into anything.  Hopefully she won’t ever  get it into her head that I’d make an excellent bank robber.  Of course, maybe then we could actually afford to buy a home.

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Replacing the Turd (or, A Story Breakthrough)

October 17, 2008

Tonight I had one of those moments that makes me so happy to be a writer.  As you might have read in yesterday’s post, I’ve been having trouble getting into the rewrite of the Domestic Comedy.  The script reads like I jammed it out in eleven days — which is only fair, since I DID jam it out in eleven days — but the haste in which it was written gives the rough draft a nice energy, a few scenes work pretty well and there are some nice moments that I came up with off the top of my head that I never even imagined during the plotting stage.  So there’s plenty to work with there in terms of raw material… or so I thought, until I actually tried to rewrite it.

After much headbanging (and not the fun kind), I zeroed in on my main problem: the third act is awful, centering around a would-be set piece that was intended to be a great trailer moment and instead just lies there like a giant, steaming turd.  But I had no idea what to replace the turd with.  For the better part of a week I’ve pondered this issue, to no avail.

Then, tonight, as I was sitting on the couch, bottle-feeding the Peanut in my lap with my left hand while attempting to scribble brainstorming notes onto a pad with my right, it hit me.  It was one of those lightning-to-the-head epiphanies, the kind that always brings to mind the image of John Belushi getting zapped by the ray of light in the church in THE BLUES BROTHERS.  I realized that my solution was this:

In coming up with the climax I wrote, I was working from the outside in.  Oh, sure, I’d set it up earlier in the story (albeit in a ham-fisted, amateurish manner, but what the hell, it’s a rough draft), but in practice it felt arbitrary.  It didn’t feel true to the characters; you can practically hear the gears of the malfunctioning plot grinding against one another while you read.  What I needed to do was work from the inside out — think about who the characters were, what they wanted, how they got in the way of each other in trying to attain their goal, and how it brought them to their respective low points at the end of Act II.  By establishing that, I could then figure out how they had to change during the climax.  And by establishing THAT, I could begin to work out a climax that felt more organic to the story and actually paid off the character arcs in an emotionally statisfying fashion.  As a bonus, I also suddenly had an idea of what the climactic set piece should actually be.  It was so perfect, yet so obvious, that I couldn’t believe I never thought of it earlier.

Moments like that feel so great; the whoosh of inspiration lasts only a few seconds but the warm and fuzzy afterglow can linger for hours.  I still have plenty of story details to work out and it all could still fall apart, but at least now I have a solid foundation, something to build on. 

(Of course, when I pitched this new climax to the Missus, she liked it but pointed out that it’s basically a thinly veiled fictionalization of her job situation in specific and our lives in general, albeit exaggerated to comic effect.  This, of course, never even occurred to me, once again proving that I’m possibly the least self-aware writer in the world, or at least my neighborhood.)

So anyway, why should you care about any of this, aside from the fact that I hope you think I seem like an okay guy and you’re rooting for me to succeed?  Well, if nothing else, it’s a good reminder of something to keep in mind with your own screenplays: when you hit a dead end, go back to your characters and rework from the inside out.  The people should drive the narrative, not the other way around, and more often than not, a story doesn’t work because the characters don’t work.

It’s a good thing I finally wrote that all down, ’cause god knows I forget it often enough.

Here We Go Again…

September 18, 2008

The good news is that the producers really like the new draft of the Wedding Comedy — they think that with one more polish, it will be ready to take out to talent. 

The bad news is that they want the polish by Monday.

At least they supplied me with several pages of nit-picky notes which will hopefully keep me on track for this final (or maybe that should be “final”) pass.  I’m now, of course, worried that I’ll screw up whatever it is that they liked about the rewrite, but I just need to remind myself of my recent discovery that the less I overthink things, the better.

Easier said than done.

Finished (For Now)

September 16, 2008

 

 So yesterday I handed in the revised draft of the Wedding Comedy, all polished up, dumbed down, and minus eight pages to bring it in to a low budget friendly (or at least friendlier) 102 pages.  Any good?  Who knows — I’d like to think so, though at this point, my opinion is the last one that matters.  Strangely enough, instead of agonizing over whether or not it was ready to turn in, I’m remarkably calm about the draft’s possible reception.  Maybe I’ve finally come to realize that at this point, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. Or maybe I’m just relieved that it’s over for the time being.  Either way, I’ve been basking in the afterglow ever since — apparently I look like I’m in such a good mood today, the Missus thinks I’m having an affair.

The wife also pointed out something that I didn’t notice until after the fact: according to her, this time around I was significantly less neurotic while writing than I usually am.  Maybe it was because of the  tight deadline given by the producers (three weeks between the approval of the loose outline and when they wanted to see the draft): I didn’t have time to agonize over the myriad options I faced with along the way but simply had to make a decision, stick with it and move on.  In the Missus’ opinion, my standard neuroses were there, but I didn’t let them rise to the surface because I couldn’t afford to let them.  This makes sense to me, even though I never thought of it that way; I suffer from a chronic lack of self-awareness, though, so she’s probably dead on.  In any case, the sprint is over… at least until the producers give me notes.  Then the race starts again.

In the meantime, I’m going to veg out without guilt.