Monday, August 31, 2009

Blog 7: Screenwriting -- The writing process

I've told you how Travel Day came to be and this deals with the process. There are no specific rules to how one writes, some like me write in the mornings, some in the afternoons, some write at night. I'm a fast writer, others are painfully slow, a friend of mine can toil over one page for a day, I can do 5-10 pages on a good day.  Does it make a difference. No. Good scripts come from any method. So do bad scripts. We mostly all use computers, there are a few I know who still use typewriters. I use Screenwriter software, others use Final Draft, both can do the job but Screenwriter is more writer-friendly.

Screenwriters can be an odd bunch, some rarely like to talk about what they're writing, many are secretive, a lot of us are envious of other's work, some don't care at all. But the one thing that affects all of us is that once we finish our screenplay and hand it in, they are going to hire someone else to rewrite it. And it happens more than you think. 

I have been rewritten once for a movie called Maiden Voyage, it was a friend of one of the executives at Granada. I have rewritten other writer's scripts at least ten times, because I was a friend of the producer's. And that's how it goes. I rewrote a script called Riddler's Moon to the point that barely 10% of the original remained. 

However I never got the credit. 

Even the script supervisor wondered why I didn't take a credit. The reason was simple, it was the deal we made. I took an ambiguous credit, "Creative Consultant" in the titles. I also got a weekly salary and a great trip to Europe for 4 months.

As I mentioned before, there are basically two types of screenwriting, being hired to write a story and writing a "spec" script on your own.  I have done both. You have less freedom when you're hired, but you get paid all the way through. You have more freedom in a spec, in fact total freedom, but you might never sell it.  

Writers get people who tell us that their life story is incredible, and should be a movie, and that I should write it and they will split the fee. This is what someone once said "most people want to have written, rather than to write". And my answer is to tell them that their story is so great and so rich that I could never write it as good as them.  Then I watch the smile disappear from the faces. 

It took me around 4 weeks to write Travel Day. I use a software called Power Structure, which I believe to be the best of a lot of structural softwares. It's simple to use and the support from Mark is great. It asks questions of you, and offers a program that resembles using 2x4 index cards, which was what we did pre-computer days. Maybe that's why I like it.

Someone asked me once about "writer's block" wherein a writer is stuck for an idea, kind of like being stuck in calm on a sail boat. I answered that I didn't have the luxury of writer's block, not when someone was paying me to write. The truth is that I do get stuck, but when I do I turn off the computer and go for lunch, or shopping, or a drive into the Mojave, anything just to get away. And sure enough, in an hour or a day, a solution comes to me and I begin again. But when the script is finished and it's time to show it to someone else, that's when things get interesting. 

That is called "screenplay development" and that's in the next blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment