Monday, May 5, 2014

The Rewrite

Most of what you read about screenwriting and how to write that first screenplay and how to sell it and how to get the money and then they make the movie. But selling the screenplay is just the beginning.

As you've probably seen that when I sell a screenplay, or option it, it's all over. Take the check and go to Paris. Or Disneyland.

But in many cases, it's just the beginning of a lot of waiting and hanging around and disappointments. That screenplay that you optioned or sold that they said they loved, suddenly became a screenplay with "problems." And they have notes.

And this means that you will be given the choice to see if you can create what they had in their minds. And if it works or if it doesn't. So that idea that you loved so much and was sure it would be a hit movie because someone in a screenwriting book said it would be if you followed their sure-hit formula... didn't work.

There's also the issue of money.

If you deal with a studio or production company that has made movies, they will give you exactly what they promised, they may have lots of notes or maybe just a few. And they will give it to you at the right time.

But if you're working with friends or people who don't have money, it's a little different game. And this is where friends unfriend other friends.

Everyone thinks writing is the easiest job in the world, and if someone watched me for a full day they would confirm that. I spend maybe 2 hours writing my screenplay or at least five pages or so. I'm a fast writer, some writers are slow and some slower. In the end, they all finish at some point.

Then I contact people for other projects and have lunch and then a nap and then work a little more on future projects. But what the watcher can't see is this; I am always thinking about the screenplay I'm working; from the time I wake to the time I go to bed.

I have notebooks and pens and pencils in every room of my home and in black, blue, red and green. And each have meanings.

So now that I've optioned two screenplay one of them is already funding the movie. In this case the two partners didn't want me to do any rewrites and the option fee was $10, "because they don't have a lot of money" and that is true. The writer/director even called to ask me if he could make changes.

In this case, I didn't really mind, and signed a low budget WGA contract with them.

My other screenplay was written and finished in January for two people who also had no money. And again I had to ask for something, usually referred to by writers as their "house nut", meaning money to at least pay the rent and food for one month.

So now they have notes for THE rewrite. I have a policy about rewrites to myself... look it over quickly and put it away for a day or two. After that their notes either make sense or they don't. And since I am still on the "payroll" of deferring costs and their notes are actually interesting and workable, I'm okay with trying to translate their visions.

The thing here, is this; everyone on a feature believes that the writer is a mysterious figure who they rarely see and who seems to want to get paid before everyone else. And since the writer does his/hers work alone mostly and way before the movie often is financed, then why should they get paid first.

Nobody seems to like paying writers and for good reason; the writer's first draft is pretty much finished when the screenplay is sold. But remember this; just because it's finished doesn't mean it's going to be made. I've optioned about 25 or more screenplays that never were made. Of course in that case, the property comes back to me, but I'd rather it be made.

I've done a lot of rewrites on other people's scripts and have had a few other writers rewrote, mostly episodic TV where it's common for the showrunners and staff do a lot of rewriting.

Movies are different and when the screenplay is still in play like the second one above, so far I'm doing the next rewrite, at least I think I am. Insecurity is always a few feet away when attempting to rewrite the vision that they first had and the vision I had over that their first vision.

As with always, good producers and directors are pretty easy to work with, they hired you because they know you can do it. Producers who are uneasy and unsure are the ones that might just make it a living hell.

Lots of visions, eh?

Wish me luck. Or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

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