Monday, October 13, 2014

Watching yourself


I caught a bit of one of my movies over the week-end and while watching, I was curious about some of the scenes and, in particular, dialog. I wasn't sure that I was the one who wrote it, I didn't remember writing those words.

So I dug out my screenplay from some old file and compared it. Surprise, it was my writing. I just didn't remember it. I went through a few other pages, same thing, so it was me, I just forgot about it.

It's always a little odd watching your old movies, I asked some of my writer friends, they said the same thing. One friend was convinced someone rewrote his scenes. But in the end, they just forgot.

We all have our favorite scenes, usually some great dialog that sends shivers down your back. And for the most part, others didn't really care.

After I made Ghostkeeper in 1980, I didn't get a chance at another movie until a few years later, and as a screenplay only.  I wrote a b-movie which I called Bush League, about an all-girl baseball team that gets into trouble with rednecks in the mountains. I thought the title was funny.

I sold the script for $7500 in 1985 dollars and said goodbye. When they made it, I got story credit and there were about five other "writers" who claimed writing credit. Actually about 80% of the script was mine, they just added some nude scenes. 

Needless to say, I didn't show the movie to my mom. They also changed the title to Blood Games, which I guess was okay, I liked my original title better, it had a bit of fun.

I also rewrote a lot of scripts, most of them a "page 1" job, meaning that I started rewriting from the first page. This is where the original writers scream and shout. But, they gave away the rights to the producer and, in this case, the producer wanted me to rewrite the script, not the original writer.

There's issues in this type of job. First and foremost, the original writer gets the full credit and residuals. But the rewriter can also get a piece of that money which original writers don't like for obvious reasons. Some of the rewrite jobs I took were as a "Creative Consultant" while others had my name attached.

Credits for the script are in sequence, the first writer gets first credit, anyone who follows is second or third. WGA doesn't allow more than three credits. So what if five other writers added a few scenes? They get paid for their work, but they don't get residuals.

I've only had two movies that were rewritten by someone else, one was Maiden Voyage and the other was the Christmas movie, TheTown That Christmas Forgot. Maiden Voyage, about a ship that gets taken over by bad guys was rewritten by a friend of the producer's which obviously was a favor to his writer buddy.

The Christmas movie was changed a few times, but mostly for locations. I had written a winter screenplay with a scene where two men go hunting for a father who is lost in the snow covered mountains.

Since the film was being shot in August, it was impossible to shoot an exterior winter scene that big; so they simply changed the scene to the inside of a building. The dialog was mostly mine, with a few changes here and there. There were some fake snow scenes on one side of a street and anytime there was an exterior it was on that street.

In the end, with some computer graphics, the movie looked like it was shot in wintertime.

I had several TV episodes where I write the first draft and if I wasn't a story editor, someone else will make the necessary changes.

Changes are interesting in screenplays, sometimes they make the story better, sometimes they don't. It's all what someone perceives. 

Funny thing about watching my old movies and TV episodes, I don't really do it unless I want to see something specific and that relates to sometime I'm doing now. Since I've been writing for a lot of years, many of my spec scripts are pretty dated. I have some where the phone isn't a cell phone, it's a regular corded phone.

So what if someone wants the script? I dust it off and change it. Pretty easy.

And finally, don't look for Blood Games, it's really bad.

No comments:

Post a Comment