a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Thursday, December 29, 2005

So Anyhow, I'm Writing

As happens every year, Hollywood is a dusty ghost town, so I've turned my attentions to my much-neglected writing.

I spent yesterday shaking out the second half of my supernatural thriller, polishing the edges, putting back in a deleted sequence that worked much better than the one I replaced it with, taking out a subplot that never really served any purpose (there turned out to be no good reason the male love interest needed to have one of those electronic monitoring bracelets around his ankle), and groaning at how the fast-paced third act just points up how slow act two is.

And it's 128 pages. Ouch. So it needs at least one more pass, to trim the fat and get it down to 119. I'd settle for 123. Time to take a red pen to the dialogue, to the wrylies, to the repetitive exposition that assumes that the audience didn't get it the first two times around.

I'll let it sit for a few days.

Meanwhile, I have other scripts which have long demanded attention, the final polishes to get them into send-them-out-there-and-even-enter-the-Nicholls shape. The killer is that I'm really a one-script-at-a-time guy; I have to set aside a draft of one script before really tackling another.

There's the frozen time fantasy/romance/thriller, that got me some attention around 5 years ago, around the time that Clockstoppers came out, bombed, and leeched any interest from it. Fortunately, people are forgetting about Clockstoppers.

I tried a rewrite early this year, with notes I got from a friend who was trying to set up a reading in New York, but then I got bogged down with work and I think the script went backwards anyway. So it's back to the last draft that worked, and then incorporating into it the good ideas from the last brainstorming session.

There's my teenage-girl-with-psychic-powers script, which is my albatross, the one I have done about 18 passes on (or maybe it's 418); the title has changed four times, and it took me about 10 passes to finally figure out the story (which came when I briefly reworked it as a TV pilot). And I can't walk away from it -- not because I've already put so much work into it (because that's about learning to write) but because there is a lot in it that works really, really well.

Then there's my comedy/fantasy/romance whose plot I never quite cracked, but which has a lot of good stuff in it too, and which really needs a revisit.

(Right now I feel like John Cusack in "High Fidelity", going back to check on his old girlfriends).

And there's the horror script I started noodling around with a few months ago, which currently sits in about 45 random pages on my laptop. Very dirty and violent; not like me at all. Probably why for a while I was only writing it after midnight.

I do have a pile of screenplays in my closet that I'm never going back to, because really, what's the point? My first script was awful, a comedy (well, it was supposed to be a comedy) about a kid who gets turned into a vampire at college. I made ALL the rookie script mistakes with that one.

A decade later, when Dimension (who I was reading for at the time) was casting around for a werewolf tale, I spent about 10 days page-1-rewriting that first script into a non-comic werewolf-on-campus horror tale that has some good things in it, though a third act in which all the characters were wolves fighting in the woods probably upped the budget without doing enough right.

(Dimension made "Cursed" instead, which was their mistake.)

My second script was the only straight drama I have ever written, basically a roadtrip with a geeky guy and the girl he likes. It wasn't very good, and I haven't even read it in forever. My third acript was about a guy who realizes that the family next door are demons who killing everyone in town one by one; there's some good third act stuff, but it takes way too long to get there. Then there was my Tooth Fairy script, which I always liked, though the funny first half works better than the more action-driven second half.

There were also a couple of scripts I abandoned midway, when I realized that they weren't working and that I just didn't care enough about them to make them so.

I also did index cards for a raunchy teen comedy that maybe I'll write someday, while I have a few other good ideas noodling around in the back of my brain, gaining form.

So that's my screenwriting life. Some scripts that people have liked, a period around 5 years ago when I briefly had a manager and almost had an agent, and way too much of my own excuses, like "I'm too buried in reading to think about my own writing".

Which I really can't let be an excuse any more.


At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 9:48 AM, Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

You can always call on me to give you a free read with unqualified comments that won't help you a bit. But then, really, what is the point?

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Fun Joel said...

Yeah, seems like this is the time to get some serious writing done. Seems like a lot of us are using this "down time" for that purpose. Looking forward to hearing the great things coming along down the pike!

At 6:08 PM, Anonymous Dave R. said...

Stay in the fight, you only lose when you stop trying, or die, but if you died you'd probably have bigger problems to worry about. Like finding Whoopi Goldberg and a clay spinning wheel.

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

Well, you've certainly helped shape my scripts, so I'm sure you can get your own up and running!

At 9:56 PM, Blogger Konrad West said...

Glad to know I'm not the only one who's getting stuck into a good lot of writing over the break.

PS: Please, please post a page of your first ever script.

At 10:50 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I have no idea how to do that cool page-posting bit. Plus my first script was written on an electronic typewriter, so I'd have to physically retype it in anyway.

So you'll have to settle for my assurances that it really sucked.

At 11:49 AM, Blogger mernitman said...

That's a lot of interesting irons on the fire... I'll admit I'm kind of intrigued by the "dirty and violent" horror script that was "not like you at all" and needed to be written after midnight-- sounds like there's something in there (i.e. you) that wants out, and often those end up being the best (or most interesting, lead-to-who-knows-what) sort of projects...

At 7:42 AM, Blogger Mark said...

As "they" say the first ten are practice.

Happy writing Scott and good luck in the New Year.

Mark's Screenwriting Blog


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