ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

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

Friday, June 30, 2006

Mr. Fix-It, Pt. II

Updating my "Adventures on the Edges" post, the very-low-paid, no-credit rewrite continues.

I really feel the urge to blog about this, because there's a lot of ambiguity to it on many levels. The whole idea of rewriting someone else's script is always a dicey thing, though in this instance, I'm able to justify it in several important ways:

1) The script has a good, high-concept horror-thriller idea, and C- execution. And, despite being given a lot of opportunities, the original writer just never managed to elevate the material much from his original half-assed take on it. And the writer has (supposedly, though I trust my producer/friend who told me this) given the tacit okay to overhaul it without him.

2) As rewrites go, I think I'm approaching it in a way that you'd want some guy rewriting your script to approach it from. I'm doing it because the basic idea has really fired up my imagination, and I want to make the script work. I'm NOT doing it simply for a paycheck (obviously), while I'm importantly NOT doing it with an eye on making enough changes to it to get my name on it as a co-writer, because it was made clear to me that that was off the table from the start.

And that's actually very freeing. There's no baggage here, no conflicting motivations pulling at me. It's just about bringing out the potential in this script, and making it kick ass.

3) It's a much, much better script now, but at the same time, it's still the original writer's structure and story. If it's a car metaphor, the engine is his, but I've souped it up, and completely overhauled the rest car to make it a better ride inside and out.

This update comes because I spent much of the past two days (probably about 10 hours total typing, 3 more hours on the phone) doing another major rewrite of the script, incorporating scads of notes that the producer and I worked out together. If I ever do sell a script to a producer, this would be the kind of relationship I want; he liked my ideas, added some refinements, we kicked a lot of stuff around over the phone, and hammered out a string of much better second half action beats.

And then I just sat down at my laptop, and disappeared into the zone again.

And that's what has me freaked out, and exhilarated. Because I've rediscovered something in the past week, that I thought I'd lost. The ability to just sit down, and write, and write, and write, and write good stuff, and crank out endless pages, and finally look up and realize that 4 hours have passed and I didn't even notice.

That's heaven, and that's what I need to continue with my own stuff. As soon as this rewrite is over (it's almost there, maybe one more tighten-up-the-nuts polish, but the major work is done) I can try to translate this new writing zone to my stuff.

And lord knows, I have enough choices in my own things-to-be-written pile to find one that has me disappearing into the laptop for 2-3 hours every night.

I can't wait.

So it's a weird shame that I'm finding all of this inspiration in a script that I have no claim to; if the producer can set it up, he'll probably throw me a bit more cash, and if it helps make him a little more of a player, well hopefully he'll throw me some work in the future with some real money attached. Of course, if this movie is made, and is successful (which is possible; it has some good moments, for a lowbrow thriller), it's the original C- writer who will get the gigs from it.

But again, it's not months of work that I've sunk into it, it's literally days. It's been a hell of an experience, my first actually working with a producer, aggressively shaping work, pounding away on a tight deadline, and discovering that it feels really, really good.

So even if the script goes nowhere, I think it's still win-win.

And if anything happens with the script in the future, I'll send up a flare.

17 Comments:

At 11:45 AM, Blogger Brett said...

I'm just confused-- if the first writer of record has given his OK to be rewritten, and the producer is working with you to rewrite it, and your contributions to getting the pile of pages to producable property are noted and acknowledged, why do you not get a credit? Either a shared screenplay credit or something-- ESPECIALLY if there's no money on teh table at the present?

Cool to hear you had something re-ignite your creative fires, but something here just seems... screwy.

Not WRONG -- just... screwy.
.
.
.
screwy B

 
At 11:58 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Apparently the producer (who is working out of his meager savings) optioned the script for so little money that sole writing credit was a major part of the deal (at least until someone with some real money comes on board, and makes it worthwhile).

It's not a major sticking point for me. Again, I might have souped it up, but it's still his script.

 
At 12:07 PM, Blogger deepstructure said...

fantastic that you're feeling the motivation to have this help your writing as well. glad to hear you've rediscovered what you thought you'd lost.

there's something in what you said that made me think you might hit a wall when you go back to your own stuff. not because you're not a good writer - but because i'm a firm believer in the energy we get from others - and it sounds like a large part of what has fuel'd this new found ability to zone is your excellent relationship with your producer.

i know for myself having someone i trust and can work with for ideas can be a huge boon for my productivity. it's much easier to disappear for four hours when you're highly motivated and charged up about the ideas because you've had a synergistic session with another human being.

best of luck when you move to back to your own stuff! if you can recreate this process with someone around your own material i think you'll find that transition much more successful.

 
At 12:20 PM, Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

pardon my naivite, but what is C execution?

 
At 12:36 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

C-, as in a grade. As in, A is good. F is bad. C- is not very good.

 
At 12:57 PM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said...

The credit thing could also be a question for Craig over at Artful writer.

I think that if the script went to arbitration, if the powers that be think that the large majority of the original writer's content is still in the movie, he/she gets the credit.

It doesn't even matter that a polish took a mediocre script and turned it into a makable film.

 
At 1:59 PM, Blogger Emily Blake said...

Obviously it would be better to have credit, but there's something to be said for a project you love. You're doing something you enjoy. Money or no money, that's what we all strive for, isn't it?

 
At 2:10 PM, Blogger Spanish Prisoner said...

the best thing is you are doing it out of love and enthusiasm for the story. you want to do it neverthless what comes back. because what comes back is much more worth then money. it's motivation and self esteem.

just go for it like you've done the last coupla days. it's in you.

you do what you feel is right and it is right because you feel it! that is courage!

 
At 5:41 PM, Blogger Chesher Cat said...

To guarantee the same enthusiasm when you get back to your stuff, make new title pages and put the name of the guy you're currently rewriting under "written by".

Happy to hear you're jazzed.

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger Bill Cunningham said...

If this is an indie script that is going to be made without any signatory studio funding - then arbitration or any of that stuff is out the window.

Don't worry about it and do a good job.

Part of the freedom that comes with rewriting is the fact that it's someone else's idea/script. It's not "your baby" which can hamstring one occasionally.

I jumped up and down on quite a few people's necks when I rewrote THE SOUND. It seems like a similar situation to what you're going through - streamlining, etc... making a good idea a great script. What freed me to do what I needed to was the fact that I could cut and move whatever i wanted and didn't feel a bit of guilt.

 
At 9:20 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

It's fun when the fires get lit. Just happened on a script I had put away (for about 5 years actually) and just took it out recently. I looked at it and a zillion ideas came flying at me.

Now I'm working with my manager to get it ready as our next script (it's a high concept romantic comedy) project to go out with after the one we're working on now is out.

Good luck on yours though; I agree with The Crymedog that you are still owed credit, at least a co-writing credit.

 
At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey - this is what your dream meant - a few posts back.

This script WILL get made and you will get compensated (financially or otherwise)

 
At 9:10 AM, Blogger Dante Kleinberg said...

I don't see why, if the movie gets made and is at all successful, you couldn't get work from it. I'm constantly hearing about this or that writer who did uncredited work on a movie.

Just because you're not IN the credits, doesn't mean you can't put it on your résumé, right?

 
At 1:00 AM, Anonymous Mortimer said...

I'm glad to hear you're writing, and in the flow with things.

At this stage, based on other posts I've read (as obviously I don't know you in real life), that seems like a very important thing... exactly what you needed.

This is making you write and work out the chops ya know ya got but haven't been using how ya liked.

I could be wrong, as like I said it's only based off of what I've read! I'm just happy the script is going well for you, and it leads to either further work or a renewed motivation to work on your own stuff.

Good luck, enjoy the blog.

Mortimer

 
At 10:04 AM, Anonymous DanielL said...

Wow, Scott! I'm really happy to hear that you found the zone again. This kind of news always gives me a boost.

Keep us posted, and remember, I'm here if you need anything.

 
At 12:00 PM, Blogger Twixter Scripter said...

...and to think, it was only a few weeks ago that you had a monkey on your back as you dragged a mattress through a swamp.

 
At 4:30 PM, Blogger . said...

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