This past Saturday night, K and I got to attend an extra-special screening of that beloved classic film: Sam Raimi’s ARMY OF DARKNESS.
Part of what made it extra-special was that before the show, there was a live, onstage Q&A with the film’s star, the immortal Bruce Campbell. Icing on the cake – Patton Oswalt was the interviewer. Yes, it was fantastic as bon mots were liberally tossed about, audience questions were handled with severe aplomb and a rousing good time was had by all.
Then the movie started.
We’d never seen it on the big screen, which definitely makes it that much more of an enjoyable experience.
If you haven’t seen it, make a point of doing so. It’s silly fun and clocks in at an amazing 81 minutes, including credits. That may sound short, but writers Sam and Ivan Raimi really jam a lot into it. There’s no fat, every scene serves a purpose AND advances the story. Earlier drafts and certain scenes may have been longer, but they kept what was necessary to effectively tell the story.
I was reminded about this important rule this week as I worked on my outline. While a lot’s going on in the story, there are still things I need to include (mostly subplot stuff). What I have to be careful about is making sure there’s not too much going on. You want to engage the reader/viewer and keep things moving; not make them feel like this is a slog they wish they didn’t have to endure.
For now, the best strategy is to keep pushing forward and make sure the story and characters are solid. Once I’m confident that’s been accomplished, it shouldn’t be too much of an ordeal to go back and trim the fat (since I always put in more detail than I probably should during the outlining phase).
Look at it this way: nobody wants to read a bloated script. Specs over 120 pages better be incredible to warrant that kind of page length.
Go through your pages. You may be reluctant to edit them down, but it must be done. Once you get started, streamlining is easier than you think, and it also gives you the chance to flex those creative muscles. Find a way to say something in less words. You can do it.
You’ll be surprised and possibly even impressed with the end result.