If triple digits is how many it takes…

math lesson
“So you see, Billy, if you edited out 5 pages from the previous draft, that would put your new midpoint around page 54.”

I recently read in an interview with screenwriter Eric Heisserer that included him being asked how many drafts he wrote for ARRIVAL.

“Over one hundred.”

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Keep in mind that this was also spread out over time, not all concentrated in one specific period. And that a new draft doesn’t necessarily mean a complete rewrite. It could be anything from that to a few words changed on pages 33, 52, and 88 through 89.

And ARRIVAL was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards, so looks like all those drafts Eric went through were worth it.

About two years ago, I had lunch with a writer friend. He was familiar with my western, and liked it very much. When I mentioned I was considering returning to it to work on it some more, he said “I think it’s fine how it is. If you keep messing with it, you run the risk of making it worse.”

At the time, I really took that to heart. I didn’t want to mess up the script, but deep down I also knew it could still be better.

As you probably already guessed, I eventually ignored his advice and dove back in. I got a few more rounds of feedback from trusted colleagues and professional consultants, always tweaking and fine-tuning with every draft.

There’s no way I could say exactly how many drafts I went through to get to where it is now, but it’s probably safe to say it’s at least over one hundred. That is definitely a lot, but reading the script now, the results of all that work are evident on the page.

Plus, all the notes and all the rewriting have combined to make a really positive impact on my writing. While the overall challenge of putting a script together is still pretty daunting, the whole process seems to move forward in a much smoother manner. And, to be honest, maybe a little faster too.

Even though someone may tell you your script is “good enough as it is”, the final product is all on you. Keep working on it as long as you think you need to, with as many drafts as it takes.

You might not get an Oscar nomination, but getting your script to where you want it to be will definitely make you feel like a winner. Yes, that’s a sappy and corny thing to say, but it’s still true.

Cue the cartoon Disney animals!

You know that feeling when you come up with a story idea you can’t wait to jump into, and then when you actually do, writing it is even better than you could have possibly imagined?  Almost as if the physical act of writing is no longer a chore-like slog, but has become a thrilling way of putting the excitement of your imagination right there on the page?

That’s exactly what’s happening now as I turn my western outline into a script.

I’ve been doing my best to stick to the at-least-1-page-a-day method, and so far, it’s been working out nicely. Going into yesterday, I was on the verge of getting to page 3, but made it to almost the end of page 4 courtesy of bringing my laptop to V’s soccer practice.  It was also cool to completely revamp the scene’s ending totally on the fly. I like when the creativeness kicks in like that.

(Working in a public space is becoming so much more productive. Good thing there are lots of coffee shops and cafes in our neighborhood.)

It’s really hard to describe how jazzed I am about writing this.  I don’t know if it’s the love of the genre, or letting my enjoyment of pulp-y adventure shine through, or just plain having fun with it. Maybe it’s a little of everything.  Truth be told, I wouldn’t trade this feeling for anything.

How powerful is this positive sensation? Not only am I not even acknowledging that internal voice of self-doubt and naysaying, but if it were possible, I’d send everybody a piece of my homemade pecan pie just to make their day a little brighter.  Trust me. That’s saying something.

Of course, I’m not completely oblivious to reality. This thing is going to need some major work when the first draft is finished. There will most likely be all sorts of details that need to be fixed, ranging from story to characters to historical accuracy.

But I don’t care about any of that right now. I’m really enjoying this and want to keep that feeling going as long as possible.

It’s also my hope that my enthusiasm comes across on the page, which would make it that much more fun a read for somebody else.  Who wouldn’t appreciate becoming engrossed in a rousing tale of adventure?

-The Oscars. Since we have Apple TV, the show wasn’t streamed live (unless we wanted to subscribe to a service we’ll never need or buy a useless product) so we couldn’t watch it, but were able to hear the audio. Hopefully the Academy and the networks will accept that live streaming is an inevitable part of the future and make the appropriate changes. Probably not, but one can hope.

Regarding the awards the awards themselves, nothing too surprising except for how well LIFE OF PI did. Guess I’ll actually have to see it now, along with most of the other BP nominees.

-Movie of the Moment – DREDD (2012). I’m familiar with the comic, and this was a much stronger adaptation of it than the Stallone version. Karl Urban was a great fit for the lead.

In terms of plot, if you enjoyed THE RAID: REDEMPTION, you’ll like this. The same concept, more or less, but with less martial arts and more whiz-bang special effects. Overall, not a bad way to spend 92 minutes.

Whew!

And...exhale

Wow, what a jam-packed couple of days! Here’s a quick rundown:

-Whirlwind trip to New Orleans for the Half-Marathon. 13.1 miles in 1:56:06. Wooo!  Next up – coming in under 1:55 for a race in September.

-On this week’s installment of The Script Adventurer!, I interviewed Scott Myers from Go Into The Story. He had a lot of interesting stuff to say, including the most important thing a new or aspiring writer should focus on is having a strong story concept. If the idea behind your story isn’t strong, then the script won’t be either.  Also served as a reminder of what a great resource the site is for aspiring and professional writers.  Check it out if you haven’t already.

-Now that the big run is out of the way, I can devote more time to finishing the DREAMSHIP rewrite. There’s no reason I can’t wrap it up by the end of the month, and I don’t foresee much of a problem with the follow-up editing.

I also realized the Nicholl deadline is coming up, and I could actually submit to it.  Not sure which way to go on that.

-I spent part of the going-there flights muddling my way through the latest section of the LUCY outline.  Progress remains slow but steady.

-Movie of the Moment: Lots of ’em! Best Picture winner THE ARTIST (2011) was featured on the plane.  I liked it, but not sure if it should have won Best Picture over HUGO. If you’ve ever seen SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN or A STAR IS BORN, then you know how this plays out.  John Goodman was really good as the studio boss.

Also got to watch BATMAN: YEAR ONE (2012), an animated adaptation of the comic by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. Solid work on both story and voice fronts.

K watched NEW YEAR’S DAY (2011), which I had no desire to see.  When it was over, she said, “It’s trying too hard to be LOVE, ACTUALLY.”  I caught about three scenes because I was zipping through THE HUNGER GAMES, which I liked more than I expected to.  Easy to see why this is the latest YA novel headed for the big screen later this month.

Also caught the first 30 minutes of MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (2011) before the plane landed. I’ve always had a problem with biopics. It’s tough for me to separate the actor from the real-life person they’re playing.  So while it was easy to imagine Kenneth Branagh as Olivier or Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, I kept seeing them as actors playing somebody else.  Nevertheless, I liked what I saw.

-JOHN CARTER opens this weekend. I may actually go see it.

Location, location, location!

I can’t explain it, but I think trying to work/write in a traditional setting is counterproductive.

When I do the midday traffic reports and am firmly planted in the studio, I’m practically gushing with creativity.  Sitting in the bleachers at the ice rink while V has hockey practice, I can get past a scene that’s been bothering me for a few days.  Today while V had her dentist’s appointment, and I’m sitting in the parental waiting area, I came up with a sequence that perfectly fits into my first ten pages.

When I sit anywhere inside our place, such as at the desk or at the dining room table, I get nothing. Zilch. Nada. A big fat goose egg.

Which leads me back to my opening line.

I’m going to have to figure out the best way to take advantage of this newfound enlightenment.  I can’t afford to hang out in a coffee shop, even if I get tea, so that’s out.  San Francisco has a bit of a homeless problem, so sitting on a public or park bench is also not a great choice.

There are two public libraries nearby, and finding an empty seat or table is usually pretty easy, so those are maybes.

But with the weather turning nicer, I keep returning to one spot that may be ideal.  Our place has a very small deck off the dining room.  About 5 by 12, with very high frosted glass walls.  If it’s a nice day, I can step outside, plop myself down in a lawn chair and see what happens.

Definitely an experiment worth trying.

-Movie of the Moment: A triple-header today.

Finished THE KING’S SPEECH. Since I have to see a few more Best Picture nominees, I can’t compare it to them, but I enjoyed it.  I was expecting something a little more complex, but there were only a handful of characters and a minimal number of settings; it seemed much more play-like.

I can see why Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush were both nominated; each gave a phenomenal performance.  Their scenes were a joy to watch.

Movie #2 was WHIP IT, the roller derby movie directed by first-timer Drew Barrymore.  I loved it.  I thought it was a blast.  Some of the storylines and characters may be a little cliched, but the sum is definitely greater than the parts.  Just a lot of fun.

Movie #3 was THE ILLUSIONIST, the third of last year’s three nominees for Best Animated Feature (the other two being TOY STORY 3 and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON). This was done by Sylvain Chomet, the brains behind THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE and based on a script by Jacques Tati; the title character is even drawn to look and act like Tati.  The wonderful but incredibly sad story of an unremarkable stage magician fading into obscurity as TV and rock & roll gain in popularity.

I read a couple of reviews that say the young woman who follows him from a small Scottish village to Edinburgh believes that his magic is real, but I didn’t catch that.  I thought she saw him as a fascinating man living a life of adventure, and wanted to tag along.

For the most part, this really is a silent picture.  There are some snippets of dialogue in English and French, but the storytelling is all done visually, and quite beautifully at that.

Don’t go into this thinking it’s a film for kids, ’cause it ain’t.  Nothing bad happens, but *SPOILER* it’s not easy to explain why the magician has to let his rabbit go into the wild, or why the ventriloquist’s dummy  is marked down to ‘free’ in the pawn shop window.

If you watch this, prepare to have your heartstrings given a good solid tug.

Like my dad always says: persevere!

I didn’t get to do a lot on LUCY today, but what I was able to do got me to the equivalent of page 75.  Which is really encouraging.

The remaining quarter of Act Two and the whole of Act Three still loom, and they’re looming large.  Humongous, even.  But this has been a few-steps-at-a-time process, and will continue to be so.

Even better, not only did I find a place for the character I created a few weeks ago, but I figured out how to incorporate him into the villain’s subplot AND use him in a way that it helps move Lucy’s storyline forward as well.

It looks like there may be a few kinks here and there to straighten out, but everything’s starting to tie together.  Which is what I’ve been working towards since Day One.

-I didn’t get to see it myself, but a genuine Academy Award was at V’s school today.  INCEPTION won for Best Sound Mixing, and one of the three winners has a daughter in the other 2nd grade class.  V said the Oscar was about 2 feet tall and heavy.  The mom who brought it in said it’s already falling apart, which I find hilarious.

Like just about every other screenwriter out there, I like to daydream about winning Best Original Screenplay someday.

Don’t laugh.  It could happen.