Thursday, 6 December 2007

Boring Draft Update, part 2

As previously reported, I’ve been cocking about with an iteration of a script that’s been selected for next year’s METLAB. And, wonder of wonders (mostly due to the Chip Smith patented ‘Script Randomiser’), it’s finished. For several days I was horrified to discover that I might end up with a new draft that might tip the hundred page mark, but thankfully I was able to wrestle manfully (like Johnny Weissmuller with a rubber crocodile) with the ending so that it came in at what I think is a very reasonable 95 (do spec screenplays need to be any longer than 90-95 pages? I think not, but answers on a postcard).

Given the choice between writing a first draft from scratch and rewriting, I’ll go for the rewrite any day – mostly because I’m scared of big, white open spaces. That said, I’m always amazed what I discover when I delve into the weeds of a rewrite:

- In first drafts, without exception, I always overwrite. I can always edit scene descriptions down by at least 25%, which I think makes for a smoother, quicker read. Dialogue-wise, the same goes. Less is more. Or something. (Or is it KISS? – Keep It Simple, Stupid – I forget).

- I can’t stress this enough, but the best screenwriting maxim is get in late, get out early. The script I’ve just finished spent the first six/seven pages laboriously setting up the scenario – now, I’m there inside three pages. I also managed to sever four pages from my pointlessly protracted (and potentially expensive) conclusion, which meant I even had room for a fictional gameshow theme tune – every script needs one!

- I can’t stand exposition in a script, even though I tend to write it in absolute bloody swathes. This script is no exception, although I am starting to devise strategies so that it’s not so obvious, like having people do stuff whilst my exposition clanks about like a skeleton jacking off in a biscuit tin.

- Introducing what is an essential element of back story has meant that I’ve had to go through the whole script on an evangelical mission to update and improve its narrative coherency. What a bitch! Some sequences fly by – others squat on the page and challenge you to a slapping match, the little bastards. What I tend to do is get in there, write it quick, and sprint out before anything has the opportunity to slap me round the back of the legs.

- Budget wise, I’ve taken the opportunity to get rid of one expensive location and replace it with something cheaper but that gets the job done in half the time.

- There is ALWAYS room for improvement.

Given that I’ve spent the entire year rewriting and nothing else, I think it’s time for something new. So far I have a title, a logline and a talking dog. Class!

I’m frazzled – I think I need to go for a lie down.


Elinor said...

Oh Chip, I'm so jealous! I haven't even started my first draft yet though I have hacked my way through a delirious outline so I at least have a starting point. Don't you find it difficult to stop going off on tangents with every rewrite?
Loved the image of the skeleton jacking off in a biscuit tin BTW.

Chip Smith said...

I'm at a slight advantage here, as this is really a third draft (so it should be up to the quality of everyone else's first draft). To be honest, I overwrite to such an extent, rewriting for me is really going in with a ruddy great machete and hacking away at great big superfluous chunks of narrative - I do all my tangent following in my first draft (which is why they're always rubbish).

I nicked the skeleton metaphor off a friend of mine, who was talking about catching an Aeroflot flight out of Moscow. Couldn't resist it, it's too good not to share...

Chip Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elinor said...

Well, thank you dear for sharing. I shall exploit that shamelessly.