Saturday, June 5, 2010

Just the script, write?

In the pleasant fog of my creative youth (aka when I didn't know squat about anything), I thought you wrote a script, you sold a script, you kicked back, did the chat show circuit (okay, it was a particularly thick fog) and famous people (aka people you read about in the news) would come flocking for your next creative masterpiece, cheque books in hand.

I kind of have the gist of point 1.

Letterman still hasn't called.

The Gulfstream still hasn't arrived.

Oh, yeah, and that bank balance thing ... ahem.

What I discovered is that there are several sub clauses to point 1 - the writing of the script.

My feature "The Red Bride" which is now is some sort of reasonable shape has the following material associated to the script:

*Three line logline (yeah, I don't what that is either)
*One page synopsis
Beat sheet
Scene Breakdown
40 page treatment
Character breakdowns/back stories
*Writer's notes
and, of course, several drafts of the script.

The ones I have asterisked are usually required in various combinations for funding applications in this country. Sometimes ALL of them. The sneaking suspicion is that one line, three line and one page descriptions are an elaborate ruse to avoid reading the script!

My favourite is the writer's notes. "Tell us, Richard, all the things you forgot to fix in this draft that if you'd actually known were an issue you would have fixed ... in, um, this draft".

You end up inventing problems just to fill out a page which, for mine, is counter-productive. I would much rather have constructive notes from objective readers that I can assess and use. Truth is, after intensive work on the script, when I'm done I can't see it, have to put it down, have to let it go a while. In that state I'm probably the last person who can offer informed opinion!

The recent online course reinforced the usefulness of the beat sheet as a tool in rewriting. First task was to update the original beat sheet with all the changes that had taken place over subsequent drafts. Made identifying potential structural land mines that much easier.

Treatments, as I understand it, are a requirement for any paid gig in the US. I wrote one for The Red Bride (then known as Seventh Moon) as: I was adapting another writer's short feature (about 50 pages) to feature length; and to demonstrate to the in situ producing team and director that I had a clear vision for the project. In fact, there's two entirely separate versions after the director and I went walkabout for a year on a creative tangent that radically changed the story. Funny how things come full circle.

The problem with all this, of course, is unlike our US brethren, Aussie writers are not likely to get paid for writing these "short form" documents. I doubt I would write a treatment again unless I was paid, preferring beat sheets and even a scene breakdown in order to clarify my attack on the story before getting to scripted pages.

But is has opened my eyes to the plethora of 'tools' available and that writing a script comes with several 'optional extras' and the mandatory material for funding agencies. One day I'll have to compare word count from script to supporting documents. I think the ratio might surprise!