Wednesday, May 11, 2011

All rewriting is problem solving

The common adage is that all writing is rewriting. Well, after being lost in the depths of rewrite hell the last week, it would seem to me all rewriting is problem solving.

After my first session with a script consultant on The Red Bride,a supernatural thriller, points were raised about the rules of the world and the main character’s flaw. For that reader the Third Act wasn’t satisfying as there were story logic questions raised as the twists were revealed.

My reaction for the past week has been trying to “re-imagine” my own draft into something different to rectify these perceived flaws. This has led me to getting hopelessly lost, scaring the hell out of one of my producers and chasing tangents down rabbit holes with my director.

Another trap was the referencing of similar types of films that had me thinking, at one point, that we’d simply end up ‘remaking’ those films instead of creating our own unique vision.

There is nothing worse than being stuck like this. A feeling of creative impotence. Helpless. Useless. Like being in a fog where nothing is clear. Total death for a writer.

After scratching around and trying to slam square pegs into round holes I was reminded of a line of dialogue from Apollo 13:

Let's look at this thing from a... um, from a standpoint of status. What do we got on the spacecraft that's good?

Indeed, there is much to like about the current draft and it has had favourable notes and, of course, received development funding in a very competitive field. Why then was I so prepared to quickly throw out “the baby with the typewriter” as I believe I coined it? Confidence, I suspect.

But using the wisdom of Gene Kranz (as performed by Ed Harris), I went back to the script and looked at the queries raised and started to work through how to address them in the context of the current draft. Point by point. Problem by problem.

There were gems in those points – clues to the way forward. Where once they had originally paralysed me I began to embrace the possibilities they presented within my vision of what the film was. This was more tweaking than major renovation.

Confidence restored, fog lifting, today a road map appeared to the next draft. This is in the form of a revised beat sheet - using the existing DNA of the script and making adjustments accordingly.

There’s nothing better than when you get out of the mire and feel that forward momentum again. And that’s what rewriting is all about. To use another of my phrases – “development is like a shark, if it stops moving forward it dies.”

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