I had a breakthrough the other day. I was on the phone with my Dad, harping at him about how much he needs to change this or that about some play he’s written, and silently cursing him for resisting completely rewriting every play he’s ever written. And then it came to me.
You see, the reason why I think I’ll make a good professional screenwriter is because I’m really good at completely rewriting other people’s stuff. If you know anything about the industry, it’s an incredibly nasty field to be in (read William Goldman’s Which Lie Did I Tell? if you don’t believe me). On the one hand, it makes sense – everyone has an opinion about how a story should go, and writers, actors, and directors, all being creative people, think that they have the right to express that and make it so.
Unfortunately, the invetiable result is the complete destruction of the original screenplay, which, often enough, was in very good shape to begin with. <a href=”http://www.wordplayer.com/columns/wp06.Crap-plus-One.html>Rossio and Elliott</a> talk about this and it makes you want to cry. The number of times a screenwriter has heard, “This is so good, it’s almost perfect … we just need to bring in one more writer to do a clean-up …” Someone I saw at AFF said “It’s a reality of Hollywood that a studio isn’t going to make a hundred million dollar film on a script they paid a hundred fifty thousand dollars for.” And on it goes.
The point is, many times have I pissed off a writer by interjecting my opinion about particular dialogue elements of scenes. But in Hollywood, pissing off screenwriters and rewriting their work is fair game, which can only mean it’s a job I was destined for.
The thing is, I’ve never actually finished a full screenplay. At least not one that I’m willing to show anyone. I’ve got lots of ideas, I know story structure inside and out, I’m a whizz with dialogue and voice, and I’ve started about twenty of them, but I’ve found, as everyone does, that it’s easier to criticize someone else’s work than it is to write – and finish – your own. Maybe it’s because second acts are hard. Who knows. But until you finish your own work, you’re not a writer, you’re just a critic.
And then it came to me.
Since I’m so good at rewriting, rather than writing it to make it perfect, I’ll just vomit it on screen and then rewrite it later. Someone famous once said, “Scripts are not written; they are rewritten.” Just so!
Today I vomited about four pages of Charisma in about an hour. I need to go to jail to do some research to up the level of realism in that scene, but who cares? At least it’s no longer blocking me from writing the next scene. And as long as I go into the rewrite process not attached to anything; knowing that it will take quite a bit to get it right, then I can avoid the nasty fear of being attached to my work.
He shoots … he scores! And that’s the game!