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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Slight Change of Plans

Regarding Hell on Wheels, the vampire western I'm collaborating on with my friend Michael Lee Barlin, we've had a slight change of plans.

So, we started by working out a pretty detailed and solid outline. I think this was particularly essential for a collaboration, since our plan is to pass it back and forth, not write "together" in the same room or something. So this way, we make sure that we're on the same page with how we want the film to progress, etc, and it should also make the whole project move more quickly (the quickest script I ever wrote was also my most pre-planned). Neither MLee nor I have ever been big outliners or planners, so this was another step forward for each of us (in addition to the collaboration itself, which neither of us had ever done either). And I think we're both really pleased with the results of our outline, and the way we worked on developing it. It was sort of the same pattern as we'd planned to write the script, but in microcosm with the outline moving back and forth. We didn't plan to do it that way, that's just how it turned out, and I think a big part of that was just a function of how our schedules worked out. But I think it was also a sign that this is a logical way for us to work together, as we just fell into that pattern.

Next we developed our characters a bit more. In particular, I felt I didn't have a good handle on Zane, our main character. I don't know what this is a sign of, nor whether this is a common problem that any of you have as well, but I find I often have more colorful and delineated secondary characters than either my main character or even my antagonist. Maybe its a sign of a shortcoming in my skills, and since secondary characters don't require the depth that we seek from our main characters I find it easier to sketch them? Regardless, MLee and I had some long discussions regarding the characters, and Zane in particular. I even broke out the old Enneagram and determined which types I thought each of our central characters fit. MLee was less familiar with the system, but has also learned a bit more about it, and has found it pretty interesting and enlightening. So we discussed the types, and I feel I have a bit better of a handle on Zane.

The next step was going to be my beginning to write the actual script on Monday. As you may recall, my plan was to work on it for about 2 weeks, or around 28 pages, whichever came first, then pass it off to MLee. He would revise my stuff, then write the next piece for the same period of time, and pass it back to me. Then on Friday afternoon I got a call from Michael Lee. He just got a paid writing gig, his first, and he's supposed to get it done in about 2 months. So he wanted to know if I could hold off on starting for about 1 1/2 months, so I could be passing it to him just as he's finishing the other script. I of course was overjoyed for his good fortune, and congratulated him. Still, I'm in a bit of a groove on this right now. So my plan instead is to begin writing as scheduled, and still try to get him my pages at the same time I originally planned, somewhere around July 4th weekend, but then I'll let him hold off on his portion until he finishes the other project (unless he feels he needs a brief respite from it, and chooses to move ahead on HoW). Plus, if he gets a chance, he may read it and give me his feedback so I can revise briefly, even before he takes his stab at it.

So basically, this means that my "down time" period of writing on HoW may be longer than I expected. Which is fine with me. I still have other projects that need revision, so hopefully I'll be getting more into those during my off period of the collaboration. And as planned earlier, hopefully this will allow me to have three completed scripts (one of which is this collaboration) within a few months' time. Then it is time to start looking for an agent and try to sell the scripts. Exciting stuff!


Anonymous jeff said...


For many years, my brother and I have been using this technique for our website and articles at National Lampoon with great success. However, a couple of months ago we started a script and just couldn't pull it off. I ended up writing the whole thing.

To paraphrase Rossio & Elliott, a partner doesn't make writing a script easier, but it does make the script better.

Good luck on your collaboration. I look forward to reading about it.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Jeff --

I'm curious. What, in your opinion, changed? Why were you unable to do with the script what had worked so well for you guys in other media?


3:44 PM  
Anonymous jeff said...

It was a couple of things.

A script is much longer than anything we worked on before. For an article, I could start it, he would add more and punch up what I had already done, etc. It didn't require much organization up front.

I think the time you're spending nailing down your outline is very important. Next time (which is now) I'm going to spend a lot more time getting organized. Also, I'm going to try assigning scenes for the first draft (another idea stolen from Rossio & Elliot).

Also, and maybe most importantly, his day job got real busy at the wrong time. He had time to write a couple of one-liners for the site but couldn't really commit enough time for a script.

5:48 PM  

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