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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.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Safari Picture Update #7

The time has come for my long overdue update on the Untitled Safari Picture. For starters, I have come up with a working title, as well as a few alternate titles, but since none of them really rock my world, I'm going to still refer to it herein as the Untitled Safari Picture.

So, to catch up, the last real update got us up to the point of when I had returned from my research trip in Africa. I didn't do much updating again until THIS POST, in which I discussed (albeit vaguely) some of the changes that were taking place, and how they made me somewhat nervous. Let me start by filling in some gaps, and then move up to now.

Before we went to Africa, I did a treatment of the script (actually a few drafts of the treatment), as you may recall. The original idea was that we'd go down to Africa, and there might be some minor changes, but that I'd basically start writing the script when we got back. However, once we got back, the changes that we discussed were much more fundamental, and the story was changing more significantly. Thus, I started reworking the treatment to try and get it to a point that we all liked it, before starting the actual writing.

During that process, I hit a few story roadblocks that I couldn't find ways around, which slowed me down tremendously. The producers and I finally had a long phone meeting, and thrashed some of those issues out, and I came back to them with a newly revised treatment, which I thought was very good. They did not agree, which threw a lot of stress on me. In retrospect, I believe that a big part of this may have simply been a lack of communication, with they and I speaking a slightly different language. I think that I gave them what they were looking for, but they didn't recognize it as such because it wasn't necessarily in the form that they expected or wanted.

At that point, there was a lot of frustration and stress on all of our parts. We knew we had to keep the process moving, but things weren't looking good. I was convinced that what I had given them was good, however, so we decided that instead of continually going back and forth with the treatment, I would move on and write the first draft of the script. We would then go back and forth with that instead. Simultaneously, we revised some of our deal points. That's about the time that I wrote the "trapeze" post (with apologies again to my dear friend Montana). I wasn't pleased with changing the deal points, but I also recognized that it was necessary to do so in order to keep the project moving and for me to stay involved with it. Even though I saw it as them likely getting extra work out of me for the same price, I accepted it as the best option for me overall.

[This will be a good time for a brief interlude to mention two things. Firstly, my worries about the script reading work have also proven unnecessary, as I've picked up plenty more, and even am still reading for both Walden and New Line. So things are fine on that front.

Also, since this post does bare some of the ugly speed bumps I've run across in this process, I wanted to reiterate why I'm writing this at all. As I said in my very first post, the absolute main reason I started this blog was so that my experiences might help others. I wrote:

"[I]t is my sincere hope that this blog might be enlightening to beginning or developing screenwriters. I am first now getting to the point in my career that I'm really trying to establish myself as a professional screenwriter, and I'm hoping that by blogging about the ups and downs that I experience along the way, this might serve as some kind of guide for those who follow."

While my experiences working on this picture have certainly been unique to me, I'm certain they are at least somewhat representative of what many people go through as their careers slowly develop. I hope that by writing about these experiences, others might be better equipped to handle similar situations when they come upon them.

Anyhow, following that revised plan, I basically had about two months to deliver my first draft to the producers. (I should add that the two months was a period I gave the producers, not one they forced upon me.) Those two months got off to a slightly slower start than I would've liked, since I still had a few details to finish researching. But I did finally get moving on the writing itself. As the period wore on, I got more and more into a groove (though at many times I found myself procrastinating much more than I should have). In time, the fist draft was finally taking shape.

I had made a pretty detailed outline for myself, and was working off of that to maximize my time efficiency. And as the draft grew, I got more into the minds of my characters. I stuck very strictly to a rule that I highly recommend to anyone (especially chronic procrastinators, such as myself), which is to not do any revisions while writing. Give yourself permission to have a flawed first draft that is fully complete, knowing that you're going to be revising it. As I recently told a friend who was getting stuck on page 50-something of her script, you can never finish a script without first finishing the first draft. The flip side is that you can finish a script when you have a complete draft, even if it is weak. Writing is rewriting. So I basically forced myself to push straight through to the end, barely touching anything I had already written, and filing away all the changes I knew I'd want to make. I call this a "vomit draft," because that's what it is -- a draft that you are just spewing forth quickly. (Beautiful image, eh?)

So I was pretty much done with my vomit draft when the deadline was approaching. But I knew I wanted to clean it up and revise a bit, so that I could turn the vomit draft into a true first draft. So I sent the producers an email. I told them that I could deliver the script on deadline day, as promised, but that if they gave me just one more week it would be much better. In my mind, I much preferred to send them a cleaned up first draft, rather than a complete but very rough vomit draft. They did not seem pleased at all, but they did agree to give me the extra week. Thankfully.

So, last Thursday I finally delivered a true First Draft of the Untitled Safari Picture. It was still a bit rough around the edges (including being about 7-12 pages longer than I want the final product to be), but overall, it was a solid first effort, and much improved over the pure vomit draft. I was pleased with it, but also somewhat wary, since I had no idea whether or not the producers would like it. After that initial tension due to the lack of communication, I really just didn't know what to expect here. But, in typical Fun Joel fashion, I looked at it all with equanimity. Whatever happened, either way, would be fine with me. Obviously I wanted to continue working on the project, but if I ended up getting replaced, I'd accept that. I had had a great opportunity and learning experience, plus I got paid, and even was lucky enough to have the trip to Africa.

In the end, however, I had nothing to be worried about. That same miscommunication that made me wary, is also (I think) what made the producers tell me they were "pleasantly surprised" by the script. I told them I was glad they liked, but sorry they were surprised! In brief, we all recognized that there is still plenty of work to be done, but that this was a solid first effort, and a good start. In a phone meeting on Monday, they gave me their notes (which are generally helpful). I'm also getting some feedback from a few trusted readers, and will be doing my own review as well. I told them I wanted a short break to let it breathe, but that I want to keep this ball moving as quickly as possible. By the end of this week I'm going to get back to them to discuss a timetable for the next revision.

So, all in all, that's that and thinks are looking good for now. On to the next step, and as always I'm taking everything one step at a time.

Until next time... Have Fun!

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Blogger Brett said...




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