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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog

(OR EL DUDERINO IF YOU'RE NOT INTO THE WHOLE BREVITY THING)

-- 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.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Safari Picture Update #8

Time has come for my next Safari Picture Update. In my last official update, I caught you all up to the point where I delivered my first draft to the producers, and got their positive feedback and notes. Then in THIS POST I mentioned a bit of the work I did subsequently. Let me go into some more detail now, and also catch you up on further developments.

When I turned in my first draft, the producers were generally pleased, though they definitely felt more work was necessary. They gave me plenty of notes over the phone. After thinking those notes over, getting feedback from my writing group and reviewing the script on my own, I told the producers I would get them a revised draft in about a month and a half.

One of the major changes I was asked to make was the inclusion of three more characters. The producers all along have been pushing for as realistic a film as possible, and they felt that these were all characters who logically would be around for the events in the film. You may recall that the film was already longer than I wanted it to be. Adding in 3 more characters (and also figuring out how best to utilize them, without them simply being extraneous "dead weight") became the major story challenge for me in this revision.

The other major story challenge I encountered was that the producers were somewhat unhappy with the ending I had written (and rightly so, I think). As I mentioned previously, the primary focus of this film is on elephants. But in the climax I had in the first draft, though elephants were present and involved, the main action dealt largely with lions. This muddled the point of the film somewhat. Thus, I needed to really improve that climax.

A third challenge I faced had nothing to do with the script itself. When I first said I could finish the draft in a month and a half, I wasn't fully set on my summer plans. As it turned out, I ended up moving out of my apartment right around the same time that I was to finish the draft, putting my stuff into storage, and heading back East for the summer. This put a strain on my schedule.

The notes I got from the producers on Draft Two were somewhat mixed. They agreed that the climax was much more effective, and that I had generally addressed most of the notes they'd given me. However, they were unable to express specifically why, but they felt that much of the script (at least the first half) did not flow as well. I was confused by this note, but we each went off on our own to reread the script and see if we could better figure out the problem.

About a week later I came back to them with an analysis of the problem and a proposed solution. I felt there were a few issues that were significant here. The first was a largely mechanical problem. When I faced the addition of new characters in the second draft, I also looked at how to cut down on the length, both to get it closer to my target length, and to make room for these new characters. And despite the additions, I was still able to trim a few pages of length from the script. In doing so, however, I never gave it a good enough reread to make sure the transitions between scenes remained smooth. That was something i needed to address.

A second issue dealt with characterization. That is something that's needed work all along, and has improved bit by bit with each draft. But since invariably, most people felt the second half of the script flowed better and more quickly than the first half, I focused on how to make the first half more engaging. I suggested that a greater focus on conflicts between the characters could go a long way here.

Finally, the producers had always wanted the film's secondary purpose (in addition to the main story) to be exposing the audience to a somewhat typical safari experience. Thus, I had a number of scenes that while connected in some way to the story, remained somewhat ancillary. I suggested that trimming some of those scenes away might help the screenplay to flow better.

The producers liked these ideas, and I set off to make those changes. In the process, I also further focused on rearranging some scenes, cutting out others, and shortening still others. I took a week or two, and then sent it back to them. They were getting ready to shoot a short, however, and were very busy on that. Thus, I was going to have to wait to get their feedback.

That feedback finally came last week. They felt the flow issue was solved, and that it was in pretty good shape (though it could still use a bit of clean-up here and there). So my work for now is done. They are going to show it to some colleagues and get their feedback, and once they do, we'll move on to further revisions. Hopefully, they will soon begin looking for financing as well.

So overall, it has been a good experience. I do like the script, and hope things move forward. At the same time, it feels good to be done with it for now, so I can work on a few other things. These include a revision of one of my previous spec scripts, and an attempt to quickly develop and write another spec idea I have. It is somewhat timely (a satire dealing with the American economy), but after discussing it, I think I'd be better off taking it out as a completed script than as a spec.

I'll keep you all posted on all of these things as they develop. To my Jewish readers, Happy New Year! To everyone else, Happy Rest-of-2008!

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