Sunday, March 19, 2006

Got my ass kicked on the first coverage report for Heist.

Something that I can say that I was expecting, for more than one reason:

- The script is pretty much a first draft.

- I used a bunch of non-standard screenplay style elements. - Mostly because I knew that I wasn't trying to sell the script, and wanted to annotate it as I went for production. This was entirely my fault - I should have let the coverage service know this.

- There were some things in the script that never felt that I handled well and my failure to deal with them resulted in getting nailed for it.

The opening comment was "I liked this script, but I wanted to like it better". So I was encouraged by that. If I went on the story analysis by itself, it wasn't that terrible as all of the problems can be addressed. Another comment that was made which I was very encouraged by was "Characterization and dialog was nicely crafted, your skills here made the story worth reading and was a saving grace."

I think had this reader known upfront that I was not interested in selling the screenplay and was going to be producing it independently, they would have more forgiving on the style points, though they did point out some things that in general I should refrain from, such as the use of ellipses, parenthetical where the emotion or reaction is obvious from the context, etc. However, in an early draft, you're bound to have more in the draft than you need - so I'm not concerned about it that stuff is easily fixable.

There were some things that the reader seemed to miss - some because I did a shitty job writing and others because they weren't looking closely enough - something I've seen before with coverage readers. They got most of it, and provided some good comments. The one thing that I was hoping to pull off was for people to have sympathy for Eddie and Gail. I seem to have done this very well, which made me feel good.

Overall, the report served its purpose, and I'll be sorting through the things that I think I need to fix, and get it ready to go out again.

There's always the "slight sting" ("That's pride fucking with you. You fight through that shit" - Marcellus Wallace - Pulp Fiction) when you read one of these reports for the first time. But the trick is to figure out what you did well, what you did bad and determine if the thing is salvageable. I think that based on the comment that the reader makes at the start - "I liked this script.." Tells me that I did something right so its worth investing more time.

I think that I did overdo the crossovers a bit and made it more confusing that it needed to be. It may be worthwhile to go back to a simpler formula and focus more on the character driven aspects than making the plot so overly complex. I did get pretty high marks for character development and dialog so perhaps differentiating the story by making it a more compelling character piece may be the way to go.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Heist is out for its first coverage report.

I'm anxiously awaiting the feedback. I kept going over in my head today what I thought the reviewer might come back with... Things like "This is like every other caper movie I've ever seen.", "seriously lacking in depth" "Dialog doesn't feel authentic".

The way I view it, by setting myself up for the worst possible review, I don't have quite as far to fall. :)

I'm planning on sending the script out for a second coverage report this week. James and I discussed that idea of getting three reports on the same draft and comparing notes - so that's what I plan to do.

I'm making great progress with "Rescuing Champ". At 70 pages, it should be pretty easy to finish in the next week or so. Note that I've been working on this concept since early 2003. The first 60 or so pages pretty much wrote themselves, but I've just had a hell of a time getting back to it. The last couple of weeks, it's been undergoing a pretty serious overhaul, and it's finally to the point where I feel I can continue on and finish it.

So far, it feels like a decent, interesting family film even if it is a bit formulaic. I'd sent the early draft (60 odd pages) to Mitch to see if I was headed in a good direction. His basic feedback was that it was full of "great moments" but was lacking a few things. Mostly in the areas of character development and challenges for the hero. I feel like I've made good progress on correcting those flaws. I plan to have Champ ready for its first coverage report by next week, then I'll send it to a story consultant for a real in depth review.

I've found a local story consultant that I plan to try out with "Champ" is the web site. She's located in Exeter, which is about an hour away (and where I grew up actually). The woman that runs the site and the service, Susan Kouguell, appears to have done a lot of work in the industry. She seems appealing because apart from her background and experience in the industry, she offers one hour sessions face to face to go over her analysis which is nice. I've been dealing with LA based people for so long over the phone, it seems as though it would be nice to have at least one face to face meeting from a story consultant.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Damn, have I been bad at maintaining this blog....

Time has been at a bit of a premium. We were on vacation last week for a couple of days, and I've been writing like crazy.

I finished another draft of Heist and I've been working on completing another script called "Rescuing Champ". More details on that later.

I was trying to explain writing screenplays to someone last week. The analogy that I typically use is that it's like a jigsaw puzzle, where you have all these pieces and you have to try to make sure that they fit together tightly. Sometimes the pieces don't fit, and you have to flip them around and try them in different places.

When I was into music producing a few years ago, I bumped into a fairly big name producer at a studio in Boston. He explained music production as almost like painting with sound - you build up layers of sound and each sound provides its own "color" to the tune. The trick is to balance the colors as you would in a painting so that its pleasing and so that each sound has its own place and purpose in the mix. Writing is similar. Each of the characters, story elements etc. is like a color, and like music or paintings, the trick is to find the balance of all the elements.

I think that this draft is very tight, has great balance, good arcs and resolution. There are things that can still be tuned, for sure, but I feel the best about this draft in terms of the story and the flow. I'm going to WGA register it now, and get it reviewed for grammar and basic structural problems then send it out for its first coverage report.

More to come.