Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lazy Writing Lesson

We're currently in development with Guy Walks Into A Bar Productions on our script Glory Days: The Legacy of Chet Steele. We've been doing rewrites for several weeks now and just had a notes meeting a few days ago when we learned a very valuable lesson.

We had a particular sequence that originally had our character leaving the school and in the next scene was back in class. This is weird and doesn't really work. Sure, it can be argued that it's a time cut but there needed to be a scene in between there and our producer asked us to put something in there.

At the time, Travis and I were worried about page count so weren't sure what we could add that wouldn't take up too much space. So we wrote a really lazy scene that basically went: "Chet and the kids eat lunch, genuinely having a good time." That was it. An eighth of a page long.

So, we're on our notes call and our producer, of course, calls us out on it. And he said something that I never thought of when we wrote that scene: "You guys gave me half a day of shooting for absolutely no reason. I get nothing out of this."

When we wrote it, I'm sure we were thinking: this will be quick and we'll get the idea that these guys are getting along really well, without spending too much time on it. And, in the script, sure, it's okay. But we forgot that the only reason to write a script is so that it'll become a movie. We forgot to think about what goes into shooting a scene like this: several hundred thousand dollars, travel time, you've got to set up all the equipment and then break it all down, a half days worth of work for an eighth of a scene that time-wise would probably get cut anyway.

There are two lessons to be learned from this:

1) make every scene count. Don't just write a lazy throwaway scene to get something in there. It's lazy writing and it's bad writing. You should never have bad writing in your script anyway but the way to make sure you don't is to make every scene is important. Every scene should either reveal character or further the story. If it doesn't accomplish one of those things then it shouldn't be there.

2) don't forget about the money and time sucking machine that is film production. A student filmmaker, with lots of time and the ability to move quickly, may be able to get away with it. But Hollywood filmmaking is time intensive and to get a throwaway, eighth-of-a-page scene at a location we never visit again will take, at least, a half day to shoot. If that scene is going to be shot, then it better follow rule #1.

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