Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Writing Process: Part 3

As you know, Travis and I turned in the first draft of our new script to the producer just before break. Because it's looking like he wants to take it out sometime in January we had set that deadline for ourselves in order to come back from break ready to be rewriting. It would give us time to recoup from the ridiculous writing schedule we had and a chance to get away from the script for two weeks. We also wanted to show that we could write fast and write well, even if it was a first draft. We wanted it to be funny and a solid blueprint -- we did not set out to write a perfect first draft.

While I was in New York, I had lunch at P.J. Clark's with my friend Voltaire (who is actually from LA, we both just happened to be in New York) and I was talking about the writing process. I felt that one of the reasons Travis and I have been able to consistently write very fast first drafts was that we don't really censor or think much about what we're putting down. Obviously we're not writing drivel or stuff that doesn't make sense, we just don't think to hard about what we're putting on the page.

We've done a lot of the story and character work with all the prep. For us, it's a matter of getting as much as we can down on the page. Whether what we write ends up in the final draft or simply acts as a placeholder, the point is to get something down that we can later go back and rewrite.

I thrive during the rewriting process. It's very easy for me to take a line and using that as a base, come up with a better one. Reading a bad scene gives me ideas for a good scene. It's a little hard for me to look at a script and decide what to cut (I think Travis is a little better at that) but when I know what we're changing, I'm usually pretty good at coming up with what to change it to.

I feel a lot of writers will take the time to make sure each scene/line/word is perfect on their first draft, and that may work for them, but I would rather get something down, the framework for the script, dialogue, etc and see where it goes, then go back and fine tune it. It certainly helps when you're under a deadline and when you're working with a producer, who's going to have notes regardless of whether you think the script it perfect.

So, speaking of notes, we had a notes call with our producer on December 23rd. In the email setting up the call, we were told we had "done a great job, that there was a lot of funny stuff in there, and it was the fastest first draft they had ever received." Travis and I felt pretty good about that.

Look, we had no illusions about this draft not needing a major rewrite. We had our own list of notes and changes and things we missed in this draft. The point was to get something that hit all the beats, developed the characters and story through the visuals and dialogue. Our story is stolid, we knew that going into the writing, so while it's not a page 1 rewrite there are significant changes that need to be made.

So, on Wednesday, we got on the call with our producer and went through it. Knowing that there was a lot of big stuff to adjust and change we didn't really go through line by line. For this particular rewrite it's best to focus on the bigger things. Whether a line of dialogue worked or not wasn't a big concern, that can be changed later. We focused on the story, characters, etc.

And it was a great call. It pretty much went as well as you can expect a notes call on a first draft can go. We all understand what this draft was (a "first assembly" as the producer called it) and knew where it needed to go. Travis and I both felt that all the notes were right on point. There was nothing we really objected to.

What I thought was really interesting about this round of notes was the fact that, this being our first development process with a producer (i.e. starting from scratch on a script and working with the producer from said scratch), neither Travis nor I really had any problems with the notes, even big ones.

Normally, we might find reservations about it, but nothing really with this. Now, I don't know if it's because of what we did on Glory Days or we just knew all the notes were right on, but I actually think that it has more to do with this having not started with us. We didn't come up with the idea. It's not totally ours. Our producer has a stake in it as well. While we'll be putting on stamp on it we haven't lived with this script for two years (like we have with our others), we haven't been through countless changes, etc. It's really about the fact that a producer pitched us and idea, wants to make it, make us successful in response, and that we want that to happen, so if we need to make changes we will. The changes we're making have come so quick that neither Travis nor I have even read it yet, so, oddly, I don't even know yet what I wouldn't want to change. Ha ha.

Now that we've received the notes and have had some time off from the script, Travis and I begin the task of rewriting and delivering a 2nd draft. I suspect that we'll just start going through it. Thankfully, our first act is pretty solid, we just need to switch around a few scenes, so we'll probably take the time to focus on that tonight and then get into the meet of it yesterday.

There's a part of me that is really excited to get back into it and there's another part of me that kind of wants to go home and watch The Wire on DVD (one of my Christmas gifts). Maybe there wasn't an advantage to having two weeks off...

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