Well not technically a script doctor, but as good as. In my latest blog I told you about the process of going back to my feature script and what spurred me on as I tackled a new draft ready to send off to my friend Alec, who would provide me with a script report and notes. So, the script was finished, I sent it off and now I’ve received the report back. So this is the first instalment to document this process and I will continue to update you as I continue the journey towards getting my script ready to send out into the big, scary world of producers, directors, agents and script readers. Once I’m at that stage, I will let anyone who is interested in reading the script have a copy, and I will keep you posted regarding any feedback, meetings or opportunities that may come of sending it out – hopefully I’ll have something to tell you, but who knows.
For over a week I was biting my nails, sitting on the edge of my seat, twiddling my thumbs (if I had hair, I’d be pulling that out too) waiting for this feedback to arrive. I wasn’t being impatient; in fact I was quite grateful for the break as it gave me a bit of time to focus on other things…but I was still feeling very apprehensive about what Alec might have to say. It’s a funny thing. I mean, it’s not like it’s the first time I’ve had feedback like this for my writing. At Uni we received feedback in a similar format to a script report, but I think it’s always different when you’re being assessed for a grade rather than as a professional. Even if lecturers insisted marks or feedback were given as they would be in the industry, that ‘educational’ environment would always fill me with a level of doubt. However, the notes I’d received on a previous draft were generally very positive…I guess I was more worried that I’d gone backwards with my writing and that the new draft would turn out to be worse than the last. I was pretty sure I’d managed to improve it, but I just needed that reassurance.
It was Friday, which meant ‘high-concept’ day. Alec and I do this thing where we send each other a logline for a film every week – it’s called High Concept Friday and I’ve found it really useful. I’d recommend it as a fun exercise that gets you thinking about generating ideas. I also think some of the ideas we’ve come up with have been really good (if I do say so myself), and one of them I’ll be developing with my friend Simon (who I’ve mentioned in previous blogs and written with before) – more on that another time. So I received his entry along with a note that said ‘script report to follow’. I genuinely had butterflies – sad or what!!! Well that’s how much this script means to me, so I don’t care how sad it sounds. Sure enough, a few minutes passed and another email popped up in my inbox. Because I’m down with the kids, I thought ‘BOOM!’ Just to appease my OCD tendencies, I made sure every other application on my computer was closed before opening the document – this way I could give it my undivided attention.
One of the comments in the email that contained the report read ‘I really enjoyed the script, and think it is very marketable’ and I instantly relaxed. Although Alec is a friend, I know he’s not someone that would give positive feedback unless it was deserved. So when he said that, I knew he meant it. I downloaded the file, opened it and began reading. As I went through all the comments, suggestions and mistakes that had been included, rather than think ‘oh shit’ or ‘I don’t agree with that’ I was thinking ‘oh yeah’ or ‘I knew he was going to pick up on that’. The two or three scenes that bothered Alec or didn’t work for him, were the very same scenes I was struggling to make work myself. I knew it at the time, but just didn’t have the solution – that’s what I needed help with…I needed a solution! I have friends that read scripts for a living, and I always delight in their facebook statuses that slate a particular script they’re reading for being a pile of shite for whatever reason. I’m not that delusional – I know when parts of my script aren’t working, and I think that’s an important skill to have as a writer. Now I just needed a helping hand to put them right.
I’d been provided with a number of suggestions and ways to improve or rectify certain issues, but I really felt I needed to talk through ideas before I could move forward with the next rewrite. I find I really thrive off interaction that’s face to face (even if it is via Skype) so Alec agreed to do a Skype session, and my alarm was set for 6am on Thursday of last week (damn time difference). I was poised with my notes and questions ready to thrash it all out, and I’m pleased to say it was WELL worth getting up at that ungodly hour for. We worked through the points I was unsure about and came up with numerous possible alternatives and solutions that might help certain scenes work better. After chatting, I was confident I had everything I needed to attack a new draft – I was inspired, I was confident, and I was…LATE FOR WORK!
With notes and ideas at the ready, it was time to start piecing together a plan for my new narrative. All was going well, but one thing was bothering me – Alec had pointed out the fact I hadn’t shown my main characters in the first few pages, and I was struggling to find a way of showing them without losing the strong sense of arena that I’d built into my original draft. It wasn’t until I was cycling from work to my girlfriend’s house (which takes about an hour) that it hit me – it’s amazing how time alone with just your own thoughts can conjure idea after idea after idea. I quickly scribbled it all down before it was lost forever, and it was a big relief to know I had the new opening nailed (for now).
I’m still mid rewrite and I’m hoping that the new draft will be a vast improvement on the last, which was a vast improvement on the one before that. It seems that writing this script has so far been an exercise in narrowing down plot issues – each draft has had strong characters and arena, but now I’ve finally found the best way to bring them all together and tell my main character’s story.
That’s the latest on the script, and I’m hoping it won’t be too long until I can move onto the next phase and start sending it out. I have some ideas of what I’ll be doing with it once it’s finished, but I’ll save that for another blog. What this process has taught me so far, and my advice for anyone that’s writing a script is…get someone to read your work and give you feedback! I would strongly recommend you give it to a professional. After having Alec work on mine, I would definitely consider paying for this kind of service in the future. I think it’s invaluable to have someone critique your work before you send it out – you certainly don’t want it to end up in one of my friend’s status updates. It’s even better if you have a writer friend you can trust to give you solid advice for free, but it’s up to you to decide whether you value their level of experience and knowledge. Another tip is that you can find some competitions that give feedback for submissions – you may have to pay for the entry, but it’ll no doubt be cheaper than paying for a private script reading service…you never know, you might even get somewhere in the competition too!
So it’s back to the writing for me, and hopefully I’ll have another update for you soon. I have other things to post and talk about, but they will feature in due course. I apologise if this blog isn’t as interesting as others I’ve posted, but I hope it’ll be useful for other writers going through this same rewriting process with the aim of getting work optioned or produced.
Until next time, stay classy!