Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rewrites are FUN

I begin to teach something tomorrow I haven't had a chance to so far, and that is what it means to rewrite scripts.

Every scriptwriting course I've taught so far, with the exception of a rewrite workshop I gave at the Toronto Public Library when I was appointed screenwriter-in-residence, has focused on banging out a first draft.

Most writing students think that's all there is to it.  But I finally get to teach a course of students who delivered their first drafts half-way through the semester and can now go through the heaven and hell that is  rewriting.

I enjoy rewriting because the grunt work is done.  I recall one of my bosses on the Henson series "Fraggle Rock" used to talk about writing a "shit draft."  How liberating to see a draft as a way of just getting through to the next draft, rather than the be all and end all of the writing process!  Most students I teach are very precious about their writing, however.

Screenwriters can't afford to be precious about their work.  It's a collaborative medium, after all.  If you didn't want to get notes, be a novelist.  But you're going to get all sorts of people, producers, show runners, directors, actors and most powerfully, network executives giving you notes.

You need to deal with the notes so that everyone feels they were listened to, but not write to order and ruin the creative integrity of your script.

The important thing I feel about notes is that they flag an issue.  Usually any solution offered should be ignored, but the problem the note flags can't be.  Something written isn't working.  That's why I tell beginning writers when they read their scripts or especially when they HEAR them read, just follow along and mark an X where something didn't work and a check mark where something did.  The only other mark to make is a question mark.

Then track where all those marks occur because those are the signposts for what's working and not working in the script.

That's the lesson for tomorrow.  More to come.

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