Thursday, April 4, 2013

In Which We Consider Time, Money, and Pork

We're on our way.

I got the opening scene the way I like it.  I had to do a re-think, then a re-think of the re-think.  It's a matter of economy.  When you're putting together a film script, time is actual money.  Each page is about a minute of screen time, which can seem very generous . . . until you realize that a lot of minutes can be very, very expensive.  Which probably explains where cell phone providers got their data rate plans from . . .

Ideally, you want about ninety pages.  A hundred is pushing it, but doable.  When you're past a hundred and twenty, you're either related to someone famous or working on a Tolkien adaptation.  Depending on what type of script you're writing, ninety pages can be anywhere from nine thousand to ninety thousand to nine million.

Every page has to count.  Not only are you trying to get across the purpose of the scene, you also have to do it in a clever way, or at the very least a way that will keep an audience (or a reader) focused on your film.  If you run a scene too long, you better have a damned good reason, because while you might be working out a powerful family dynamic that is telling and evocative, your audience might be working out how quickly they can go take a whiz before shit starts blowing up again.

My opening is about three pages, which is reeeaallly pushing it, in my opinion.  Not only is it prelude, it has to be a grabber; considering I'm doing a comedy, it's gotta be witty as well.  So three pages, three minutes for that opening scene?  Might be too much.  And if you think three minutes isn't that long, hold your breath for three minutes and get back to me.

You have to ask if those three minutes are worth the time spent on them.  You have to wonder if everything on those pages is important and relevant to the story.  And you have to realize you've left yourself with only eighty-seven pages to do everything else.  They add up quicker than you'd think.

And even as I say this, I have to turn around and tell you it doesn't matter that much, in the long run.  Go ahead and write a two hundred page script, if that's what you have in you.  Just understand if you want to actually see it made, you're going to be hacking away at that thing like a fat man at a barbecue.

Getting the first draft done?  That's the easy part.  Then comes the second draft ...

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

In Which I Fumble Around And Enjoy It

So I've actually begun writing.  I'll give you all a few seconds to recover from the shock.  Any of you who dropped dead of surprise, my condolences.

Now, let me clarify that.  "Begun" means I've re-typed the same bit about six or seven times now.  I'm still not happy with the bastard.  There's been lip chewing, hair pulling, and the occasional profanity; I'm not sure if I'm writing, or giving myself Tourette Syndrome somehow.  But this is the process, or so I'm told.

Scripts for my videos are different.  I don't have to take into consideration things like who my characters are, what they're trying to convey . . . it's not much deeper than explosions and dick jokes (such a classy way to pull down cash, I know).  So I don't write and re-write as much.  I tend to have the bits, the gags and the general structure already laid out in my head.  I write around that; usually there's barely a re-write.

Fiction, and film scripts . . . different kettle of fish.  There's still a general structure to write around, but at present it's an outline.  It says what's going to happen when, who's gonna do what, yadda yadda.  That's good.  You need something to work from.  Some folks go in blind with a rougher idea of what goes where, and if they can work that way then more power to 'em.  Me, I'm a planner.  I like a map.

So I have in hand everything my procrastinating ass needs to flesh out a film and get a draft on paper.  I have some free time right now, so that's something I need to focus on.  I'm not sure how much I'll have done in a month, but I intend to have something to show for this downtime.

That's why it's probably confusing why my re-writing is actually kind of satisfying.  It's a bit like building a great big Lego tower just to smash it when you're done, and then . . . make another one.  You learn.  You learn which bits go where, and how.  You learn to build it a little more soundly.  Maybe you find a way to substitute different pieces here and there.  Maybe you accidentally put one of those pointy bits at the top, forget about it, and the next time you smash the tower it results in a horror show of blood, screams and plastic.

You know, metaphorically speaking.

All of it is learning.  Writing novels and scripts are completely different propositions.  Novels are closer to what we're used to in school, essay-format stuff.  Scripts have enough customs, taboos and morays to make the Catholic Church seem like amateurs.  I'm going to have to learn it, because if I don't and it ends up on someone's desk then my little opus will be regarded as though it was composed with fingerpaint and spittle.  But I'll get the hang of it.

If you'll excuse me, there's an opening scene to rewrite, and a section of hair I haven't tugged in a while . . .