That’s right! It’s time for another exciting look into the thrill ride that is writing! The never ending pursuit of enough words on paper. I know, I know. Boooring… As much as I enjoy writing, I’m under no delusions regarding level of interest into the inner workings of what I do. If you aren’t Quentin Tarantino getting praise and flack for Django Unchained, or Damon Lindelof getting flack and more flack for Lost and Prometheus, then no one cares much. But, I gotta write about something. And the script is kind of important, regardless of what Tyler may tell you. So, this is Drafts part 1 of 4.
In my last post, I talked how we had a script for a Bigfoot movie and that we were actually going to film it. However, you may recall that my exact phrase was “Although, it was the first of four drafts, it was enough…” I did that on purpose. That right. It’s one of those classic writer’s tricks. We call it “foreshadowing.” It’s technical, but basically it means I threw a word shadow which when read indicated the real words to follow. What you’re reading now are the real words.
There is an old saying: writing is rewriting. I prefer to say writing is writing again. What the hell does that mean? you ask. Well, I don’t think rewriting accurately captures the actual amount of writing that goes into rewriting. But you had a perfectly good, complete script, a Bigfoot script, a movie that people were excited about. What’s to rewrite? Oh, if you only knew…
Oh, wait. That’s what I’m writing this for. So you can know. Okay. Fine.
I’ve always been fond of saying* that a film is a lot like a roller coaster. The cars are the film, the riders are the cast and crew. The story (narrative, theme, idea) is the support structure and foundation. The money is the chain that lifts the cars up the first hill. The excitement of the cast and crew is the momentum that gets the film to completion. The script is the steel rail that keeps everything on track. There are twists and twirls, loops and rolls… a lot of crazy, exciting, and potentially scary shit going on, often unexpectedly. Without good script based on a solid story, the cars come of the rails and you’ve just killed all of your cast and crew.
*NOTE: I’ve never actually said this. I just made it up now. But, it sounds good… almost works. See? Writing!
In the case of our film, each of the four drafts was caused by its own the twist and other wikipediaed roller coaster words. Although I can’t go into too much detail without giving away super-secret secrets of the mysteries of The Legend of Grassman, I can talk about them at a high level and try to paint a picture of the why. I’ll go draft by draft to keep it fun.
- DRAFT 1 – This was the first draft based on the outline I had created and Tyler had his interest sparked from. I followed the outline pretty closely, although there was room from some embellishment since it was only a twenty point outline.This is where the story becomes real. The plot and the themes started to really flesh out, the key events and action/horror elements were then, but the characters at first were all just fitting into their respective archetypes. The result was that neither of us felt quite right about it. We had a script that we certainly felt we could do, but neither of us really connected with it at that point, there was not emotional connection with the characters or their story. This was a problem.
- DRAFT 2 - This draft was a result of the first discussion Tyler and I had regarding the script. Although pre-production had actively begun, Tyler and I had several long discussion much of which focused on the believability of the core characters, who were a TV crew for a TLC/Discovery/Animal Planet style show. Having not done any research into that business, I kept things fairly generic assuming that Tyler would fill in the blanks.
But, instead, the result was that things felt artificial and forced with regards to their actions.So, this draft attempted to flesh the whole TV crew thing out more. We also discussed whether the horror aspect of the story had enough… well, kills. I didn’t think so, and we added a couple more characters who fit both elements. They added more TVness and provide more bodycount. But they were event less dimensional than the core characters.
This draft was abandoned about halfway through, partly because it sucked, but also because another twist/loop/drop would force us to rethink everything.
- DRAFT 3 - This is the most drastic of all the drafts, and for two good reasons: 1) we had begun casting people, non-actors most, and began reworking the script to cater to them. Makes sense. And 2) we fired our star. Oh, okay.Wait… what?Yeah. It’s a long involved story for a post all of its own, but suffice it to say that it was a combination of Tyler not seeing myself and our brother, Stephan, as giant, bouncer-looking camera men in a TV show environment, and Stephan not as focused as we needed him to be at that time. There is a lot more to it and will be detailed in a future post, since it was a major event and the first time Tyler and I had to have some awkward and managerial discussions instead of just enjoying happy fun movie pretend time.The events of the script essentially remained intact, but the real result was a complete shift in the characters. Our lead was a 15 year old boy, the TV show angle was dropped, and our characters, even the shallow, kill count padding, suddenly became more focused and more dimensional. It was actually weird, even as the writer, to see the way the addition of the Danny character (played by Damion Meyer) completely changed the focus and tone of everything. And Stephan wound up with Tyler’s favorite character in the film, Kyle who lit up more with Stephan’s renewed energy and focus onset than it ever did on paper. I almost can’t take credit for any of it. Almost.
- DRAFT 4 - This was the easiest of the drafts for me. Its basic purpose was to make corrections and adjustments based on our read-through with our entire cast and some additions over the course of exploring the primary location in Lebanon, OH where we did most of our principal photography. That location was a godsend and full of set pieces and production value that I hadn’t imagined when writing the other drafts, but were too hard to pass up once we saw them. And, again, these serendipitous additions fit as if they were meant to be, and that I, as the writer, didn’t even know it until I was hit in the face with them.
And that forth draft, while marked “FINAL” in August of 2009 or so, continued to be an ever-changing work in progress, with small additions and rewrites as shooting progressed.
So, as you can see, my roller coaster analogy was right on the money. And the lesson from all this, if you are going to make a movie coaster, don’t do it without the supports, foundation, rails, or those guys that hang from that shit and make sure it’s not rusted through. Otherwise, everybody dies and your movie falls apart, too.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where I talk more about the short-lived second draft and the resulting turmoil of Tyler and I not seeing eye-to-eye. Could we get through our differences and come together in a common vision that would result in the greatest Bigfoot movie ever?