Wednesday, July 20, 2005

First Draft

Lately, this blog has taken second place to the work of writing the screenplay.  Or maybe I was just distracted.  Who knows?

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Drum roll.

I finally finished the first draft of the screenplay.

Yep.  Sunday morning, July 17, at 4:20 AM.

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My aunt wrote me today.  Her book has been published.  Second Wife:  Stories and Wisdom from Women Who Have Married Widowers by Martha Stahl.

The book signing that my aunt described sounded larger than the one they had for S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders) here at Dutton's in Brentwood.

I'm providing a link to Good Books, where you can purchase the book.  Just go to the site, search for Martha Stahl, and a description of the book pops up.

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Steven & Steven.

Good name for a screenwriting team, huh?  You can address me by either name.

I don't mind.

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Did I mention that I'm heading home to Ohio for a week?  I fly out of Los Angeles on July 27.  I hang with my family.  See old friends.  Even some new ones.  Then I fly back to Los Angeles on August 2.

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Strange dream last night.  Can't forget it. 

I was taking possession of a beautiful house.  A fixer-upper.  Fantastic, ancient architecture.  Like out of a house in the Anne Rice novel, The Witching Hour.  The mansion must have been in LA, because as I was coming out of the dream, I realized that in order to buy a house that large -- with lawns that large -- I would need many millions of dollars.

Or a very large bank loan.  And I don't have that kind of money or mortgage credit.


                        *     *     *

Yeah, okay.  So I kind of finished the screenplay.  Let me explain.

You already know that I'm currently writing the last 2/5 of the screenplay and that my co-writer is revising the first 3/5 of the screenplay?  Yeah, I'd like to forget it too.  But the fact remains that I wrote 233 pages over spring break and then slowly whittled them down to 94.  And I was only 3/5 done.

The last 2/5 of the screenplay added an additional 138 pages.  Now I need to trim those pages to 50 before I can give my first draft pages to Steven and call my work on the first draft done.

This means there are hours of revision coming up.  At least ten passes through the script.  At least, it took me that long to trim the first 233 pages.

                        *     *     *

I've already started the first pass.

I went to the 50s Cafe on Santa Monica and Barrington, parked myself down at the counter, and stayed there until I had read through the script.  Made extensive notes.

The first read-through is always murder.  My mentor and friend Walt Walker tells me that's a good sign.  I bloody well hope so.

                        *     *     *

My close friends -- those whom I call regularly -- have been asking me what the next step is in finishing the screenplay.  So here's a kind-of-projected-like schedule..

Once Steven and I revise the screenplay -- hopefullybringing it in at 119 pages -- we'll send it out to a select group of readers.

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Our First Polished Draft.

We wait for our readers to respond.  Once the reactions come back, we take whatever time we need to process the comments.  We make sure we understand the problems they point out. 

After we figure out solutions to those problems, we divide up the work.  Make the changes.  Polish it off together. 

If we pull this off by the end of August, we'll be lucky.

                        *     *     *

Our Second Polished Draft. 

We cast a reading, using the most talented actors we know.  People who can be bribed with simple/complex flattery, good/bad pizza, and simple/complex spirits.  And we listen. 

During and after the reading, we solicit comments from our actors.  What worked?  What didn't?  Afterwards, the two of us do a lot of talking.  Process everything.  Once we're comfortable with what we've taken in, we revise the second draft.  Polish it.

If we finish this step by the end of September, we'll be happy.

                        *     *     *

Our Third Polished Draft.

We run copies on quality paper.  And we begin the next screenplay -- a low-budget piece that can be shot for the cost of the digital camera rental.

We then discuss every agent we know.  Draw up a list.  Decide whom we should solicit.  Make plans to beg and sell parts of our souls.  Call it what you want -- we go after an agent in the most creative manner possible.

Going after an agent is sorta  Or at least going out to clubs to find women to date.  Or maybe it's  like applying for a job.

No.  The Dating-analogy-leading-to-marriage Thingie is better.  After all, once you find an agent who wants you, there are certain legal documents you must obtain.  Lawyers are involved.  Money is key.  And if you ever want to leave your agent, there's emotional abuse.  Another lawyer.

As I was saying, finding, securing, and working with an agent is just like the old-fashioned courtship process.  And it helps if every agent in Hollywood thinks you're hot.  Which we are.  With us, the agent will get two writers for the price of one.  It's one of the advantages of a writing partnership.

Hopefully, our infatuation with the agent we want will be mutual.

                        *     *     *

As Johnny Depp says in Pirates of the Caribbean, I'm having a thought here.

I've lived with The French Inquisitor ever since it was conceived in April of 2000.  Teaming up with Steven Huey as my co-writer was the right choice.  Not just anyone could help bring about the birth of this story. 

And I'm still completely in love with my story.  It moves me on a most profound level.  I like that.

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