The Script: Not as Simple as Originally Thought…

You can’t make a film without a script (well, you could, but unless you were a genius it would probably suck). This has been the driving force for the medium since the very beginning. Without a great story, interesting characters, arcs and all that good stuff, the chances of creating something worthwhile are almost nil. In fact, even with a script, a lot of films tend to suck. I’m not sure if that’s something a lot of writers dwell on, but personally, it’s a massive fear I live with every time I sit down to write. Assassins itself came from several false starts, failed outlines and many a night spent drowning in caffeine.

Before Assassins, I’d been working with Dave (my co-writer and someone who’s name will pop up for some time to come) for almost two years prior, on a script entitled Muse. I won’t go into detail, but as we head into the fourth year of work on that piece, Dave has taken to completely stripping it of everything that isn’t essential and is giving new life to our project. Anyway, I didn’t want to bother Dave (he’s got a few of his own stories that he’s working on, and several that I’ve dragged him kicking and screaming into), and I figured since I’d had the short, and a loose idea for a feature, I could pop the rough out pretty quickly.

Wrong!

I tried several stories. All sorts of variations I could think of, moving Bill Oberst Jr.’s killer from my short film, into different predicaments and situations. All proved fruitless. One of these failures is currently being worked into a script/novel called Hemorrhage, but again, I’ll talk about that in another post. I decided to reach out to Dave and see if he was interested in helping me bring this project to fruition. After all, our first script was still being worked on, but the budget had grown and we had no idea when we’d get the chance to put it in production. He agreed, and after letting me know exactly why the other ideas had failed, he offered an idea.

Why didn’t we use the short film as the opening and let the story unfold from there?

To tell the truth, the idea hadn’t even occurred to me. But, it made sense. The short ends with the potential to play out like a cold open in a lot of TV shows, so we ran with it. We streamlined the opening, cutting it down from almost ten minutes to a, much brisker, seven minute lead in. We each took the story and wrote out our own versions of where it could potentially go, with Dave winning out on creating a much better outline for where everything would end up. After fusing a few sequences between the two scripts, we went to work creating the actual project. Dave banged out a first half outline. It was full of goodness and I was very excited to see that we were making something better than originally planned. I took the outline and wrote out the rough draft for the first half of the script, while Dave hammered away on the second.

This continued until we had a finished draft. Then began the painful back and forth of rewriting what each other had done. More often than not problems would pop up, and after fixing one issue, that would change something else in the script, and a domino effect would be born. Anyone who’s written anything knows about the growing pains of rewriting, but I’d never been hit as hard as I was watching scenes I was proud of being stricken from the script as if they were a leperous disease infecting the good words surround them.

It took a few months but we had our script ready to go. I know, I know, that’s insanely fast, and if we’d sat for another year, we’d probably have a very different film, and writing for budget is not exactly the way to go either.

Anyway, then it was time to start putting the pieces together. Which, we’ll get into next time. To any other filmmakers (or authors if you have ridiculous styles of writing) what was creating your script, from idea right up to production like, and how did you make the most of it?

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