Posted by: steveonfilm | May 5, 2008

Leave well enough alone?

I started tinkering with a few things again in Act 1. Before I knew it, I found myself doing some big time rewriting. I don’t think this is a bad thing. Quite the opposite. The more I tinker with the story the more I find myself crafting scenes that are better, stronger, and more concise.

For example, the first page, and first scene of the screenplay are now different.

In the version of Act 1 I recently posted, scene one is Tom laying awake in his bed. We then move to Tom in the basement in scene two. And follow up with Tom cooking breakfast in scene three. That’s was the opening sequence. What does it tell us? Jack shit.

The new version of Act 1 skips this stuff and goes right to Tom’s session with Sharon. That’s the first two pages. Previously, it wasn’t until page 9 that we find out Tom is seeing a psychologist and are introduced to Sharon. Now by the end of page five we’ve met Tom, Sharon, Scott, Howard, and Michelle. It’s established that Tom has some psychological issues, we find out his “big thee” phobias (which come into play in act 3), find out he’s having problems getting his comic strip into other newspapers, has a dream about seeing himself in a casket, and we meet his potential love interest. All by page 5.

So where did all these changes come from? Simple. I discovered a new feature in Final Draft that I hadn’t used before. It’s called View Index Cards – Script and it lays out your screenplay as index cards, with each scene on a different index card. There’s also View Index Cards Summary, which is a tool that you can use to write up index cards that will serve as summary’s for your script. You can then move each index card around, just like shuffling through your hand written 3x5s. (This second feature is going to be really handy when I start on some other projects.)

I printed out my whole screenplay, then cut each page into it’s cards, and split them into their respective acts. When I was flipping through act 1 I saw INT, INT, INT, INT, INT, INT, for like the first ten scenes. And then, when it was an EXT scene, it was a quick establishing shot, or something else brief. After looking at the first few lines of each scene (which are what is printed on the cards) I wasn’t satisfied at all. It was slow. Meandering. Still holding on to things I thought I’d rewritten and corrected the first time.

However, with all of this busy work done for me by the computer, I was able to quickly reshuffle stuff. Remove scenes that weren’t needed. Compress two scenes into one. Move story elements forward or backward. It was really helpful.

And that leads me back to where I am now. The middle of page six, tinkering with the first scene where we see Tom and Michelle together. After this I have to concentrate on how I want to wrap up the end of the first ten pages. I’m going to play around with two ideas, and decide on one before the nights end. Depending on what I go with, it’ll either drastically change some things around in act 2, or let the current events play our pretty much in their current shape.

I’ll have to wait and see.



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