Posted by: steveonfilm | June 9, 2008

Re: Keeping The End Results The Same

I’ve been furiously working on Bystander. Trying to hit the June 15th extended deadline for Big Break. Not sure if I’ll make it, but I’m doing my best to try.

I said I’d follow up on how I went about changing some things in act one, but still keeping the end results the same. I figure now is as good a time as any to do that. So here goes…

When I originally wrote Bystander it moved all over the time line. There was one linear story line with key scenes moving the story forward. However, the rest of the screenplay was flashback intensive. And the flashbacks provided almost all the background. Truth be told, it came out this way because when I started writing it I didn’t know the background. When something came to me I just wrote a scene about it. This was the first screenplay I’d ever written. Over the corse of three days I went from nothing to about 140 pages of…well…something. That was three years ago.

In subsequent drafts I tightened things up. Cleared up some of the time shifting. Overall just made it an easier read. But it wasn’t until recently I really decided to shake things up. I decided to drop a lot of the background flashbacks. I wanted something that was 70 percent linear, 30 percent flashback (if not closer to 80/20). This meant moving a lot of parts around because frankly, I’d never really thought of the story in a linear perspective before.

So I used Final Draft’s note card tool to make one for each scene. I grouped them together. And put stuff together in a chronological timeline. This was by far the most beneficial thing I could have done. There are two scenes in the movie that are shown from two different perspectives. So I ended up basically with the two scenes each shown twice. I didn’t realize how redundant this was until looking at the scene cards.

At any rate, when I put stuff in a chronological time line I was able to see a lot of places I could cut. The first act came together pretty quickly. Trimming was fast. In late. Out early. One of the scenes I was cutting was one of the multiple perspective scenes that just so happened to provide significant back story. This was a problem. How do I get around this issue?

Only one real answer, rewrite. Sure, this could have been a show stopper. But to me I saw it as a challenge. I told myself, “make this simpler.” So that’s how I attacked it. I kept the scenes I wanted, tossed the ones I didn’t need, and then simplified all the cut pages so that everything fit together much cleaner. The end result is a might tighter, faster, and stronger first act.

The first beat of act one and the last beat of act one are still the same. Same opening scene. Same closing scene. The end results are the same. Kyle and Duane still head west for answers. But the middle is a whole new ball game.

I’m working through act two. Some of the stuff I moved around came from act two. So there are some holes to plug now. However, I’ve opened up some room for some character exploration that I never got a chance to do in the previous drafts. I’m looking forward to what I have to do to make this work.

Act three should be a piece of cake. I don’t have any structural changes. Nothing was removed from it. I’m just going to concentrate about in late, out early, and keeping it simple. The one thing I’m worried about is that act two will be trimmed so much my mid point will hit around page 45, and plot point two will come too soon after that. Before I started I was at 106 pages. Right now I’ve got 96 with the edits I’ve made. I’m sure this will fluctuate between 90 and 100 until I’m done.

Okay, back to writing. I’m coming up on the mid point and I’ve got to be real careful how I pace this out.



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