Posted by: steveonfilm | December 27, 2010

“Untitled Horror Project” Origins

A few weeks ago Michael, a friend of a friend, talked to me about taking a stab at rewriting a slasher script he wrote about five years ago. He gave me a brief rundown on the story concept and basically said I had free reign to take it and run with it as I please. The idea certainly sounded promising, though I’d never written a slasher flick before and it was a bit outside of my comfort zone as a writer. But at the end of our talk I told Michael I’d give it a try.

Great Steve, you’re doing a rewrite on a script someone you sort of know wrote in college, why is this important? Or more importantly, why are you bothering to share?

I’m sharing because I think this experience is going to be a bit more rewarding than just my typical, “hey, I’m writing a new script” series of posts. And more than anything else, it will give me a bit of a glimpse into what it’s like to be a real professional writer. I think this might be beneficial to others out there as well.

And now the backstory….

I know Michael through my friend Ryley. Ryley and Michael met while Ryley was in L.A. doing some post graduate work. The first time I met Michael was when I went out to L.A. to visit Ryley. The three of us, along with some other mutual friends, all play together in a few fantasy football leagues and otherwise keep in touch by making fun of each other in Facebook. We’ve continued to meet up on occasion, most recently for Ryley’s wedding (of which both Michael and I were groomsmen).

Michael’s professional development took him back to college for a few years out in Colorado. It was during this time that he had to write a screenplay for one of his creative writing classes. You see, Michael isn’t a writer. He never wanted to be a writer. He’s not a writer now professionally. He was required to take this class. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get ideas. And he had an idea that had been floating around in his head for a while. It was this idea that he used to write the script. When it was done, and graded, it just sat on an old laptop, gathering digital dust.

Fast forward five years or so…

Michael now works for a pretty decent sized entertainment management and content development company in L.A. One way or another, the slasher flick he wrote in college popped back into his head. He chats up a few guys in the office about it. They think it’s not a bad idea. Michael considers giving a shot at rewriting the script. Only problem, like I said, he’s not a writer. He talks to Ryley about the story idea to get his take. Ryley tells him to have me take a stab at it.

Now, obviously Ryley and I are very good friends so he’s going to try and help me out. But this wasn’t a pure case of nepotism. Michael was sort of aware of my talents, if that’s an accurate term, as a writer. I’m by no means horrible, but obviously I’m still lacking something or I’d be doing this professionally already. Ryley fills Michael in a bit more on what I can do, and why I might be a good fit for this since I’m really lacking some sort of “high concept” screenplay on my resume. Worst case I turn out a script that sucks and Michael can go to someone else. No hard feelings or anything. In addition, Ryley thought this could serve as a sort of mock workflow for an actual professional writing experience. It’d give me an idea what he and his writing partner go through on a regular basis.

Michael called me up a few days later to give me a pitch on the script so to speak. He’d send me over the script and give me a few weeks to digest it and come up with my take. When I’m ready, I’ll send him a general outline of what I’m looking to do. He’ll read it over and give me back notes, just like he does with his clients now, and I’ll make the necessary changes. We’ll go back and forth like that until we’re both satisfied with the story we’ve put together. From there I’ll start writing the script, and again we’ll go back and forth with notes and revisions. When everything is said and done, hopefully Michael will have something that he can do something with. If not, at least it’s not costing anyone anything, and he can just see if someone else wants to take a stab at writing it.

Ryley once told me “any excuse to sit in front of your keyboard and do some writing is a good excuse.” That’s how I’m viewing this script. It’s about as good a chance as I’m going to get to see how things are done in a quasi-professional sense. Obviously it won’t be the exact same, but I’ve got to take what I can get at this point. I’ve got about 75% of the story outlined and I’d like to get Michael a finished outline shortly after the new year.

So there you go… that’s how I ended up working on my next script.

Until next time, keep writing!
-Steven

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