Saturday, June 16, 2007

Crossing The Line

Late last night, printing up the existing episode two draft in preparation to heavily deface it the next morning, I was reminded that a printed copy already existed. What the heck have the last couple of weeks been like for me to forget that?

It wasn’t in the designated folder, or anywhere near the filing cabinets for that matter, or amongst the piles of papers that continually try their damnedest to bury the desk. Eventually I found it on the small dining table that, in all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never once sat and ate at.

Hidden by recent newspaper clippings that haven’t been filed and old publicity material from the Actress, was the paper folder with the script inside. I’d been carrying it back and forth, working on it during the daily commutes. Over those weeks, with more and more work to bring home each night, the script had to be ditched because there was too much to carry.

The pages already had notes scribbled all over them, as did the accompanying revised plot. Even better, there were over a half dozen pages of lined foolscap filled with new scenes written by hand. And there I was thinking there would be a whole lot more work involved. Now there’s just a lot more.

Before turning in, I finally got around to reading the last chapter of The Big Deal, Thom Taylor’s book about ‘Hollywood’s Million-Dollar Spec Script Market’. It’s a good read, especially in light of Universal Pictures recent acquisition of Nottingham, the new revisionist Robin Hood script by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris.

Announced back in early February that they had won the bidding war and paid Reiff and Voris well into seven figures, two months later Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe were attached with Brian Glazer producing. Less than two weeks back came the news Brian Helgeland, who co-wrote the magnificent LA Confidential, had been brought on board to rewrite the script they had already forked over more than a million bucks for.

Reading The Big Deal, obviously these large sums of money being handed over come from the agents instigating bidding wars between the studios, as much as the quality of the scripts themselves. In ever instance the sale isn’t the end of the journey and the book details the numerous rewrites, not always for the right reasons, before – and even after – the cameras start rolling. It also includes a roll call of scripts that were sold for big money that have never made it to the screen.

Which begs the question, how far to go with the writing? Should one simply aim for saleable or push on to readily filmable? Perhaps this is what Granada Guy meant when he said the script was “a collection of pages which exists to direct an episode.” But given that this is very much a collaborative medium, does going for the latter involve a waste of time and some effort? Where do you draw the line?

Should we think of a script as a steak and figure out at what point it’s rare, medium or well done? Or should we find a metaphor that pasty-faced vegetarians can understand?

Visual representations are always handy in this sort of instance. Personally, I always go with these versions of Adam Hughes’ Supergirl illustration to work out at what stage the material has reached:

At least that's the excuse I'm sticking with...


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