Monday, 18 January 2010

The horror of the first draft...

I used to love the first draft, but then I used to think that everything I typed was gold. I balked at William Goldman barking "the first draft of everything is shit". Not mine, Bill, I would say back, to whatever book on screenwriting I was reading at the time. There was some hubris involved around this era, the heady times of 2007.

One of my TV pilots is finally about to go out to production companies, some two years after I finished the splurge draft, so for shits and giggles, I had a read of that very first draft. Oh my. The first draft of everything is shit, indeed.

Where is the pacing? Where are the characters? Why is there so much fucking exposition? And why, why oh why oh why, is it so dull? So slow? So shit?

Surely the first draft is where all of the creativity just seeps out onto the page, surely it should be the most vibrant version of the story you're telling. But no. The first draft of everything is shit.

Thank God for rewriting. New main characters added, many others dropped, plots switched, pacing tightened, dialogue rewritten so its resembles wit rather than just people mumbling on trains.

Thankfully, very few people saw this version of the script. Under ten pages of that hour long script remain more or less intact in the draft that's about to go out, and tellingly they're at the end, so I must have found my way with the script as I was writing it.

And now, like the masochist that I am, I'm embarking on not one but two first drafts, one of them co-written for the first time. Knowing now as I do that good old Bill Goldman was once again right, and that the first draft of everything is shit, I approach them both neurotically knowing that this isn't my best writing, and reassured that it can only get better.

Ironically, I hardly ever revise my blog posts. So there's over 200 posts worth of this shit now.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Perils of Mild Success...

UPDATE: For clarification, the first part of Pete's comments were directed at a now absent spam comment. He's also totally right about that Tammy J Troll, who did totally unspeakable things with an ogre at the Christmas party, I'm just saying.

As sometime friend of the blog, Pete K. Troll* has pointed out, I've been keeping my cards close to my chest. He said it with more vitriol, but you should see the stuff trolls eat, it's a wonder they don't belch vodka*.

This, faithful remaining readers of a moribund blog, is the peril of mild success. As I've said in my last post, I've had a pretty good year. I've had some minor successes, and it all feels like it's chugging along very nicely down exactly the route I want it to, with but a few leaves on the line.

But I can't really tell you about it.

Reason the first: writing, in the past year, has gone from being a hobby and career aspiration to something resembling a job. I have meetings. I, on occasion, get paid a bit. So I can't gossip about it, give dirt, diss on producers or whine about how nobody understands my brilliant vision for exactly the same reason I wouldn't do that for my day job: I would get fired, and other potential employers would read it and I would never work in this town again.

By the way, none of the above is meant to imply that terrible things happened that I am being tight lipped about. This is not the case. Everybody, producer, exec, and other writers that I have met has been very very nice. All the bad ones must currently be on leave. But even if I had, gossip would be out.

Reason the second: failure is not something you advertise. You wouldn't fill in an online dating form with a list of your failed romantic endevours. So when something goes wrong I'm not going to post it here. When a script gets turned down, I'm very probably just going to send it someone else, and I don't want the first thing in Producer B's mind to be "Didn't Producer A already turn down this piece of shit?". Yes, E.T. got turned down a lot, but I bet Spielberg didn't tell anyone that until the movie was in the can**.

Reason the third: Quentin Tarantino sounds like a dick a lot of the time. You remember how long he talked about Inglourious Basterds? Years before it was fucking made. And lets not forget about the Vega Brothers, and the Kill Bill sequels, or the badly dubbed Kung Fu movie he was planning. He yammers away, and it's annoying, because you know most of it will never happen. If I talked about every idea I had, I'd sound like a deluded cock; the reality is most of them will never get beyond pitch form.

I am not alone in this situation: Michelle Lipton and Paul Campbell's blogs have been put on hold, deleted, and reborn like a glorious Phoenix because they're doing well. And god bless 'em.

If I sell something, you'll hear about it. If they're filming something, you'll hear about it. And if you see me down the pub, we can gossip then.

* Trolls that burp vodka are worth an extra 200 xp.
** A phrase which uniquely can refer to both finishing a film, and going for a poo.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

What Kind of Year Has it Been: 2009 Special Edition...

It's been a pretty damn fine year, that's what kind of year it's been. First of all, and I won't bore you with personal stuff for too long as this is ostensibly a writing site (I said ostensibly, it must be a writing site)... but anyway, I got married. So that's even if the rest of the year had sucked donkey balls, I would have still chalked it up as a win.

But the rest of the year did not suck donkey balls. Not at all. For it was my first year as a professional writer. I use professional in the loose term of "have been paid for writing" but I also think I've managed to polite and keep my primadonna tendencies in check when dealing with people - I just save them all up for this blog. Aren't you lucky?

Now, I am not pretending that I am Shane Black. I will not be retiring on what I made this year, to swan around Hollywood parties and get fat and bitter, fun as that sounds. I've had two commisions, one option, and I've done a bunch of other development work which has been unpaid. But that's still an infinite amount more money than I made from writing last year, or any other year of my life for that matter, so again, win.

I've had a bunch of meetings, which are tremendously fun and exciting (wait till next year if you want the jaded version) and 9 times out 10 have ended up with me being able to fairly successfully pitch a project to someone. I had one meeting cancelled, so I went to the Natural History Museum instead and looked at dinosaurs. I'm finding it very hard to find a downside here.

I've been with my agent for just over a year as well, and in a very belated answer to Phill Barron*, yeah, it's totally worth it. This blog post would likely be a lot shorter and duller without his always skillful intervention, though I probably would still have got married. A new shiny website should be launching at http://www.berlinassociates.com soonish.

2010 threatens to be a good year too. I've got a good few projects and pitches with various people, currently in a rather lovely Schrödinger's Cat state: I certainly hope that come the end of the year I shan't just have a bunch of dead cats in a box. I'd never get the dustmen to pick that up.

I'm also working on my first spec in over a year, and my first feature screenplay in over two. I shall keep you all informed of its progress over the next couple of months. My ludicrously optimistic calculations have it that I should finish a first draft by mid-March, though currently it's just three scribbled pages of jokes and a plot that exists only in my head, so we shall see...

And finally, two amendums to my last post: Sherlock Holmes and I are just good friends, whereas I have embarked on a passionate relationship with Avatar. If you have any interest in cinema, I cannot recomend that you see it enough, and see it now, in the cinema and in 3D, because I suspect that on DVD it will be thoroughly mediocre. But then, The Who could never record an album that was as good as they were live**. Avatar is not meant to be watched on a small screen, so see it, see it now, and ignore the fact that the magic mineral might as well be called Hardtofindium.

Oh, this was my 200th blog post, by the way. Hurrah.


* Phill also wrote up a review of his year here, but strangely it stops at January. Weird.
** Apparently. I'm 29, but Lady Gaga references don't have the same gravitas. I did meet Roger Daltry once though.