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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Can You Track The Process of Development and Can One Learn From It?

An interesting question:
I have been reading heaps of scripts to try and teach myself the style of writing...sort of getting used to it. I must admit, one thing I find fascinating is reading early drafts of the movies (after having seen the final movie) as it shows me what they have changed, to hopefully have improved the movie.

Is this a good idea, or should I concentrate more on the final product(I normally read both if I can source them)?

I know you can't give a definite, but would appreciate your thoughts on the matter.


I think everyone is different, and too much information can overload some people. This will cause overthink - get one too much into "mind" and that will cut off any true creative flow as the "editor" will be alive and well in your brain and shouting "no, wrong, bad, stop!" every fifteen seconds.

That being said, if you are able to read multiple drafts, and truly appreciate and follow the changes, it's fascinating. I myself found this a learning process into the making of movies when I started. The first draft of Star Wars, for example, is unrecognizable from the first film. Is it a good script? Not exactly, it sort of has all the ideas that were in the first three films. It makes you understand why multiple studios passed on it. But it's filled with exciting ideas and multiple characters. Now that you know the film, you can see choices made as to why the script was changed. It needed to be simpler, it had to flow better, it needed a straight through line with an urgent driving force, one basic story, not multiple stories. And Lucas found his way there. But seeing where he started, where we all start - manifesting thoughts out of thin air into flesh and bone, can be inspiring. It reveals the ugly truth that it doesn't always fall correctly onto the page the first, second, or even fifth time out. Or if it does, for some reason it was re-shaped into a new version with a new life, and does it work better? It also shows one that, not only are there many false starts before the winning draft, but also that we're all human, and all go through the same process of try and try again. That alone might be encouragement enough for some. "They did it, I can too if I work hard enough, period." It was for me.


Blogger Matt Reynolds said...

If I made it big I often wonder if I'd have the guts to allow publishers to release 'warts and all' versions of my screenplays. Some of the first draft stuff I've written is so bad, I sometimes want to throw it in the fireplace.

Coming to think of it, some of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th drafts are so bad I want to throw them in the fireplace.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Yes, but what of the good stuff that doesn't get into the shooting script? That's always fascinating. Jacob's Ladder, the published script, is a great book and a great read as the writer included alternate versions of scenes that were ultimately cut - and it's a great ride and a bit of a brain tease as you see the different way he was spinning that world, and of course you have the shooting script as well to show you how it all came to be in the end.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005  
Blogger Grubber said...

Many thanks for your response Philip, I can see what you mean about self-editing too much ;-)

I appreciate your time!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005  
Blogger The Moviequill said...

perusing the downloadable/readable script sites there isn't too many multiple drafts unfortunately (I'd love to read the progression of a movie) but I always choose the earliest draft possible with the least amount of production add-ons (CU, camera tracking etc).
Speaking of earlier drafts, I think Paul Guyot of Inkslinger Blog fame has an early draft of Lethal Weapon where Mel Gibson's character collects ninja stuff, fascinating

Wednesday, July 27, 2005  
Blogger TN_Dreamer said...

I read all drafts of a movie if I can get my hands on them. but I do think that moviequill is right in that the earliest draft is the most useful to screenwriters. after all, this is the draft that got the buzz going, right?

Thursday, July 28, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

moviequill & tn Dreamer: both good points, early and late scripts have value. The draft that got sold is obviously fascinating and important, it had the juice to make the deal - and the draft that got shot (and may be much different), and made $200 million at the box office is also, obviously, of value. Written By Magazine published some of Mamet's rewrite of "Hannibal" which was the draft before the shooting script and another writer. His stuff is chilling, the tone horrifying, true-er to the book, yet ultimately the studio chose to go a bit milder (if you can believe it) and it's fascinating to track the progress and see how writers handle mood, description, and dialogue.

Thursday, July 28, 2005  

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