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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.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Cut For The Cutting Room Floor.

Well, the way things are going digital, there won't be a cutting room much longer.

Regardless, there will always be the idea of the - 'cutting room floor' - and where some of your scenes, lines of dialogue, images and darlings will inevitably wind up as the director and editor shape the picture, cut for time, cut for flow, cut for pacing.

You never keep everything you shoot.

So what does that mean about the draft you wrote?

The idea of the cutting room floor idea can be a useful tool for a writer at any stage of the writing, as a way to look at the work and lighten the load, cut the excess, stay on the straight line of the story.

The tighter, dynamic drafts are always the ones that read best. And you're forced to keep your poetry at a high level when you have less room.

What is the 'jewel' of the scene? The emotional moment required that makes the scene important? The plot discovery that makes it crucial? What do we learn about the characters or their fate, why is it neccessary? And if it's not neccesary, lose it. If part of it isn't neccesary, lose that.

If you don't do it now, you will hit that moment in a meeting with a director, unless you're directing yourself, when you gaze down upon a scene and realize - "we'll never shoot this."

That happened to me a lot in the last few weeks, as we're in pre-production on my script. But as the last thing I had in production was ten years ago the memory of this had faded. It was a great wake up call.

Good to get rid of the scenes you know you won't shoot, now. Why won't you shoot them? Becasue they don't advance the character arc, they don't advance plot. Period.

If you cut them now, you're improving the script, making it tighter, a better film, and a document that will speak more as a production draft to those who know production.

I read the script of Saving Private Ryan by Robert Rodat that sold. It's a fabulous script, very tight, no extra scenes, nothing wasted (different ending of course), a page turner it flew along amidst a huge cast of characters and endless locations; but felt like you were watching the movie.

Think of the cutting room floor and keep a step ahead.


Blogger Chris (UK Scriptwriter) said...

It is a useful concept to use, but a painful one all the same.

I went at a first draft the same way with a red pen. It was painful to see how much red ended up on the paper, however I was pleased I could spot what shouldn't be in there.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

Chris: yes, it still amazes me how much extra I put in. But as a friend of mine said, the first draft is very much like writing the novel. You have to find the story and the images, then when you have them you have to cut out the screenplay.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

- or cut away the novel, actually and leave the screenplay.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Bill Cunningham said...

This is part of my 'pulp screenwriting' philosophy: cut it down to only the juiciest heart of the scene - the pulp - and get rid of the rest.

It really gives your scenes and your story momentum.

Monday, July 03, 2006  

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