The Proof of the Pudding is in the Screening
So this blog that I’m supposed to be maintaining is turning out to be a dud. In a good way, though.
The past few weeks have been very busy for me. Top most priority for me, in particular, was to finish the new draft of the script that I put off in favor of other pre-production concerns. I promise to write more about those. Here and now, I am celebrating the completion of the second draft.
I finished the script’s first draft on the first week of February. That too was delayed since I was worried sick about laying the ground work for the film (pre-preprod, if you like). It’s been two whole months before I was able to finish this new draft. All the meetings, emailing, calling, and marketing has left me with little to no time for anything else, much less writing. Perils of an independent production. Not discredit my team, but when you haven’t got all the necessary people for the necessary roles, all the work and worrying really falls on the progenitor of the project.
It wasn’t like I didn’t pay enough attention to this revision. It’s been constantly in my mind in fact, but I struggled with the how of it.
For starters, I gathered feedback and suggestions from people I trust (many thanks to them who responded!). After making a list of those that I thought were useful or applicable to the direction I wanted to take the new draft, I tried writing from scratch for the second draft, which is my usual process. It had always done me good in the past, allowing me to birth new ideas that enhanced while not necessarily discarding those from the earlier draft. This time around though, it wasn’t working. I kept coming back to the old scenes and structure that I wrote.
Either I wasn’t as open-minded as I thought I was or my writing was a little rusty.
I was my biggest obstacle. I kept arguing myself out of any significant changes that I started considering.
Should I take out this backstory? Do I really need that scene? Maybe that character is redundant?
Whenever I was stripping away elements from the first draft, I always found reasons to keep them. I remembered my meeting with the directing instructor back at LFS. We went through each of draft one’s scenes and discussed the purpose for it. He had very good words for the entire draft. While he did say that it was on the long side, he didn’t think any of it was superfluous.
Other friends who commented on draft one had questions or wanted clarifications, but none of them thought it was overlong or boring either. If any, their questions almost implied that they wanted more scenes, not less. Optimistic, I took that as a sign that I was successful in creating an engaging story, sympathetic characters, and a credible story world.
For practical purposes, making the second draft longer than its predecessor was out of the question. We already are buckling down the projected expenses, so there wasn’t any room for more setups and more stock requirement. Quite the contrary.
Since I was failing miserably at slashing scenes, my other strategy was to probe for a new structure that might serve the film better.
I created four major units for the story and allotted five sequences for each to force myself to bring the total sequences down to 20 (from 29).
There were some brilliant suggestions that our directing instructor threw my way back in London. I started with that – and was quite hopeful. But soon after, I was back to the old chronology and story structure. While it did allow for some deft condensing of scenes, the length remained the same. It was apparent that condensing only reduced the ordinal number of sequences. I was still retaining all the story elements from the previous draft. Every time I tried to let some of them go, I always felt like I was compromising one of the key intentions I had for the film.
In the end, I managed a nifty 25 sequences in 28 pages.
Not much difference, I agree. The story did not change drastically either. I was, however, able to add new elements that I hope magnifies the theme. I cleaned up some of the dialogues and effected significant adjustments in characterizations.
I had hoped the change would be more drastic, but what I came to realize in the end is maybe it didn’t really need a major revision of the story. I ended up embracing the fact that the story is already exactly how I wanted it to be. It was tailored quite deliberately even though it was just a first draft. It sounds a bit self-eulogizing, but it was perhaps a result of having thought about this story long and hard before I even started writing the script. Perhaps my years of writing scripts is paying off in making me more efficient.
Or maybe I’m just being lazy and trying to convince myself of my mediocrity.
Whatever the case may be, the proof is in the pudding. And the pudding won’t be out of the oven until July – when the film meets its first critics at LFS’s Cinema A. Until then, you’ll have to trust my word that the second draft is good 😉