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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Draft Dodging

I thought it might be a fun behind-the-scenes thing to share some script notes here on the blog. So here's a look at our attempts to get this Lake Midnight shooting script done in the last month. Each email reposted here accompanied a draft of the script. The first is John's. The rest are mine as I tried to suss out what needed to be done.


Apr 18

Here is the finished first draft. The spelling and grammar is a mess, but its done. I'm tired now. Take a look and let me know what you think. Read from the beginning because of all the changes.

John V.


Apr 23

Now that I read the whole thing front to end in context, it works a lot better than I thought it did when we were working on it piecemeal. It feels good.

We can still juggle some things around, and I've got pages of mish-mash to go through from that tear down I did a few months ago. I don't think I ever sent you any of that because it was jumbled and you wanted to concentrate on the end instead.

Overall, I think we need to adjust how the various people talk. They all swear and speak in a modern way, and it doesn't seem right to me.

I keep thinking of new things. You may want to slug these into the draft I just sent.

I already changed the line about "three weeks" to wait. I changed it to "tonight" but it should probably be "tomorrow." Your call.

Should Wade and Lilith address the corporeal/non-corporeal nature of the world? Why do stones matter? How does smoking weed really help, if the weed isn't real?



Apr 27

So far I've sifted some new and old stuff into the first twenty pages.

I want to try moving the Jack toe-chopping scene to later, but haven't decided where yet. To keep with Wade's point of view in the early part of the script, I think it's important that we meet Jack through Wade's eyes for the first time. The toe-chopping is all about Jack and Lilith.



May 2

Today the question is, what if we see Lilith swipe some pages from Wade before he realizes what he's written?

Then, later, she can be with Jack while Wade has his big zombie attack writing scene.



May 14

I've made changes throughout, except I left the crypt sequence untouched. There's some scene changes in the first 35 pages or so. Mostly just added or modified dialogue everywhere else.

Now that I've been through it again, there's a couple things I'm mulling over.

1) I cut the toe-cutting scene, with the intention of putting it back in, but didn't figure out where. Now I'm not sure we need it. In either case, the snappy insult-heavy dialogue doesn't feel right for Lilith.

2) I see how you dropped in hints to Lilith's shaman nature, but it might still be too subtle. Not sure what to do about that yet. Maybe someone can tell a ghost story at the campfire to give backstory to Keras vs. the Shaman. Okay, that's corny.

3) I think we need to introduce the Calknarian stones better. My idea is to use the latest pages Lilith stole from Wade. They can have info on the stones, and how to deceive Keras (of course, that info was "written" by Keras to mislead them.) Not sure whether to insert this into the scene on page 48 or 62.

4) As a follow-up, do we need them to go back to the typewriter and ask more questions? I like the idea of bringing the typewriter back in to emphasize Keras' trickery. It feels like a proactive idea, too. Rather than just another talking scene, it would be a discovery scene.



May 24

Topping out at 83 pages.

I put the shaman story in Keras' voice. If it were told by someone else, it might look like the other text file (see attached).

Good golly, it feels good to get this draft off. Annoying problems would get solved on the fly sometimes. The answers sometimes occur to me spontaneously while I'm typing. It's like the computer HAS A MIND OF ITSELF!


Sanity check. Good, no zombie self taking a bite out of my head. I'm off to watch Big Trouble in Little China again.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Writing Lake Midnight

I just finished what we're calling Draft 06 of Lake Midnight. This is the first time I've collaborated on a feature script, and it took some sweat to figure out how to do it.

We began with the intention of doing a short film. We had a good location, a fun story idea, and a good supply of 16mm film at our disposal. For about a week, the project was called Lovecraft's Typewriter, as the writer H.P. Lovecraft was referenced directly in the story. At some point, our short morphed into a feature project. Our tale of a writer going mad would become a writer caught in a time loop (and going mad). The short could stand as the first cycle of time in the feature.

It was always John's story. During the brainstorming process, John and I would have meetings where I would take notes furiously. I'd go off and try to write some scenes. Inevitably, by the time I'd get them back to John for approval, he'd already come up with new ideas that contradicted what I just wrote!

Eventually, John took the bones of our original short film script and expanded on it. When John writes, he likes to begin with page one and push through until the end. He would call me up and say "I'm on page 60. Things are going good. Now we need a good action sequence for the end."

Meanwhile, I was taking his work and chopping it up into pieces, trying to flop things around so they made sense to me. I'm desperate to get the "cool scenes" to adhere to a sort of logic. I have to believe that everything in the film happens for a reason, so I do tons of research to back up the backstory. I get ideas from everywhere -- when I'm writing, it seems everything I read relates to the script somehow. Some of influences on this script: the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Dashiell Hammett, and other pulp writers; stories of North American lake monsters; references on Babylonian and Greek mythology; and paranormal stories from "Weird U.S."

I see a script as a jigsaw puzzle, so when John would ask me what page I was up to, I couldn't answer. I didn't start at the beginning, I've got holes all over the place. How can I have a page count? A few months ago, I felt like it was never going to come together. I tried to break it down into acts, but the script refused to behave for me.

Once John finished his version, I looked at what he wrote and saw it more objectively. It was more coherent than I had expected, considering the mind-warp nature of the story. It needed work, but at least I could pinpoint what needed fixing without tearing it to shreds.

In the last few weeks, I've built on his framework. I swapped a few scenes around, brought in some old dialogue from my days of noodling, and added crucial exposition and character details to tie our various story points together. John has been hands off, encouraging me to put in everything I think the script needs.

The next step? We'll be taking suggestions from an objective third party. Then we'll undoubtedly tear the whole thing apart again.