You’d think after becoming a Creative Screenwriting Expo finalist, we’d stop rewriting Slavery by Another Name (SBAN) and consider it “done.” Well, you don’t know me then.
I’m a competitive freak, and the fact is, being a finalist is an honor, but it’s not winning. A panel of judges considered another script better than ours. When any competition bitchslaps me, I come back the only way I know how … with a rewrite.
The benefit of being a finalist is we know the script is good. But now we need to make it great. I immediately went back through all the notes I’ve received over the past year and asked, “Jeanne, what’s your gut instinct?”
Change from co-protagonist to single protagonist.
Oh yeah, baby, this is no minor rewrite. I don’t do anything half-ass.
When I looked at my own notes scribbled in earlier versions, I saw penciled in the margin, “Is he really our guy?” Every time I wrote for him, I struggled. I knew something was off before I finished draft one, but I didn’t trust my instincts. Instead I let myself be swayed by what I thought Hollywood would want.
That is lesson number one. Yes, you need to write a marketable script you can sell, but once you have that high-concept hook, you need to make this story your own. Give it your perspective and your voice. Tell it in a way only you can tell it. That’s what this rewrite is – authenticity of our writing voice and pushing this story to the next level.
To really push this sucker up the hill, we needed a stronger lead. So today, I sat down with colored index cards – blue for the old protagonist, green for the new – and spread them around my gigantic dining room table. No one is allowed to eat until I’m done.
Social services will be here any minute, I’m sure.
Someone tweeted the other day stating they do three or four rewrites and wanted to know how many I had done of SBAN. I truthfully have no idea. And I don’t care. I’ll rewrite this a hundred more times if that’s what it takes.
I want it done right. Period.
Listen to your gut. Always. But the bigger lesson is, it’s never too late to fix it. That is what a rewrite is for. Don’t be afraid to hack your script to pieces. What’s the worst that can happen? If it doesn’t work, just go back to the last solid version you had.
Most importantly, trust you gut. When you read notes, don’t change things unless you believe they should be changed. This is the only time you will have full control of your work. Don’t take the chance of submitting it before it’s ready and then having to make changes based on the execs wishes. The reality is, the closer to a shooting script you can give them, the less fearful they’ll be of being stuck in development hell.
So rip that sucker apart and see what diamonds are hiding within. And don't be afraid to step outside of the box.
Outside the boundaries is where great scripts hide.