Back in October I told you about the screenplay treatment that the writer had turned in. So you might be wondering what’s happening with that. Well, it got put on hold for a while. Why? Because I got sucked into the homework cyclone and it wouldn’t let go. That Story Analysis and Screenplay Development for Film and Television class I was taking ended up eating just about every free moment I had and then some for the past few months. While I regret that it slowed down the project, I think the benefits outweighed the negatives.
For the past three months I’ve been completely immersed in learning to analyze the basic elements of a story: premise, plot, structure, character, and dialog. Our teacher would assign a script for us to read and then we would have to write a log line, a synopsis, and an analysis of the script covering each of the basic elements. We would have to comment on what works and doesn’t work and then give an explanation why. Then we would give our recommendation as to whether the script should be considered for development or not. This is the exact same process a reader goes through for each script he or she analyzes for a producer or studio. For someone who loves to read stories and then pick them apart, it’s a good job. The downside is that you end up having to read a lot of stories that may not be to your liking. It can be quite a challenge to put your personal taste aside and try to look at a story objectively.
Some of the most interesting assignments we were given involved reading a script that had been produced and then watching the finished movie. We then had to write a comparison/contrast where we identified what had changed from the script to the screen and how that had affected the movie, for good or for bad. It’s amazing how much some movies changed, while others stayed fairly true to the script. Films are such a collaborative medium with so many people having an input that it can sometimes be hard to discern where the changes are coming from. Sometimes it can be due to decisions the director makes. Other times it’s due to decisions made in editing. Sometimes the acting isn’t there. And sometimes it’s a combination of various factors. But whatever factors influence the final product, I found it to be disappointing to read a promising script and then watch it get poorly executed on film.
So these past few months have been extremely busy and educational for me. I’m happy to say I got an A in the class. I’m not going to claim to be an expert, but I do think I’ve got a decent grasp of the basics. So would I ever want to become a reader/script analyst? In one word, no. The reason that I say this is because whether you enjoy the story or not, as a reader you still have to read and give feedback on it. Producers don’t have to do that. Sure, they will get stories that don’t interest them, but they aren’t required to read them. Usually, reading a short synopsis, treatment, or the first few pages of a script is all they need to do to know whether or not it is a story they should invest some time in. Of all the stories I read in the class there was only one that I would have been interested in producing.
As a producer I would much rather spend my time looking for that special story that I can get excited about or else working on one that has the possibility to be really good. This brings me back to the treatment. About three week’s ago, I was finally able to sit down and start writing development notes. Development notes, for those of you who may not know, is feedback that producers give to screenwriters to help guide them in developing the story. In the notes, the producer points out areas that work, areas that need work, and can even offer suggestions and ideas that the screenwriter can use or get inspired from.
In my enthusiasm for this project, I offered a ton of ideas and suggestions. At that point, the writer suggested that we write two treatments. It’s an idea that makes a lot of sense. As I have said before, I’m not the only one who decides which story we do. The decision also belongs to the cast. I have to like the story, but so do they. So writing two treatments gives us twice the odds that at least one of them will be something they are interested in doing. What happens if they don’t like either story? Well, then it’s my job to start all over and look for another story. I keep looking until I find the right story.
Because the writer is busy working on the original treatment, I’m taking on the job of writing the second treatment, which will be a co-authored venture. The treatments are basically two different versions of the same story. The goal is to get both versions in tip-top shape before the cast reads them. After they have gone through as many rewrites as needed to get them in great shape, I will then be getting at least a couple of outside opinions on them from experienced, professional writers/analysts. Getting feedback from pros in the field is absolutely vital and I wouldn’t even think of submitting anything to the cast that hasn’t been thoroughly looked over.
So stay tuned and as we make progress on the stories, I’ll keep you posted.