Moving On

July 21, 2011

Psycho Ex is done. Sent out to readers, ready to upload to inktip, everything. Done.

It works and I’m happy with it. It’s not perfect, it’s not my favorite script of mine, it is not profound or full of insights on the human condition. But it has one huge thing going for it: it’s done.

It has been a good exercise and hopefully a step forward for me. But now it is time for me to move on to the next one.

In grad school I TA’d for a film production instructor who told his class something very important. This was back in the days of 16mm film and non-digital editing and analog mixing sessions. With the structure of school, it took a semester to make a short (or write a feature), and after a while you started thinking of short films and screenplays in those terms: they were big, slow, time-consuming projects that took months to complete and consumed most of your waking life. Your semester grade was on the line, not to mention your pride, and since this end-product was what you showed your friends and parents and colleagues, people acted as if this was their one shot in life to make a movie, their one chance to fulfill all their goals and dreams, their one time to put down and justify their very identities for all to see.

This instructor said this was stupid and a huge flaw with film schools. It’s a movie. It’s a script. You’re supposed to make/write these all the time, because they’re FUN, not bureaucratic requirements. Yes, you do your best, and put in as much of yourself as you can. But if you’re a filmmaker, you make films. If you’re a writer, you write stuff. Not once in a lifetime, but over and over. You just keep doing it. Over and over.

The way you get better at this is by practicing, by doing, by moving forward. Psycho Ex is done and I will show it and send it out and put it out there. But it’s done. Time to move on and dust off that TV show idea.


Why They Call it the “First” Draft

October 16, 2009

“The artist’s life is frustrating not because the passage is slow, but because he imagines it to be fast.”
– David Bayles & Ted Orland, “Art & Fear,” 1993

“The first draft of Psycho Ex is killing me not because it is a bad first draft, but because I was hoping it was the final draft.”
– Robb, 2009

Based upon the macro feedback from a few rounds of readers, Psycho Ex has some problems. Specifically:

  • The first act/half is WAY too slow
  • The middle is confusing
  • The third act is somewhat clunky
  • Nobody “gets” the ending

So it’s merely the beginning, the middle, and the end that need work. I guess that’s why they call it the “first” draft.


Bit the Bullet

October 4, 2009

After days of agonizing I finally uploaded Psycho Ex (it has a new title) to zoetrope.com for peer review.

I don’t know why I still feel like the thing isn’t done – it’s currently on its third round of readers and responses have been positive. It’s as if there’s some threshold I still haven’t crossed, but I don’t know what it is.

The script will be up for 30 days and due to the way the site/community is designed it should get 4 or 5 reviews. We’ll see how it goes.

Next stop after that: agent queries, contests, and inktip.


Out to Readers

September 4, 2009

After an embarrassingly long gestation period, a first draft of Psycho Ex (with a name change) has finally gone out to its first round of readers. I should get feedback Tuesday after the long weekend.

This always feels weird. I am happy and satisfied and exhausted and not convinced it’s really happening – like the first week after college finals.

But there is a whole different additional dynamic at play with this one than usual, because – due somewhat to the original “Challenge” – it is much more an exercise than a passion project. Don’t get me wrong, the story was my idea, and I take its execution very seriously, but now that a draft is complete I feel “outside” the thing more than I ever have.

The thing I love/hate about writing is that when I work on something this big and all-encompassing, I get overwhelmed and lost inside it. I fall in love with it, and I don’t know if this is a blessing or a curse. It’s wonderful because I think/hope it adds heart and soul to the piece, but it’s terrible because I lose all objectivity and get lost. For long periods. With almost every script, I can vividly remember THE EXACT MOMENT when everything shifts and I come up for air, when I get back “on top of it,” when I get back outside and un-consumed by it and I start cutting and shaping and whacking at it with no emotional attachment whatsoever. This is when the work really gets done. But this is also when I feel guilty, like I’ve stopped loving someone simply because it is no longer the pragmatic thing to do.

I don’t think I was ever in love with this one. I spent a lot of time in the depths with it, don’t get me wrong, but it was never a passion project like Aftershocks was or Dead Guy is. I was more objective with this one all along, so there are parts of it (Act Two hopefully, Act Three definitely) that I think are better executed than my usual output. I would say I’m very happy with the execution on those (this Act Three is probably the best I’ve ever written). But it never took on a life of its own really.

Does this mean it will be less “alive” than it should be? Than it could be? Does this mean there won’t be enough “there” for the reader?

Will the reader know that it has less of a “soul” than it could have had? Or will it just be me?

Or have I finally shaken off the indulgent crap of falling in love with your material? Have I finally got on with the real business of writing?

Update: Just got my first feedback (thanks Tammy!). The weekend is off to a good start…


The Second Honeymoon is Over

August 17, 2009

The wife and kids got back home Saturday, ending my 8-day writing fest. How’d it go? Pretty well, I’d say. Psycho Ex doesn’t yet have a showable first draft (which was the original goal), but it will by Labor Day. So if you’ve been a script reader of mine before, get ready.

The big highlight/breakthrough of the week occurred at 10:22PM on Tuesday. Lightning struck and the huge bloated mess that was Act Two suddenly came into focus. A bold new Line emerged and I started resequencing and cutting like crazy. The index cards were flying. I’m now pretty psyched about this Act Two – it should turn out to be one of the most active and energetic second acts of all my scripts. I’ve said all along that this script is much more plot than ideas/theme, and right now The Line feels really good.

I’m currently on page 75, plowing forward while rewriting/cutting as I go. Page count is cooperating nicely. Two big scenes (already written) and I’m out of Act Two. Act Three is looking strong too. A couple of wrinkles to finesse still, but I’m in good shape. I’m as excited about this script as I’ve ever been.

By the Numbers:

131 = current page count (down from a peak of 151 and then 143 when the honeymoon began)

200 = blank index cards I had to go out and buy

57 = current number of scenes in the script (some are montages and/or intercut sequences)

10 = page number when we get the big hook/rug-pull moment

2 = number of dinners I had with old friends I haven’t seen much of since the children came

2 = number of people who get killed in the story

1= number of attacks with gardening implements

0 = number of times a character named Bernard Blanchard calls someone a “taffy ass” in the script (have to rectify this before it’s finished)

0 = minutes spent playing Wii for the entire 8 days

countless = number of times I watched this


Second Honeymoon

August 4, 2009

My wife and I got married toward the end of my last semester of grad school. I remember our honeymoon like it was yesterday: she flew off for a weekend in Vegas… while I stayed home and wrote 60 pages in two days. Act Two of Stuck.

Forget “romantic” – it was the last semester and that sucker was due.

Now, all these years later, it looks like we’re finally taking a second honeymoon. And this time we’re super-sizing it: Friday she flies the kids off for eight days in Texas… while I stay home and finally finish that first draft of Psycho Ex.

That’s the plan – party like it’s 1993. My own personal ScriptFrenzy. As of right now the monstrosity is 143 pages (down from 151!) and there are a still two or three missing scenes in Act Two. But I’m determined to do it. Unlike the old days, I will have to work the 40-hour day job, but eight days is a lot. A luxury. The two weekend days especially should be productive.

So be on the lookout for rewrite updates. Maybe I’ll do constant posts with page counts. Or maybe I’ll just turn off all communications and disappear into a cave with my laptop. Or maybe I’ll just play Wii and surf the net for eight days. No! No, I’m gonna do this. The goal is to have a showable first draft when she gets back, and to have a version uploaded to readers on zoetrope.com by 9/1/09.

So forget “romantic” – bring on The Rewrite.


Euphoria

June 25, 2009

Yes, I’ve been holding out on you.

I typed FADE OUT. yesterday on Psycho Ex. Man it felt great. Act 3 just flooded out in a three-day sprint. Sure, there are still big holes and a missing scene or two (maybe) in Act 2, and then the endless rewrites begin, but still. It’s a big threshold to cross. I am psyched.

So that’s where I’ve been – too busy writing script pages to create blog posts. And what pages I have – the first words-on-paper draft (it’s still too early to call it a first draft) weighed in at a staggering 151 pages! So I’ve got quite a bit to cut. And cut. And cut. The good news is that I think all the pieces are there, now it’s time to focus and combine and cut. I’m pretty happy with The Line, it just needs to be streamlined now.

The way the summer stars are aligning, a mid-August completion date looks doable. My current hope is to send a draft to zoetrope.com for peer review at that time. Hopefully this current euphoria will push me all the way through the major cutting ahead.

Okay, back to work. I’ll keep you posted. Well, maybe…