“It’s very easy, except for that last bit.”

Well hopefully this week has proven somewhat insightful and you’re not sick of us talking about ourselves. I swear we rarely do it. We’ve gotten a lot accomplished over the last 9 or so years and I feel we’ve been pretty humble about it, but if you ask, we’ll fill your ears, and you didn’t ask, so thank you. I often don’t talk about Schadenfreude partly because it makes me feel like a superhero with a great secret (if only Lois knew that I’m actually a CIF Festival Highlight Winner), but also, if anyone knew exactly how much fun we have, they’d hate us all forever. When you’re cultivating an audience you just can’t take a chance on being hated like that unless you’re Don Hall.

Which brings me to something very fun, My Breakfast with Justin, aka the rewriting process…

PhudieMart13.jpg

Well hopefully this week has proven somewhat insightful and you’re not sick of us talking about ourselves. I swear we rarely do it. We’ve gotten a lot accomplished over the last 9 or so years and I feel we’ve been pretty humble about it, but if you ask, we’ll fill your ears, and you didn’t ask, so thank you. I often don’t talk about Schadenfreude partly because it makes me feel like a superhero with a great secret (if only Lois knew that I’m actually a CIF Festival Highlight Winner), but also, if anyone knew exactly how much fun we have, they’d hate us all forever. When you’re cultivating an audience you just can’t take a chance on being hated like that unless you’re Don Hall.

Which brings me to something very fun, My Breakfast with Justin, aka the rewriting process…

PhudieMart13.jpg

Well hopefully this week has proven somewhat insightful and you’re not sick of us talking about ourselves. I swear we rarely do it. We’ve gotten a lot accomplished over the last 9 or so years and I feel we’ve been pretty humble about it, but if you ask, we’ll fill your ears, and you didn’t ask, so thank you. I often don’t talk about Schadenfreude partly because it makes me feel like a superhero with a great secret (if only Lois knew that I’m actually a CIF Festival Highlight Winner), but also, if anyone knew exactly how much fun we have, they’d hate us all forever. When you’re cultivating an audience you just can’t take a chance on being hated like that unless you’re Don Hall.

Which brings me to something very fun, My Breakfast with Justin, aka the rewriting process. After the retreat we all came back to the real world of 9 to 5, except for Justin and I who were on vacation. In order to maximize the night meetings Justin and I would put in 9 to 5 rewriting the script before the rest of the group would file in for 7 to 10. This is where it turned into a stamina game. So every day Justin and I would get up…and go to “work.” We couldn’t help but comment that someday this would be our actual day. After almost a week of five people writing together, two people, particularly Justin and I, moved very fast.

We came back from New Buffalo with an 88 page script, which we thought was great, it was a no bullshit, quick read. In my 20/20 analysis as I write this, that wonderful thing would hinder us through the rewrite. You need some bulk to analyze and cut, and that’s what we’d end up doing. By the final draft it would be 102, still no bullshit, still quick, but with 14 extra pages of heart.

For the first two days Justin and I were just completing sentences and sentiments that had been glossed over for time, adding jokes and making it actually look like a real draft of a real script. Then we did our first full read…

Someday we’ll have written 40 scripts and those mathematical formulas for what’s wrong with a script will be as second nature as Sandy’s imitation of a Lincoln Park Meathead…but we’re not there yet. A constant problem with rewriting is either ignoring or misidentifying the elephant in the room. Sometimes you don’t know what’s wrong, sometimes you just won’t allow yourself to be wrong. I’ll just say this, if you’re only on your second draft and your biggest concern is whether Count Chocula or Boo Berry is the funniest cereal reference, you are ignoring some major problems. In retrospect I think we thought the second draft was a marked improvement over the first draft, but thinking back now with perfect hindsight, I think we just had a glorified version of the 88 pager.

For those unfamiliar, your second act is where the characters from the first act are put to the test as they struggle to solve the problem introduced in act one. They can only solve that problem once they grow to become the sort of people that can solve that problem. They weren’t growing enough in our script, and when they’re not growing, it means you haven’t challenged them enough. We were letting our characters off easy. I think there’s some psychological empathy with your characters, you don’t want to give them too hard a time because you like them. The most tension the early draft built up to at one point was that Tony almost got fired. “ALMOST???” Like the shark almost killing a swimmer.

And then…we were done, but some of us were uneasy about mailing that draft out on Monday. Justin and I took our lunches one day sat on Gmail chat and figured out some solutions to problems we had, problems that could be solved with minimal typing. If we could nail it, we’d pitch them to the rest of the group and see if everyone would agree to sacrifice one more night. If we coudn’t nail it then we had no authority to claim the script had problems.

This is what late draft writing is all about, and solving these problems is a real buzz. I always think of late-draft solutions in two microcosms, and here’s my favorite way to put them.

YOU CAN EITHER:

A) Rewrite 70% of the draft by eliminating the plotline about the government agents chasing Will Hunting for his codecracking abilities and focus more on the counselor character and Will’s friends in Boston.

or

B) Have John McCLane take his shoes off on page 5.

Both change the entire movie. The lateral thinking solutions are the most rewarding, and that’s what we did, we took John McClane’s shoes off. The rest of the group agreed and added their two cents on how to make the new ideas better and with these tiny changes all of a sudden the whole thing just simply worked. Connections we’d never thought of came to light and the whole thing just worked.

“and that’s that.”
-Ray Liotta’s last line in Goodfellas, also Narrator’s last line in Phudie Mart

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