Sunday, May 16, 2010

Heartlessly Saving The Heart

This week we had some celebrating to do. On Tuesday, Scott and I sat side by side and went through the film scene by scene from start to finish, over and over. Going through my revision notes and making edits I tried to be heartless, without of course taking the heart out of the story.

As the screenwriter I really had the authority to remove unnecessary scenes, take out fat, make it lean, cut out entire sequences… at the same time, there was dialogue that explained something specific about a character, a particular reference that illuminated something that was, to my mind, unique. But I’m a fan of the “the more eyes the better” philosophy. So during those few moments where I felt a pang of remorse, I explained the sentiment, the exposition, to Scott… who politely, gently and respectfully pointed out that that segment of dialogue was (a) already SHOWN elsewhere, or (b) was really [ruthlessly] unnecessary. Muchas gracias to my editor. And an additional grazie to my co-writer, Mick, who also previewed the rough cut and identified the same things that I had seen but wasn’t sure about. Additional confirmation helped me put on my butcher gloves and get to the heart of the story. I felt very French.

At some level, one could say that it was almost a disadvantage to be the screenwriter, that perhaps knowing too much about the meaning and symbolism behind the dialogue might get in the way of the bigger story, that sometimes deeper illumination of the character doesn’t serve the story and kills the pace… perhaps. And perhaps not. But it’s something that’s there. Kill it, or don’t.

I recently read the autobiography of one of the more notorious screenwriters, Joe Eszterhas, writer of Basic Instinct, Jagged Edge, Flashdance, and Showgirls. Like most writers, he had a deep connection to his words and his journey culminated in him writing and directing his own film (the “you all aren’t doing it right, so I will” philosophy). That humbled him a bit, and no, the picture didn’t do fantastically, although having never seen it I can’t say whether it was simply a lackluster story or if the precious dialogue got in the way of the journey. But he learned that later. And I just learned it too.

Took my gal Connie (Casting Coordinator extraordinaire) out for a drink at the new pub in Point Richmond to celebrate. The film’s now officially off to the composer.
Drinking Menage a Trois red and having a sleepover. Life is beautiful.

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