The Making of a Screenplay: The Creative Process (Part 4)Posted: May 16, 2016
We’ve looked at how a screenplay goes from idea to beat sheet or outline in Part 1. And we’ve seen that the tools used to sell your screenplay, such as the logline and the pitch, are created before you ever start to actually write the script in Part 2. Last week, in Part 3, we looked at the type of research that goes into writing a screenplay. Today, I’d like to look another important step in creating a finished script.
The final step in completing any writing project is rewriting, or revising, to make sure that the finished piece you’re going to submit is the absolute best it can be. In literary writing, it’s called revision, and there may be several revisions before the piece is ready to be sent off in hopes of discovery. But you finish the first draft, before you start revising, or at least some writers do. Me, I’m a firm believer that the more things I fix as I go, the less I will have to fix later, so I do some revision during the writing process of the first draft. In screenwriting, it’s called is rewriting, and it actually takes place all the way through the writing process, which is more in sync with my writing style.
Once the draft for ACT I is finished, you look it over, get feedback from other screenwriters, if available, and then make changes and adjustments to the sections that aren’t working for whatever reason. You repeat the process when you’ve finished the draft up to the end of ACT II, but this time, you also watch to be sure that the two acts flow together well, in addition to ascertaining that ACT II works well. Again, after ACT III is finished, but on the final rewrite, you must be sure that it work as a whole, the flow of the beats are smooth and you’ve maintained a constant tone throughout. If you’ve done a good job on the prior revisions, there may be very little rewriting to do at this point, and it’s really just a matter of fine tuning your script.
For my thesis, I originally wanted to lead viewers through the story with a series of voice-overs by Bonnie, which included imagined journal entries and letters, as well as some of the poetry she actually wrote. I knew I wanted to do this from the start. However, on the last read through, my peers and my instructor brought it to my attention that the way my script was written, I stuck the poetry into scenes where I thought I wanted it, but the way it was written my audience would be looking at a blank screen while they listened to Bonnie’s voice-over, which was not the way I intended it to be.
The majority of my final rewrite was positioning these voice-overs, especially those with the poetry, some of which were quite long at strategic sections where they would seem to refer to what was happening in the story, and to keep the action going during them. In one scene that meant showing Bonnie writing the letter while the voice-over tells us what that letter said. That’s one that I had right. Other scenes needed to have the voice-over over the action, like a car chase. And in some, like at the end of ACT III, I needed the voice-over to play in sync with a montage of single snapshot scenes. There are different ways to write it, so that the voice-over is played the way I wanted it to in each case, and a good portion of my final rewrite consisted of tweaking the scenes with voice-over so they would play the way I wanted them to.
In the end, I came out with a screenplay that flows together well, tells the story I wanted to tell in a compelling and original way, and has a lot of commercial potential. Maybe someday you’ll see The Life and Times of Bonnie Parker on the marquee at the theater as you’re driving down the street.
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