Thursday, August 24, 2017

Screenwriting Soul-Sucking Coverage

I took up screenwriting this summer and in my typical "I Can Do Anything I Set My Mind To" optimism, I ended up with what I believed to be a pretty good script!
I was the author of the book, I knew the characters better than anyone having lived with them in my head for about seven years, and I knew the critical plot points like no one's business.
Granted, it was just a spec script, not a REAL script, but still, I was happy with the final result and was patting myself on the back by the first week of August for a job well done.

I had my agent read it, she had some suggestions, I re-worked it and in the meantime, I had a friend read who knows scripts. She had a good idea and I reworked it again. Easy fix!
I sent the script to two screenwriter friends who've studied the fine art for years, one who's had a  movie on the Lifetime Channel, and more suggestions were made. I deftly incorporated their ideas into the script. Then I gave it to my dear friend and Editor Extraordinaire, Christine, who is known as the Editor Devil. The critique she gave was fantastic, mostly praising the script, but suggesting a few small changes to make the thing read better for prospective actors etc. Stronger verbs, take out weak words etc. Love her brain!
Then, on the advice of a screenwriter, I sent the screenplay off for coverage to a reputable company that was having a mid-summer sale. I wanted a script doctor to give me an honest opinion of the marketability of the script. This place has a check list they use to determine if a script works so I was confident that I'd at least get my $100 worth with that checklist.
I paid extra for expedited service and waited.
The coverage came back exactly 3 days later as promised and was somewhat brutal. How can something be somewhat brutal, you ask? The checklist was completed but the comments were harsh.
Here's the deal: I know this is a strange concept, (dream entering) a difficult paranormal ability but dreams have to be the main focus of the story.
The woman who critiqued the merit of the screenplay had Googled me and the book and basically told me to keep it a book. Her wording was harsh. She said it didn't work as a screenplay. I hadn't told her that it was an adaptation but maybe in her confusion about dream jumping she looked me up and saw that The Dream Jumper's Promise was a book. And a successful one, at that.I Googled her to better understand how much credibility to give her opinions.
Her advice was taken with a grain of salt. She called my protag a pill-popping alcoholic who she did not like. I understand there are people who don't realize that lots of women take anti-depressants and still drink alcohol. Yes, Tina does that. She's in crisis.
Over the next few days, I whittled down her insults and confusion and made some changes to the script but didn't follow what she said is a Hollywood rule to not include flashbacks (unless they involve the protagonist) and dreams. If there is some such rule, try to tell Slumdog Millionaire, or Casablanca. And no dreams, she said, or at least take out most of them.
The Dream Jumper's Promise is about a guy who can enter dreams and uses them to solve a mystery. Yes, the woman, Tina, is the protagonist and it's her journey we follow, but Jamey is an integral part of the story and the dreams are characters themselves. The flashbacks are absolutely essential for us to understand him.
After getting out of the fetal position, I realized that this script will appeal to people who understood Inception, loved The Time Traveler's Wife, were intrigued by Momento. The story is not a cakewalk and I wrote it that way purposely. I want the reader/audience to be kept in a state of confusion.
I did a few minor changes on the script, things I felt were solid advice and not an opinion, and sent off what I'm hoping is the final script edits before a real screenwriter takes the thing and turns it into Academy Award Winning material. The coverage lady said I'm not a screenwriter and the script reads like a novel. (I'd purposely added description on the advice of everyone who read it!)
I never intended to be the final writer on this story for film. Never! I want someone great to be hired. Then they will read the book and write their vision of what would make a fantastic film script.
As you've realized by now (if you're still reading) I needed to vent. It's now a week since I went into the fetal position (metaphorically) and I see the coverage for what it was. I did get $100 out of what I got back and even if I don't take her up on fixing the screenplay for a fee, I found a place for her words (harsh though they were) in my brain.
Somewhere in there was a lesson and I hope I absorbed it.
The coverage gave the script a PASS which I took to mean that she gave it a passing grade (Yipee- but so not true) and she said I'd never get a producer to read past the first page.
The irony is that the books are optioned and filming begins next year. Lucky me.

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