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Monday, February 23, 2004  

Putting the "Dead" in "Deadline"

"Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood appear on your forehead."

- Gene Fowler

There's going to be a third Project Greenlight contest and series this year. I'm hoping to enter for the third time, but the deadline's looking a little tight. Five days from now, to be precise.

It's not that I haven't started my screenplay, because I have. It's been eating up a big chunk of my downtime the past month, in fact. But I haven't finished the rough draft yet, either. I think I'll have to schedule it so my rough draft is finished at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, and then complete all subsequent drafts in time for the 5:00 p.m. deadline. Most screenplays get rewritten on the set anyway, right?

Originally my plan was to write a "winning" screenplay by February 28. Then I decided to write a "good" screenplay by February 28. Now, with five days to go, I'm beginning to realize that I may have to write a "barely long enough to qualify at ninety pages" screenplay now and try to make it a "good" screenplay later, when "winning" has long gone by the boards.

This is the first time I've written a screenplay from scratch; my previous two entries were adapted from works I'd already written for different media. I figured that writing directly for the screen would be easier than adapting something else I'd already written. Indeed, as it turns out, I have many of the qualities of some of our best-known screenwriters, real and fictional; I've got the unshakable self-confidence of Charlie Kaufman from Adaptation, the effortless facility of Barton Fink, and the sheer talent of Joe Eszterhas.

The first hurdle, of course, was the idea. That's always the hard part for me; if I'm going to write an original screenplay, I prefer to write one worthy of the term. Once I have a plot, the words themselves tend to pour forth like so much post-nasal drip. So when I got the contest announcement in my e-mail five or six weeks ago, I forced myself to sit at the computer and brainstorm for an hour or so. Though whether the term "storm" can accurately describe something that takes place in a vacuum is up for debate.

Finally, a workable idea came. And the inaccuracy of that statement is tantamount to a mother saying a baby has come eight months before its birth, when in fact the only person who has done so is the father. It's a swell idea, and I stand behind it, but actually making it work is turning out to be a bitch. They say a screenwriter has to get the protagonist up a tree and then throw rocks at him. I, on the other hand, came right at him with a Tomahawk missile. Also, he is blind, paraplegic, and entirely without hands.

I'm working through it, but it presents many challenges. Another challenge is that I haven't been able to figure out how to pull off the central event in a way that does everything I need it to do. I have a heist movie without a heist, a con movie without a con. And no matter how much you may have enjoyed Ocean's 11, you'd have to agree that your enjoyment of it would have been diminished if the movie skipped straight to the closing credits as soon as everyone was inside the casino.

On the plus side, I only have seventy pages written, so I've got plenty of room to take care of it. Just not plenty of time. As for making the ninety-page minimum, I'm confident I can pull that off. Filling four pages of screenplay format a day isn't that hard, if one doesn't mind that it's all crap, but sadly I do.

If I'd had more time, I would have come up with a complete outline of the plot before I started writing it. Maybe I should have done that this time. But then I'd have zero pages of screenplay instead of the seventy I have now. This way's much better. I only have twenty to go, and it's the twenty that the rest of the thing is going to have to stand or fall on.

But if I do run out of time, there's one surefire way to fill up all that white space:



A city sidewalk. Our protagonist begins shouting at passing traffic:


I should remind Trash to hide the axe.

Today's best search phrase "Fish revenge demo." Wow, everyone has Internet access these days.

posted by M. Giant 3:08 PM 0 comments


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