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Day 56: Come Ups Format and Polish Draft

It's been a few days since I've posted, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy. In fact, it's been about 4 days of really intense writing, rewriting, formatting, some more rewriting, a little cutting, a lot more cutting, some new writing and then finally another round of rewriting. Whew!

What I thought was going to be a fairly simple process has turned out to be a lot more complicated than I anticipated. I began with the formatting. I spent Friday reviewing David Trottier's Screenwriter's Bible for correct formatting, and I felt I had a pretty good handle on it. This proved to be pretty much the case once I actually turned to the script and began comparing Trottier's rules with what I had done. The one area that I was a little weak on was the action. Dr. Format (Trottier) suggests no more than four lines of action at a time. If you can make it three lines, so much the better. I had a fair amount of longer paragraphs, most of which maxed out at 5 lines.

Following Dr. Format's guidelines, I broke those lines up so that each paragraph of action described one action that the camera would see:

Tyler crosses to the SUV and opens the tailgate. He uncovers the briefcase and opens it.

$180,000 in rumpled cash stares back at him.

This is a way of implying camera angles with using technical jargon that detract from reading the story. In the above example, the first line represents our first camera angle, probably a medium or even a wide shot, shows Tyler opening the tailgate and uncovering the briefcase. The second line represents cutting to a second camera angle, probably a close up, and reveals the money in the briefcase.

Keeping the lines short and concise allows for a quicker read. The problem with breaking the lines up like this is that it adds pages to your screenplay, but gives a more accurate running time of the script. In my case, it added 4 - 5 pages, which translates to about 5 minutes. That meant finding five pages to take out. I had pretty much exhausted any extraneous moments that could be removed (or so I thought), meaning I had to do some rewriting.

I started at the top and worked my way through the first act of Come Ups. Then went back and went through the first act again. And again. And again. I repeated the process the next day with the first half of Act 2. Once I finished that, I started on the second half of Act 2 and made it roughly through about 15 pages. On the final day, I picked up in Act 2 and worked my way through Act 3. Then I started over from the beginning and did the whole thing again. I added new scenes, drastically cut old scenes and did a fair amount of revamping throughout.

By the time I was finished it was a substantially different than the draft than the one I had completed just a few days before, but still told the same story. My plot points seemed to line up pretty darn close to where Save the Cat said they should fall with one exception. The Dark Night of the Soul, which should run from 75 - 85 with the Break Into Act III, was running a little on the long side. The actual act break comes on page 91. Technically, it's too long, but it is a pretty intense action sequence, and I feel it sweeps the reader/viewer along and will ultimately prove not to be a problem.

The character of Reggie got a little more to do this time around and that helps make her feel more a part of the story than the hanger-on she has been and makes the finale with her more believable. Shep also received some bolstering in the first act, which I'm hoping helps to make him stronger and identifies him as the hero, though this is something I'm still worried about. I'll find out more tomorrow night when I take pages into the Tuesdays@9 workshop. We'll be reading from the just before the Act I break through the introduction of Hiram.

I feel good enough about the script that I am finally sending it out for some preliminary feedback from some trusted friends. If they're comments are good and the reading tomorrow goes well, I think I'll be ready to send the script out for some coverage notes.

Cross your fingers!

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