When I think about Friday the 13th and all of its horror, I can’t help but consider the horrifying feeling a writer gets when the director starts hacking at his work. It gets even more complicated when the writer is the director and a part of a team of writers, which is my case with Tried & True.
For the past two weeks I dove into my script analysis from a director’s vantage point. I found a dozen scenes that didn’t move the story forward and I also found half dozen scenes that need to be added to the story – All to focus the story more tightly on the protagonist.
Ruthless Script Analysis
I do several analysis passes on a script in order to prepare for filming and discussions with each of my department heads. During the process, it becomes obvious which scenes are cinematic and which ones would make for a nice Movie of the Week (MOW).
My standard is to make the story so fascinating and cinematic that it has to play on the big screen. I also want to make sure the story is easy to follow and any complexities are used more as a garnish for the discerning viewer, rather than a plot interrupter for those who can’t or choose not to follow such details.
What I find interesting about the process is how many scenes stay intact with minor changes that tweak the perspective. I expect the pacing of the film to increase with the add precision or focus on the main character’s goals, but no matter how many times I’ve done this I’m always amazed at the new clarity that rises within the plotlines.
Complex stories always fail at the box office, but simple stories surrounded in a complexity of details do extremely well. It’s like listening to a great speaker. If he’s on point with his message, no matter how many supporting facts or stories he shares, people will always walk away knowing his specific three points with a desire to implement his recommendation.
Horrifying Cuts Bring Happiness
So the hacking began and I noticed a slight twitch in my pride. It was hard cutting scenes, but the final read was well worth it. Not to mention the benefits of reducing the page count to something more palatable for a courtroom drama.
I also noticed that the process helped me catch the typical contrived scenes that always seep into family friendly films. While these trite scenes have no place in a drama, they are endearing and hard to cut. The only solace received from cutting these scenes comes from the fact that no one notices they were cut. In other words, since they didn’t advance the story they couldn’t be missed.
Considering what elements in a scene must remain or be shifted to another scene makes for an interesting process. I sometimes wonder if I completely deleted a scene would it impact or change the story. If there is no impact, then it is one that must be cut. If, however, a couple elements are important, but could be relocated, then the scene is also worth cutting.
It’s only when the scene elements are so well integrated into the scene and critically important to the story that I have to keep it in the script. In those cases, I may have to find a way to punch up the scene to something worthy of the silver screen, or reanalyze the story structure to make sure I hadn’t veered off the path of clarity.
One of the biggest issues during the analysis process is making sure you do something to save face for the other writers. I’m fortunate with Tried & True screenwriter Guy Cote, as he is always willing to bend on scene content when the replacement idea is far better or more focused than the previous draft.
Producer Anthony DeRosa is also willing to bend if he knows the scene works better for our audience. Since the film was written for Millennials, with added scenes that will help the Baby Boomers to embrace the story, we have quite the fine line to walk in how each scene is presented.
As for the Gen X audience, they too should be pleased with the story, but none of the scene elements were created with them in mind. However, GenXers are very resilient from having to play middleman between the Millennials and Baby Boomers that they will certainly be able to enjoy the story, if not embrace it.
Well, its time to get back to the script, as I’m still trying to figure out how to get rid of one last contrived scene. I’m hoping to shift into preproduction in the near future with the hopes that we can begin filming in late August or early September. So, the only real horror would be if I couldn’t have the script ready in time. Happy Friday the 13th.