phantom-menace-featured

If you’re new to the Scriptshadow Script Challenge, here are all the previous posts…

WEEK 0
WEEK 1
WEEK 2
WEEK 3
WEEK 4
WEEK 5
WEEK 6
WEEK 7
WEEK 8

YOU FINISHED YOUR FIRST DRAFT!!!!

HOOOOOORRRRRAAAAAYYYYY!!!

First thing I want you to do?

Get drunk. You’re going to need it, trust me. Because now it’s time for the…

REWRITE!

In order to best attack a rewrite, you need to understand what rewriting is. And the way I define rewriting is simple: PROBLEM-SOLVING. That’s what you’ll be doing in your second draft, your third draft, and every draft from this point forward. Identify problems. Find solutions. I call this THE GAMEPLAN, and it has one final step:

THE GAMEPLAN

1) Identify problems.
2) Come up with solutions.
3) Implement solutions into Second Draft outline.

That’s right. You won’t be doing any physical rewriting this week. And you won’t have time to. While before, you could get away with a minimum of two hours a day. You’ll now need at least three. That’s because you’ll be dealing with the most unpredictable step in the process: SOLUTIONS. Solutions can take seconds, hours, days, even weeks to figure out. But before we go there, let’s start with step 1: Identifying the problem.

IDENTIFY PROBLEMS

The first thing I want you to do is put yourself in the mind of a reader. Take your ‘helpful’ hat off and replace it with a critical one. Your goal with this step is to be EXTREMELY HARD ON YOURSELF. Since you’re a writer, that shouldn’t be difficult. Get your mind in as critical a state as possible.

What you’re going to do is read your script from start to finish, and take notes in two areas.

1) Boring parts.
2) Characters.

For the first area, you’re going to be monitoring your enjoyment level during the screenplay. Are you engaged? Or are you bored? When you get bored, backtrack to where the boredom started, then continue on until you become engaged again. Mark that section down in a separate document and write down why you were bored. Don’t overthink it. Go with the most honest answer. So if I were, say, George Lucas, and I were applying the Scriptshadow Rewrite Model to my first draft of The Phantom Menace, this is what I might write:

Pages 5-11: Something feels off about this Jedi scene. Jedis waiting around in a room? Is that exciting enough?
Pages 23-32: The underwater Gungan City is cool, but why does it feel so boring? A lot of standing around. No action. Jar Jar’s great though. People are going to love him.
Pages 40-47: Dinner scene in Anakin’s hut is long with a lot of talking. We need to get so many plot points across that there’s no time left to entertain the audience. Maybe they’ll be distracted by how funny Jar Jar is.

You’ll have more sections than that, and in some cases, you’ll go into more detail than I did. The more detail you add, the more information you’ll have to solve the problem. Don’t get too verbose though. You don’t want your future self to have to wade through 20 lines of random thoughts to try and find the point.

While you’re assessing your boredom frequency, you’ll also want to gauge how strong your characters are. For every character who has more than two scenes, rate how satisfying they are on a scale from 1-10. Then tell us what you liked or disliked about the character:

Qui-Gon Gin (6): Stoic. But is he too stoic? Not much personality.
Obi-Wan Kenobi (5): Trying to have fun with him but he can’t be too fun since he’s a Jedi. Having a tough time finding the balance and it’s showing.
Anakin Skywalker (2): Boring, whiney. If I ever write a second draft, I’ll fix that.
Jar-Jar Binks (10): Perfect all around. Funny, engaging, charming, sophisticated. People are going to love this character. No changes!!!

SOLUTIONS

The reason you wrote all that stuff down is so that you can methodically go through it, point by point, and come up with solutions. Start with the boring sections. Some people like to re-order this list so that the biggest problems are on top. Some like to keep it in chronological order. It’s up to you. And now is where the fun begins. For every problem, figure out why it’s a problem and try to come up with a creative solution. Here’s an example:

Pages 5-11: Something feels off about this Jedi scene. Jedis waiting around in a room? Is that exciting enough?
Solution: Maybe move the scene to the hanger bay. When they first arrive, no one comes out to greet their ship. It’s eerie, odd, and more suspicious as each second ticks by. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon decide to go out and inspect. They see a couple of dead Mandelorians in the hallway. Someone got here first. But who? Are they in danger? Maybe include a flash-forward Jedi dream of Jar-Jar. Additional note: Remember to add Jar-Jar stepping in dookie scene. Forgot if I included that.

Remember that, in some cases, the issue may not be fixable. The solution, then, could be eliminating the sequence. Or replacing it with an expanded subplot, or a new subplot altogether. Or moving the section to a more desirable place in the story. Everything is in play. Just remember the ultimate mantra, which is that if it doesn’t push the story or the characters forward, you don’t need it. Could you include a scene in The Phantom Menace where Queen Amidala is practicing her blaster shooting skills? Sure. Does it get her closer to the story’s ultimate destination? It does not. So you don’t need it.

HOW TO RECOVER FROM A SCRIPT DISASTER
I should take a moment to acknowledge the possibility that NOTHING IS WORKING IN YOUR SCRIPT. This is why the outlining stage was so important. You got to see your script in macro form and tackle potential structural problems before they happened. But if you didn’t outline or you went way off the reservation during your first draft, there’s a chance that, structurally, the majority of your script is unsavable. If you deem that to be the case, figure out where you went off the rails, go back to your outline, and re-outline everything after that moment. Your “2nd draft” is going to be more like a “1.5 draft,” but thats okay and it happens a lot. The good news is that it’s better than starting from scratch.

Once you’ve found all your plotting solutions, it’s time to tackle your characters. Go through each one, figure out what’s wrong with them, and make decisions on whether to a) improve them or b) get rid of them. If a character is anywhere below a “4,” you either have to get rid of them or reimagine them. Let’s take a look at George Lucas’s Anakin note for the second draft of The Phantom Menace which he’ll be getting to any day now.

Anakin Skywalker: Boring, whiney.
Solution: The big problem here is that Anakin is one-dimensional. It’s resulted in him being boring. One way to add some spark to him is to make him more mischievous. Give him an edge. That’ll immediately add some personality to a character in desperate need of it. A goody-two-shoes who whines all the time is going to put people to sleep. Also, add a scene where Jar-Jar juggles Anakin.

Now you won’t be able to solve every problem right away. That’s okay. Some solutions will come faster than others. What I’ve found is that if something’s not coming to you, it’s best to move on to the next problem. Cause every problem you solve has the potential to give you ideas to solve other problems. So if you’re having trouble figuring out how to make Anakin more compelling, sitting there and staring at the wall won’t do much good. But if you’re working on solving that boring Anakin Dinner Hut Scene, your solution may lead you to realize that Anakin’s at his most interesting when he’s manipulating others for his own gain, which allows you to go back and integrate that into your character solution.

Once you’ve written all of your potential solutions down (plot and character), resist the temptation to jump in and start the rewrite. Instead, it’s time to integrate all of your solutions into a SECOND DRAFT OUTLINE. What a lot of writers will do is take their first draft outline, save it as a new document titled “Second Draft Outline,” then use it as a template, pasting their new ideas (their solutions) into the already numbered slots. The outline can be as general or as specific as you want. So for the opening Jedi ship scene I highlighted, you can paste in exactly what you wrote as your solution, or you can expand on it, explaining how you want the scene (and subsequent scenes) to go. My belief is that the more detail you add to your outline, the better, as it’ll make the actual script-writing part easier.

And that’s it for this week. You want to solve your plotting problems as extensively as you can. You want to solve your shitty character problems as extensively you can. And you want to add all of that stuff into your Second Draft Outline with as much detail as possible. This will become the blueprint for your second draft rewrite, which starts next week. It will also be your most time intensive week to date. So get started NOW!

  • Lucid Walk

    In other Star Wars news, the upcoming Han Solo movie has been called the best Star Wars script of all. Interesting.

    http://whatculture.com/film/han-solo-is-by-far-the-best-ever-star-wars-script?rf=homepage

    • carsonreeves1

      lol. I saw that.

      It’s like when JJ said he read Rian Johnson’s EP8 script and it was so good he wished he had stayed on and directed it. But that doesn’t make any sense, since Rian Johnson would have never written the script had he not also been director. These guys just say things to hype up the project.

      That said, I like their Han Solo casting choice! Hardest casting in history and they nailed it I think.

      • Lucid Walk

        I agree. But consider this.

        This is Star Wars we’re talking about. There’s no reason to hype up the project; people will show up in droves to see anything having to do with the franchise.

        To that end, they’re not gonna trust just ANYONE to write it. And Johnson did prove himself to everyone with Looper, though I know how much you “loved” that film. Haha

        • carsonreeves1

          I “loved” Looper! My favorite film ever.

          But seriously, I’m keeping an open mind. :)

  • Damn it!

    Almost first comment, bitches!

  • Paul Clarke

    Tip for the day – to solve a problem you need to be as specific as possible. Try to write it as a question. Then grab a whiteboard marker and write that question on your shower wall.

    Everyone knows our minds quadruple in philosophical problems solving power when in the shower.

  • Magga

    Why don’t we do this for each other? Exchange drafts and write down the problems? Mine isn’t ready for a few more hours, but I think that’s a good place to start on a new draft. The earlier one gets some feedback, the better, right?