Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rewrites are like cleaning the house

Do you ever find yourself with a messy house and so when it's time to finally clean it, it feels like a huge undertaking? I know for me, I have a 10-year-old and a husband, so in a week, there can be many little piles of clothes, shoes, books, mail, and who knows what else, in so many different places. When I decide to get us back on track I can go from room to room not feeling like I have accomplished much of anything. But what I find works for me is I have to stick to one room, clean that room up, then when it's organized, move on to the next room. If don't focus on the whole house, I can actually get it done without getting overwhelmed. If I think of the whole house, I just want to give up.

Rewriting a script when it's a huge rewrite can be just like that. I just this minute finished a huge rewrite of my latest comedy. The notes I got from some talented writer friends were definitely going to change this script in a big way. But I agreed with these notes and knew it needed a big overhaul. So bit by bit, day by day, I'd chisel away, rewriting a scene at a time. I didn't worry how long it would take me. I didn't focus on the huge task that was in front of me. I just kept moving forward. It wasn't easy, but viola! I finished! Any script can be rewritten. No matter how many notes, how many changes. It can be done. It's a script! So next time you have a big rewrite, think of it like cleaning the house. You know it's going to get done. Just focus on what's in front of you at that moment and that task at hand. Before you know it, you'll have a work of art.

Monday, December 16, 2013

American Hustle, yeah, it's that good

So I saw American Hustle at the DGA last night. No, I'm not a director. But I know people and those people are directors. It was really cool seeing it there. I guess I'm just not jaded yet. I hope I never am, truthfully. I love this business and this movie is why. I went in excited to see it, not even so much because it was by David O Russell, but because from the trailers it just looked like it would be amazing. And in my opinion, it was that and then so much more.

I have some writer friends who said they weren't even interested in seeing it. I really think sometimes writers like to bash on things they weren't involved in. Jealous? Down on themselves? Whatever it is, they're missing out if they don't give this movie a shot. From the opening scene to the last, this movie did it all correctly. So what can I say to help myself and other newer writers learn how to really hit a home run script like this? Well, here's what I think I learned.

The opening scene really set up who our lead protag was. Balding, bad comb-over, trying to cover up a hopeless hairless situation. It made the audience laugh, it made us have sympathy for this poor pathetic lead, and it made us want to watch this story. Geez, if we writers can do that from the opening shot, we're on to something magical. The opening scene is so important writers! And this one nailed it. If we can accomplish this, we can with luck also get someone like David O Russell wanting to be involved in our movie along with A-list actors.

Then, from there, the movie used the technique of starting the story about half way through. The reason why this worked in this movie, is it set up the conflict right away. So again, as a writer, it's our job to get someone to read those pages, to stay with the story, and go along for the ride. I feel like this script did that. And talk about conflict, there was a lot during the whole movie. By the end the tension was palpable. So many things could have gone wrong for our protag, and as writers, that's our job! Put him in situations that it looks like he can't get out of. This story is and was about a scammer who dabbled in small time deals and by the end he is in so big he's taking heart meds like they're tic tacs.

And something I really loved about these characters were that they were all truly lovable losers that all had dreams of doing something bigger and greater someday, somehow. They all were fully-fleshed out characters with their own dreams and goals. And the way this writer parsed out the information was so genuine with such perfect timing.

Besides that the time period was just a blast to get a glimpse of. The clothes, the music, the dancing, the behaviors, the jacuzzis! It was just a fun ride to be a part of. That said, David O Russell is probably now my favorite director. Yes I loved The Fighter, loved it. But Silver Lining Playbooks, although good, wasn't my ultimate favorite all-time movie. But American Hustle, yeah, for sure, it just was such a fun, well-done movie. I don't know, maybe it deserves best film, best director and best screenplay. I'm just saying. And the acting, impeccable. I have a feeling a few actors will be winning for this too. They all shined, but Jeremy Renner, yeah, probably his best movie yet. A New Jersey Mayor, who knew it was his calling!

All I know, is I need to get a hold of this script now because I'm so curious to read it over and over and see what other magical gems I can learn from this story to become a better writer. Of course, I'd love even more if I could see the first draft. But I doubt I'd be lucky enough to stumble upon that. But seeing the movie was such a treat and I hope you all get to the theaters to enjoy it as much as I.