I’m exhausted. For the past two weeks I’ve been working day and night on the last stretch of a screenplay — and it is killing me. My main character, a female counter-terrorist agent says things like: “I will have justice and I do not care how many I have to kill to get it.”
And I wonder: where the heck did that come from?
Here’s the thing: At a certain point, in a really good script, you must let a character do what the character wants to do. And then you have to go back, and reimpose order on the chaos that this character has strewn about like Atilla the Hun. But out of this chaos, if you’re good, and if your character is really unique, there will be gold.
I’m hollowed out. I’ve been writing I don’t know how many hours a day. I’ve been distant and abrupt with Karen. Horrible. I get up in the middle of the night, sit on the couch in the master bedroom and go over every scene in the script, analyze it from every possible angle. In the morning, I tear the script apart and restructure major sequences over and over again. I’ve done twenty-five drafts to arrive at what I term my first draft.
I have dispensed with almost all up-front exposition. Yup, the oh-so-necessary, and what I call: Moshe-the-Explainer points have been sprinkled throughout the script with an eyedropper: elegant, subtle, organic. I’m sooo happy. Exposition is the Hizbullah of cinema. It should be exterminated.
I’ve arrived at the point in my screenwriting career where I insist that each line of dialog must mean something. No word is wasted. Nothing serves as filler. I won’t allow myself to get lazy and use words as bridges to get from one scene to the next. Each line must move the story forward and ring with golden tones.
The masters of this screenwriting form were the screwball comedies of the 30’s and 40’s. His Girl Friday, Ball of Fire, My Favorite Wife, The Lady Eve, The Major and The Minor, The Awful Truth. Not a word nor gesture wasted. Too many in Hollywood are ignorant of these giants of the craft. It’s just plain sad.
My main character is named Delia McCoy. I agonize over the names of my characters. Don’t ask. Tie myself into knots. Dig into telephone books, my favorites are from Texas and Tennessee.
As a young girl, Delia was made to take a unique personal vow in the belief that such a vow would make her a more effective warrior. But she discovers that this pledge is cutting off a core emotional channel.
Thus the main conflict: duty and personal life. Nothing original here, but there are no original stories, only new ways of telling old stories.
In Delia McCoy, I have a tiger by the tail. I know this because I was at a wedding last night and right in the middle of the chuppah my mind wandered far away — and I rewrote a scene in my head. This character will not let me rest. Not for a moment. She is insistent on a corporeal existence. I know Delia McCoy as well as I know almost anyone.
Which is kind of scary.
Here are three words I’ll never use in a script or in real life.
So: sharpen your Number Two pencils, open your notebooks and compose a clever and coherent sentence using all three words.
n. love of hotels
a fight or quarrel between priests
n. rejuvenation of an old man by a young woman
Hat Tip: Futility Closet
Karen and I wish all our friends a lovely and meaningful Shabbos.