The Rewrite Never Ends (and The Return of the Squishy Studios Blog)

Hey everyone, Nathan here! I’m embarking on a big new project next year, a feature film that I’m looking to make on a micro-budget, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to resurrect this blog. Not just to take you on this ride, but to share the lessons learned.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions, I really want this to be a valuable resource for other filmmakers! I’ll do my best to post a new blog every month.

So the topic of this blog post is rewriting. Which is a big topic. But I don’t want to discuss the ‘how’ as much as the ‘why.’

At the moment I’m rewriting the feature screenplay that I’m hoping to shoot next year. I just finished the fifth draft, and I’m pretty happy with it. There’s a feeling of accomplishment. But that may change at any minute. At any second. All it takes a comment like, “this arc didn’t make sense”“I’m confused at this plot point” … or, “I don’t like any of your characters.”

The script that you felt worked, was in a great place, is suddenly a flawed disaster that has to be rushed to surgery to save its life. (This is, assuming, you agree with the comments/insights of your readers). The trap that you can fall into (…or I fall into), is that when some one says something in the script doesn’t work, then your ego gets involved.

You feel like a crummy writer who should have learned how to make a movie by now.

The mistake is the assumption that the rewrite is ever done. Only when the movie is out, then it’s actually done. (Insert: George Lucas special editions joke) All scripts are a plan to make a movie. That seems like a tired trope, meant to downplay the contributions of the screenwriter, but to take it further … all movie shoots are also a plan to make a movie. You’re collecting the raw ingredients that you believe will turn into a movie in the editing room. And even then, that first assembly cut of the movie is also a plan to make a movie. 

You’ll always be negotiating the intention of your storytelling with the reality of its execution. And because you can always make things better. And movies are hard.

The professionals deal with this all the time. I’m going to leave some podcast links below, they’re great listens. The first is director Scott Derrickson discussing Marvel’s Doctor Strange (and many other things), and how they went through about twenty drafts of the script, but still had to do reshoots because they had missed the mark on some points. The other link is a two-parter, a great six hour conversation with Christopher McQuarrie on the making of Mission Impossible: Fallout. He goes into amazing detail on the making of the film, there’s a ton of frank insights, but a big take away is that they’re always always always trying to make the movie better.

So test your material. Have people read your script. Buy some friends pizza and do a reading of it. Do a couple readings, with different people each time. Workshop scenes in rehearsal. If something’s not working then don’t take it personal. Don’t be precious with what you’ve made, be excited about making it better.

PODCAST LINK:  Scott Derrickson, Sean Carroll’s MindscapeLink here (iTunes). 

PODCAST LINK:  Christopher McQuarrie, The Empire Film PodcastPart 1 and Part 2 (actually Part 3, but Part 2 is a host conversation)

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