Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Five to go... Post #996: A look back at a good script's journey to being a bad movie

Friends, the post before your eyes right now is my 996th post.  Four posts to the big 1000, which will be arriving on Monday.  It probably would be a good idea for me to do something big and unexpected then, wouldn't it. Hmm....

In the meantime, how about a trip down memory lane to spotlight some older posts that might have eluded more recent visitors to this blog.  About a half-year into the life of this blog, I conducted an interview with screenwriter Dan Callahan.  With his writing partner Adam Ellison, Dan wrote a pretty good script called COLLEGE that got turned into a rather terrible movie.

I feel bad saying that, but Dan basically says as much over the course of this interview.  Rotten Tomatoes agrees, rating it at just 5%.  I've read the version of the script that sold, and while it's probably not anything that would make the yearly Black List, it is a perfectly good teen comedy.  It was rather fascinating to read that draft and then see what resulted on-screen.  There's a lot to be learned just through examining that development process.

Unfortunately I can't provide a copy of that original draft, but I can provide the next best thing - an in-depth interview that covers everything about the script's development and how certain plot points that once made sense became inexplicable on the journey to the big screen.  All is revealed in this five-part interview.

Part I - The Writing Process 

"There’s writing and there’s the business and they go hand in hand. The more professional your scripts look, the more seriously you’ll be taken as a writer. Reading scripts was the first thing that got me… before I ever wrote College, I had read a ton of scripts. Nowadays with the internet and having access to scripts online, there’s no reason someone can’t go and find scripts and read, look at it, and go get Final Draft…. Access to interviews of writers, and some of my favorite books are just interviews with writers and how they did it."

Part II - Getting an Agent and Selling the Script

"She passed the script off to a colleague of hers at ICM... He read it on vacation and came back and was like, “I’ll take it out next week.” It literally was that quick. He read it. He knew what it was. He liked it. I don’t even remember if he had any notes. If he did, they were minor. Stuff we could fix in a week. He basically said, “Fix this. Get it ready. We’ll take it out next week.” 

Part III - Notes, Rewriting, Casting and SUPERBAD

"I think in general we probably didn’t agree with most of the notes. We’d never been through the process of getting notes from producers and because it’s your work, you think you know better. You think you know the material better, and at the end of the day, you DO know the material better… as the writer. You know the characters better, the story better. Anything they suggest you’re generally going to have an answer for right on the spot." 

Part IV - More Rewrites

"The other thing that happens is in these writing sessions you’ve got a lot of people’s opinions and the script often becomes a mishmash of people’s opinions. And as the drafts go on it becomes a Frankenstein of all these versions. We went through two directors, so you’ve got notes from the first director that might still be in the script and then you bring on a new director and they’ve got their own notes. Then the guys from State Street who were set to produce ended up pulling out because of differences they had with the producers at Element so now you’ve got so many people coming and going. And you’ve got a draft with so many opinions in there that it really is a struggle to keep it fluid. It’s never quite what it was before… and that’s the hardest part.

"But what are you gonna do? You don’t want to get fired. You want to get paid."

Part V - Release and Reaction

"I didn’t look at the box office. Adam did. We both were in Chicago that weekend visiting family. A news channel wanted to do a story on us because we were local guys, and we flew home to do that. I did go see the movie with my parents sitting behind me, which… if you’ve seen the movie…  I had already told them I didn’t want them to see the movie because it was obviously inappropriate for them. But they insisted on coming and it was… it was tough. It was tough literally having your mom behind you with some of the stuff going on."

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