Monday, September 24, 2012

Reader questions - rewrite etiquette and script reading suggestions

Lamtin asks:

Another: For newer writers, do you think they should do as many steps as a producer asks of them (for free, after the first contracted steps are done)? I ask this because starting out I always felt guilty that if further work was required outside the scope of the contract, it was because my last draft hadn't aced it. Any views?

This is one where I'd defer to some of the pro-writers out there.  I know it happens, I know it's not supposed to happen.  I know there are pros lurking out there - anyone feel like weighing in, even anonymously?

Ty asks:

I like to show my undergrad students scripts and writers that vary in voice and style: the lean and blunt Walter Hill and the loquacious Aaron Sorkin, the chattiness of Shane Black's action blocks and the focus of the Nolan brothers, and so on. 

Can you recommend scripts/writers in non-action genres that demonstrate the flexibility in screenwriting style? 

Thanks. This blog is on my recommended reading list for the class. 

Those poor students.  Apologies to all.

Wait, "recommended reading?" Why not "required?"  The Dean shall hear of this!

Okay this is a good question.  I'm gonna stick to commercially available scripts so as to not put an accredited educator in the position of recommending illicit downloading.

F. Scott Frazier is a huge fan of Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton and I'd certainly back that up.

It might be interesting to compare and contrast Judd Apatow's Knocked Up with Diablo Cody's Juno.  Apatow is lean on description and dialogue-heavy, while my recollection is despite Cody's stylized dialogue, her descriptions are rather short and utilitarian.

In checking out the selection at the bookstore, I realized that Good Will Hunting and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind were both available.  I've never read either, but there's gotta be a lot to be learned from both of those, especially the non-liner way in which Eternal Sunshine unfolds.


  1. Re: free rewrites. Okay, we all want to look helpful and cooperative, and we all want to get our script made, so the temptation is always to stretch the rules a little and do that one extra polish that will get your movie into production. (You could make the case that that's exactly what the rules are there for: to stop us guilt-tripping ourselves into exploitation.)

    Two things to consider, I think. Can your producer afford to pay you? if so, they should. MegaBucks Studio has no business asking you to work for free; an indie producer working with you on a micro-budget project is a different matter, so you might cut them some slack.

    And: once is enough. Your producer asks you to do one free rewrite, that's one thing; they ask for several, then they're clearly exploiting you.

  2. In the future, you might also want to consider requesting that a rewrite be included in the contract so that if a rewrite is deemed necessary, you're covered.

  3. I wonder how often this happens? I worked in VFX, and they were constantly asking for free work. Storyboard artists redoing some work, writer doing another draft of the treatment. Free, of course.

    When I wouldn't do it, I wasn't hired again. Apparently they found someone else.