This was a whole new kind of writing challenge for me, and I absolutely loved it.
I’ve never adapted my own work. I have lots of experience rewriting the screenplays of others, but crafting my own work into a screenplay is totally new.
Rewriting someone’s screenplay can be difficult. The characters are not mine, the story isn’t mine, and I have no idea what the original writer had in mind.
When I was hired to rewrite the screenplay that would eventually become the feature film A Perfect Life, I was given two wildly confusing screenplays and tasked with coming up with one screenplay’s worth of a coherent plot.
If that wasn’t enough pressure, shooting was scheduled to begin in six weeks, the locations were locked, and the actors had already been hired.
So that meant I could not change a single location, even if I had the coolest idea to improve the script. I also couldn’t add or delete any characters because the actors were already under contract.
It was strange to know who had been cast in the movie. When I write, I purposely keep the character descriptions vague so that anyone can play the role. Usually, the protagonist is some version of me, and the other characters have traits of people I know.
In the case of A Perfect Life, I knew the lead was being played by Jesse Bradford, who I’d seen on the big screen in Bring It On and Swimfan. Definitely a step up from me as the main guy! Now I had to write with a specific actor in mind.
The above still if from A Perfect Life, by the way. If you want to see the trailer for the movie, it is on this blog’s About page.
Up to this point, that rewriting gig has been the most challenging of my career. I cranked out six drafts in six weeks.
Jesse and the producers signed off on my final draft, and that became the shooting script. I continued to rewrite scenes during filming, and the movie got made and I was very happy with the finished product.
But now I have an even greater challenge.
It’s difficult to explain, but there is a huge difference between the writing I do for a screenplay, and what I post on my blog.
Screenplay ideas percolate in my brain for months as I slowly build a story, figure out the twist and turns, and create complex characters who can drive the plot forward. When I finally start a screenplay, I am constantly rewriting it. In fact, a finished first draft, which takes months to complete, is really more like a third or fourth draft because of all the rewriting I do along the way.
A short story for this blog is an explosion of ideas from my brain. I sit down with no outline, just a vague idea. I type without notes, and it’s all done in about ten minutes. What gets published is basically a first draft. I just read it over once to check for typos.
I really love the freedom of writing a short story. There’s no chance to overthink it, and I often get excellent feedback on the finished product from you guys. It’s also a great way to perfect my dialogue writing skills, which are so important in a screenplay.
Nothing against the short story characters, but they are simply not as three dimensional as those who live in my screenplays. The plots are pretty basic, with usually a single setting.
Essentially, while a fun read, my short stories are not screenplay material.
But now, they suddenly are. Hence the greatest challenge of my writing career.
Somehow, I had to take two unrelated short stories, and find a way to combine their plots into a story that allowed the characters to play together on the big screen.
I also had to turn ten pages of material into at least thirty screenplay pages.
After yesterday’s writing binge out on the porch, I find myself with fifteen script pages, and a plot that has characters from both short stories interacting in the very first scene.
Best of all, I’ve yet to use any of the source material in the script. All fifteen pages thus far is brand new stuff. I’ve just arrived at the point where the action in The Blind Date will begin in the screenplay. Nothing from The Bookstore Attraction Conundrum has been added yet, but that should come with the next scene.
What that means is that I will easily have thirty pages of screenplay. And what I’ve written to this point, is definitely screenplay quality.
I’m excited to finish the first draft and send it to my producer to read. I think we’ll definitely have something special to shoot.
I’ve really adapted to this whole adapting my own writing thing…