Revisions. Everyone does them, but there’s a lot of mystery surrounding them—what are these strange revisions, and how are they decided on? Many moviegoers assume a script leaps from a writer’s brain onto the screen without much challenge or change. It’s a lovely illusion, but that’s usually not the case. For the next few entries, we’re going to take a look at the different types of revisions screenplays go through, and what it takes to pull a wild rough draft into a polished product.
Those moviegoers who are aware of revisions probably have some gruesome imagery in mind, probably picturing the sort of final, blood-spattered chopping we occasionally hear screenwriters talking about. There’s a method to the madness that is revising a screenplay, though, and it’s something that every screenwriter must face at one time or another. Revisions can turn a muddled mess into a cohesive, enjoyable film (see the wild evolution between George Lucas’s original Star Wars script and what eventually made it to the big screen; several versions are floating around on the internet).
A completed rough draft usually isn’t a shiny gem. Odds are it’s full of dialogue that needs adjusting, extraneous scenes, verbiage, and possibly characters, and it may take right or left turns into strange territory. That’s to be expected, for the most part; it’s a work in progress, and a screenwriter is often trying to get all his ideas down in script format before jumping into revisions. Those screenwriters who aren’t working from point-by-point outlines may also learn halfway through a screenplay that their onetime chase story has abruptly become a romance set that just happens to have a chase scene in the beginning.
Once the script is done, though, the writer probably has a better idea of what kind of movie or program he wants, and should make some notes about how he wants to proceed. What kind of movie is it—comedy, drama, sci-fi, something in between? What kind of pacing should it have? What kind of tone? Are the characters snarking at each other while they wink at the camera (a la Zombieland), or is this anb extremely serious character study (such as Iris)? A mishmash of slow, meandering scenes jumbled together with frantic chase scenes accompanied by witty dialogue don’t really go well together; a finished script needs to flow and have a cohesive feel.
Stay tuned for more on the revision process.