Monday, 22 April 2013

The life cycle of an idea

I interrupt the writing assignment tracker to demonstrate how the seed of a movie idea can be planted, germinate, sprout with excitement and then be cut off at the roots during the course of a regular Monday afternoon.  This Monday afternoon.

The time line was as follows:
1.10pm – during my post-lunch coffee and Facebook browsing I came across this link that someone had shared -

1.11pm – holy shit, that’s hilarious

1.12pm – holy shit, that’s totally a movie

1.15pm – a bit more digging brings up this article, written on 31st January -

1.16pm – a bit more digging and we find the source, written on 28th January -

1.17pm – this is one of the funniest ideas I’ve ever heard -

1.22pm – I email a friendly producer and to my agent, sounding them out – I’m now totally over-excited about this

1.30pm – I track down an email address for Mr Tombari and send him the following email:

Dear Mr Tombari
I recently read the very funny story about you and your friends playing a thirty-year game of tag / ‘it’ in the Daily Mail and Guardian.
I’m a British screenwriter – see my website and blog below for more details about my credits – and I immediately thought this sounded like a fun movie.  Think Wedding Crashers or The Hangover – Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Bradley Cooper, the long-suffering wives, the confused kids etc etc.  ‘Bromance’ is big these days and this is right in that bullseye.
I imagine I’m late to the party, but have you had any approaches from film companies yet? 
If not, then I’d love to talk to you further, perhaps put a pitch together and see if I can set it up somewhere.  We would need to sort out some kind of legal understanding to remunerate you and your friends if the film ever got made, but that’s for further on down the line.
Please do get back to me, if only to tell me that you’re not interested.
Tom Williams

1.30pm – 5.30pm – I can’t get the idea out of my head.  I spend the afternoon loosely sketching out plot beats, act breaks, my BAFTA acceptance speech etc.

5.30pm – Mr Tombari replies with this very kind email:

Thank you very much for your interest.  We were bombarded in February and had to choose back then.
I think that link will get you caught up.
Thanks again for your interest.
Joe Tombari

5.31pm – New Line Cinema, Will Ferrell, Jack Black.  Shitballs.

5.32pm – Shit shit shit.

5.33pm – Right, what was I supposed to be doing this afternoon?

5.34pm – I knew it was a movie...

(6.00pm – hey, at least you can blog about it)

Friday, 19 April 2013

Writing Assignment Tracker VI

In the contract, the client gave themselves eight weeks to come back with comments on my First Draft.  They only took three, in the end.  Here’s the updated grid. 



Sched / Actual

Delivery Date
Sched / Actual

+/- Schedule


First Draft Treatment

1 month



Initial Step Outline

2 weeks



Initial Step Outline client comments

4 days



First Draft Treatment

2 weeks


-1 Day


First Draft Treatment client comments

3 weeks



Client comments

2.5 weeks


+3 Days


Second Draft Treatment

10 days



Writer response (not treatment)

2.5 weeks


-4 Days

Client comments

3 weeks



Second Draft Treatment

10 days


-1 Month


Second Draft Treatment client comments

4 weeks



Client comments


-1 Week


First Draft

12 weeks



9 weeks


+2 Weeks


First Draft client comments

8 weeks



3 weeks


+7 Weeks


Revised First Draft

4 weeks




Revised First Draft client comments

2 weeks




Second Draft

4 weeks




Second Draft First Set

6 weeks




Second Draft Second Set

6 weeks



We’re now so far ahead of schedule it’s like Chris Hoy leading out the keirin.  But we will doubtless be clawed back into the chasing pack. 

The notes feedback process went as follows:

-          An email at the beginning of last week saying generally thumbs up, but we want to take a closer look at the beats of the protagonist’s character journey.  Reasonably encouraging.

-          Then we had a phone call last Thursday, where this subject and a few other bits and pieces were tossed about.  It basically involved me presenting a detailed telling of how I saw the heroine’s back story, and a discussion how much of that still needed to be brought to bear in the present action of the film.

-          Then I wrote up some notes (I quite like the idea of the writer giving notes to himself) which proposed some practical answers to these questions, and also introduced a slightly bigger structural shift, which would help to clear out the first act and concentrate matters on our heroine’s emotional stakes more clearly up front.

-          These notes were generally well received.  There has been some email back and forth this week, we have another conversation scheduled for this afternoon and then, all being well, I’ll start work on the polish next week.  All fairly painless.

The one other area to talk about is what this step is called.  Technically, it’s a first draft polish, not a second draft or even a rewrite.  I wonder if that limits, or should limit, then amount or the level of work that is expected out of this latest opening up of the script.  I don’t think it should, and if I see something that isn’t working then of course I’ll rewrite until it’s as good as it can be.  But in that case, why call one step a draft, one a rewrite, one a polish?  And why have different time frames and fee levels for the various steps?

Just another of the puzzling contractual oddities that this business throws up.  I still think it’s more honest to say ‘Pay me X and you own my writerly ass until Y’ and off we go.  Then no need for charts like this, or hard-to-fathom step payments.  But, then again, maybe ‘honest’ isn’t a word with a whole lot of mileage when it comes to business contracts.

I’m not complaining, of course.  Just looking forward to getting going on this new draft.  Or rewrite.  Or polish.  Or whatever.

Final final point – now that the first draft is complete, I do find my head entering a different space with regards to the script.  It’s a bit like a new relationship.  We’ve, you know, done it, and it was fun and everything.  But now the real work begins.  (And, tart that I am, I now start looking for my next bedfellow...)