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Old 08-17-2019, 07:26 AM   #1
Merlin
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Default Nearing completion - what's next?

I'm writing a spec script for a feature movie. Have finally determined the storyline for the whole thing. At this point there are just a few scenes left to write. (Which is much easier when I know what is going to happen…)

I've never done this before. I'm a total amateur. So when I decide that the script is finished, what is the next step? I have zero connections in the movie industry. Also, I don't live in the USA.

I should also say that I have no illusions about my chances of ever getting this thing sold, much less actually produced into a movie. But at least I would like for someone to look at it.

This raises a lot of questions. Should I just send it to a movie company? Or are there agents who assist in these matters? Should it be presented on paper or as a pdf? Is it advisable to protect my copyright in some way?

Any advice would be welcome. Sorry of this is in the wrong part of the forum, don't know where else to put it.

Merlin
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Old 08-17-2019, 10:21 AM   #2
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Default Re: Nearing completion - what's next?

There are people who will give you notes for a fee and others who might want to swap scripts with you so you can give each other advice. I haven't checked lately, but there have been members of this community who offer these services.
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Old 08-17-2019, 10:26 AM   #3
GucciGhostXXX
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Default Re: Nearing completion - what's next?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Merlin View Post
I'm writing a spec script for a feature movie. Have finally determined the storyline for the whole thing. At this point there are just a few scenes left to write. (Which is much easier when I know what is going to happen…)

I've never done this before. I'm a total amateur. So when I decide that the script is finished, what is the next step? I have zero connections in the movie industry. Also, I don't live in the USA.

I should also say that I have no illusions about my chances of ever getting this thing sold, much less actually produced into a movie. But at least I would like for someone to look at it.

This raises a lot of questions. Should I just send it to a movie company? Or are there agents who assist in these matters? Should it be presented on paper or as a pdf? Is it advisable to protect my copyright in some way?

Any advice would be welcome. Sorry of this is in the wrong part of the forum, don't know where else to put it.

Merlin
Your first draft WILL NOT be ready for Hollywood. I'm 1,000,000% positive of this. It's NEVER happened. Not even for pros.

So, what I would do. In this order:

1) Have friends and family read it. Some advise against this. But, the truth is my fiancée [while she's a doctor] gives me smart notes. She could be a development exec. I use about half of them before sending to manager. You may find a friend or family member who has a decent notes that you employ. If all of them love it AS IS, don't believe them. Look for ways to tighten and make more clear. If asking friends and family to read you're going to have to explain to them what to look for (Where you confused anywhere etc.)

2) Rewrite it.

3) Rewrite it.

4) Rewrite it.

5) Rewrite it.

6) Once you can find nothing else to fix. Bite the bullet and send it to a paid reader or two or three for an analyses. (I would also ask them for a "Pass, Recommend, Consider" grade. This way you'll get a consensus on how the script is generally gonna land.) These people will have MANY notes for you. So now you...

7) Rewrite it.

8) Rewrite it

9) Rewrite it.

10) Now you can send it to a rep, so long as you got fairly high marks for the readers and just needed to fix some stuff.

Otherwise... if you got low marks from all 3 paid readers. Move on to "11".

11) Write a new script.

Good luck!
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Old 08-17-2019, 10:29 AM   #4
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Default Re: Nearing completion - what's next?

Or what Joaneasley said. If you can find free reads from experienced writers, Replace my "paid" comment for "free" and follow the same steps.
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Old 08-17-2019, 03:16 PM   #5
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Default Re: Nearing completion - what's next?

you need to rewrite it.

first, send it to other writers-- their notes will be the best, tell them not to hold anything back. you want honest notes and you want the notes to be given with your intention and vision in mind. you do not want notes from a writer that tells you how they would write it.

Friends and family are good, but if they don't understand story and structure they can give you bad advice without intending to. have them tell you anytime they are confused, don't believe something, feel a "speedbump" you know, when something stops them from reading and try to "figure out" what you meant. ask them to tell you what made them feel any kind of emotion. what's funny, clever, heartbreaking... those are the kind of notes anyone can give and can help you a great deal.

ideally, you want people to review your work who are better at it than you, and have done it before. that's where you'll get the best notes.

pay for professional reader notes, if you can afford it. submit it to the black list and pay for two reviews to see where it lands.

you said you're outside the US, so find out if there's any type of film industry and start networking with other writers.

consider every note carefully. you know your intentions, so you are the first line of defense for your story.

not every note is valid. sometimes notes come from being confused or misunderstanding something in the story. that's on you, the writer to clarify the writing to correct this.

if a note doesn't fit with your vision strike it. keep only the notes that you understand, can execute well, and that make the story and characters better.

don't get defensive about your writing when you receive notes. if you think someone misunderstands your intent, explain it with the idea that when you give it clarity that the reader (whomever they are) to see if their note remains or is different.

you don't have to accept a single note. you have to decide, based on careful consideration, what you want to do with the note. execute it or delete it.

while it's out for reads here are a few passes that you can do (or not do) until your notes come back:
  • take a pass with character's voice in mind. each character should have a specific point of view, make sure that is revealed in their actions and dialogue. you might need to run each pass with only one character in mind.
  • take a dialogue pass to remove anything that does not, 1) advance the story, and/or 2) reveal character.
  • take a scene pass to make sure you don't have any "fluff" or unnecessary "chitchat" at the beginning of the scene and make certain you leave the scene as soon as it's over. delete any unnecessary dialogue regardless of how clever or funny it is.
  • take a scene transition pass examining the best way to pull you through from the last scene into the next scene. you can use a number of transition techniques: visual or auditory match cuts, distinctive size cuts (wide shot to a tight shot), a question at the end of one scene is answered in the beginning of the next scene, visual comparison in opposition, etc...
  • take a pass and identify every single story question (??) i ID them with question marks, then i find in the script where that question is answered and i write the page number next to the double ??. you want every questions you create to be answered. this has to do with audience expectation. you want to fulfill the expectations they have.
  • take a pass solely to reduce redundancy and repetitive dialogue. if you have something revealed in a scene, don't "rehash" the same information again. once is usually enough.
  • take a validation pass to determine what is and is not necessary to the story. ask yourself what would happen if you removed a scene-- this is a ruthless pass to determine what is NOT needed. if you can remove it and the story remains intact, remove it. you want to get rid of anything that drags the read.
  • take a pass designed to tighten up all your action lines. remove repetitive actions, overwriting, widows, entire lines or paragraphs. make sure your narrative is tight and easy to read. where ever you have four lines try to make them 3 or less, if you have 2 two lined paragraphs see if you can rewrite them into one paragraph.

so the basic consideration when rewriting is to improve story pacing, clarity, character, dialogue, action, continuity, and entertainment value. some of this you will have done while writing.

when you get the notes back read them, then set them aside and read them again later. try to be objective. the faster you get past the emotional part of receiving notes the faster you can get to rewriting a better script.

you know your story. it's yours. you do not have to listen to a single piece of advice, including mine, if it doesn't fit with your vision.

good luck and congratulations on finishing your first screenplay. it's no small feat.
FA4
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Old 08-17-2019, 08:57 PM   #6
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Default Re: Nearing completion - what's next?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Merlin View Post
I'm writing a spec script for a feature movie. Have finally determined the storyline for the whole thing. At this point there are just a few scenes left to write. (Which is much easier when I know what is going to happen…)
If you almost finished it, but just figured out what the storyline is with a few scenes left... then you're next step is to rewrite it.
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Old 08-17-2019, 09:34 PM   #7
GucciGhostXXX
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Default Re: Nearing completion - what's next?

Quote:
Originally Posted by finalact4 View Post
you need to rewrite it.

first, send it to other writers-- their notes will be the best, tell them not to hold anything back. you want honest notes and you want the notes to be given with your intention and vision in mind. you do not want notes from a writer that tells you how they would write it.

Friends and family are good, but if they don't understand story and structure they can give you bad advice without intending to. have them tell you anytime they are confused, don't believe something, feel a "speedbump" you know, when something stops them from reading and try to "figure out" what you meant. ask them to tell you what made them feel any kind of emotion. what's funny, clever, heartbreaking... those are the kind of notes anyone can give and can help you a great deal.

ideally, you want people to review your work who are better at it than you, and have done it before. that's where you'll get the best notes.

pay for professional reader notes, if you can afford it. submit it to the black list and pay for two reviews to see where it lands.

you said you're outside the US, so find out if there's any type of film industry and start networking with other writers.

consider every note carefully. you know your intentions, so you are the first line of defense for your story.

not every note is valid. sometimes notes come from being confused or misunderstanding something in the story. that's on you, the writer to clarify the writing to correct this.

if a note doesn't fit with your vision strike it. keep only the notes that you understand, can execute well, and that make the story and characters better.

don't get defensive about your writing when you receive notes. if you think someone misunderstands your intent, explain it with the idea that when you give it clarity that the reader (whomever they are) to see if their note remains or is different.

you don't have to accept a single note. you have to decide, based on careful consideration, what you want to do with the note. execute it or delete it.

while it's out for reads here are a few passes that you can do (or not do) until your notes come back:
  • take a pass with character's voice in mind. each character should have a specific point of view, make sure that is revealed in their actions and dialogue. you might need to run each pass with only one character in mind.
  • take a dialogue pass to remove anything that does not, 1) advance the story, and/or 2) reveal character.
  • take a scene pass to make sure you don't have any "fluff" or unnecessary "chitchat" at the beginning of the scene and make certain you leave the scene as soon as it's over. delete any unnecessary dialogue regardless of how clever or funny it is.
  • take a scene transition pass examining the best way to pull you through from the last scene into the next scene. you can use a number of transition techniques: visual or auditory match cuts, distinctive size cuts (wide shot to a tight shot), a question at the end of one scene is answered in the beginning of the next scene, visual comparison in opposition, etc...
  • take a pass and identify every single story question (??) i ID them with question marks, then i find in the script where that question is answered and i write the page number next to the double ??. you want every questions you create to be answered. this has to do with audience expectation. you want to fulfill the expectations they have.
  • take a pass solely to reduce redundancy and repetitive dialogue. if you have something revealed in a scene, don't "rehash" the same information again. once is usually enough.
  • take a validation pass to determine what is and is not necessary to the story. ask yourself what would happen if you removed a scene-- this is a ruthless pass to determine what is NOT needed. if you can remove it and the story remains intact, remove it. you want to get rid of anything that drags the read.
  • take a pass designed to tighten up all your action lines. remove repetitive actions, overwriting, widows, entire lines or paragraphs. make sure your narrative is tight and easy to read. where ever you have four lines try to make them 3 or less, if you have 2 two lined paragraphs see if you can rewrite them into one paragraph.

so the basic consideration when rewriting is to improve story pacing, clarity, character, dialogue, action, continuity, and entertainment value. some of this you will have done while writing.

when you get the notes back read them, then set them aside and read them again later. try to be objective. the faster you get past the emotional part of receiving notes the faster you can get to rewriting a better script.

you know your story. it's yours. you do not have to listen to a single piece of advice, including mine, if it doesn't fit with your vision.

good luck and congratulations on finishing your first screenplay. it's no small feat.
FA4

THIS!

Same thoughts. Word for word... she said it better.

I failed to mention that I ALWAYS do "ONLY! passes." Only typos, only dialogue, only narrative, etc. Once you're certain it's absolutely perfect. Do these passes, because you'll learn that it still ain't. You'll spot redundancies etc. Cut 'em. Compress. Then do it all over again until you can spot NOTHING wrong with it. Be brutal on yourself because the industry will be 1000x as brutal on your work.

Let's say you do all of this and finally get repped off the script. You're gonna learn that it's still FAR from ready to send to producers. Likely, 5+ more passes requested from your rep to "get it there" (NOTE! Even those of us already repped and our reps finally say "Cool, I sign off, I can't see anything else to fix. Let's start submitting." We still get our asses kicked out there. "Fukkin hated it!" "Disaster!" Whatever else. Don't think that just because your rep thinks it's badass that everyone else will. You'll mostly get passes. Always!).

Not to scare you, but it's a LOOOONG brutal process to get it ready for market (Again, draft 1 is nowhere near ready. Promise!). Then guess what happens, yup, most people (even if it's pretty god damn fukking good) aren't "passionate ENOUGH about it." Meaning: an "A" in screenwriting is the equivalent an "F-", it's got to be seen as an "A+" or it's seen as an "F-." There's no in-between.

Thus, put in the time to rewrite! You only get one shot with a script.
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Old 08-18-2019, 07:27 AM   #8
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Default Re: Nearing completion - what's next?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GucciGhostXXX View Post
...I failed to mention that I ALWAYS do "ONLY! passes." Only typos, only dialogue, only narrative, etc. Once you're certain it's absolutely perfect. Do these passes, because you'll learn that it still ain't. You'll spot redundancies etc...
This process is what I am referring to when I talk about 'polishing' my old scripts. It's not BIG stuff. It's little tweaks, throughout. And I'd add to the list of tasks: 'Word choice improvements', which are always numerous after you've had your eyes off the thing for a while.

I believe the BIG stuff like structure, characters, scenes was all done (if I did my job correctly) in my outlining stage, before I even wrote the darn script.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GucciGhostXXX View Post
...Do these passes, because you'll learn that it still ain't. You'll spot redundancies etc. Cut 'em. Compress...
Except for me my biggest opportunity for compression comes in after I first convert my outline to screenplay. My first draft may be 120 pages, then 110 (the first editing pass usually generates a big reduction), then 107, 105, 103. These days, anywhere under 105 makes me pretty pleased. (On one or two occasions, when I've hit this threshold, I've even put back IN a short scene or dialogue that I'd sacrificed in the first 'elimination phase'. But I'd still try to keep things under 105.)

But note that I'm talking about the script editing that occurs BEFORE even a single query is sent out. Typically, I do one of these 'passes' or polishes again at one month after I start to query, another at maybe four months, and then annually after that (which seems to bug the hell out of some people here).

But as I say, those 'polishes' or passes are merely to clean up words and typos. The BIG changes that I know this thing is yet to undergo will be made by (or at the direction of) the producer/financiers AFTER all that fine moolah changes hands!
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Old 08-18-2019, 11:24 AM   #9
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Default Re: Nearing completion - what's next?

I hear you...

105 is a nice number to aim for. Wish I could get there. To me, the shorter the better.

The hardest part of editing for me is: “We need to cut this by 5 pages. But... we also need to add this and that.” Okay, so add stuff but make it shorter, go it!

Tough to figure out how to do that. But that’s the gig. Every time I’m surprised that I was able to figure out that magic trick.

So, when people tell me they can’t cut massive scripts I feel like they have no idea that this is likely what will be asked of them.

Personally, I only go back to edit old scripts if someone’s like “Hey, you got a thing like ____?” Yup. “Cool, send it” Im’a reread it and do more edits before I send it, because I ALWAYS notice something new that can be tweaked.

Also, I’ll be more specific about dialogue to the OP: do a separate read through of only 1 character’s dialogue at a time. I’ve found that to be helpful in learning if they’re repeating themselves. I’ve caught a few redundancies that way.
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Old 08-18-2019, 12:17 PM   #10
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Default Re: Nearing completion - what's next?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GucciGhostXXX View Post
...I only go back to edit old scripts if someone’s like “Hey, you got a thing like ____?” Yup. “Cool, send it” Im’a reread it and do more edits before I send it, because I ALWAYS notice something new that can be tweaked...
Firstly, I do the regular polish thing merely to be ready when or if such a call comes. Those overnight last-minute polishes aren't for me! Secondly, as a semi-retiree, I have the time; I know that lots of you don't. Thirdly, I have a lot of material, which means that not only don't I want to forget what I've done, nor not be able to explain it in detail if somebody asks, as I've said before I'm my own biggest fan. When I read my stuff, I regularly mutter to myself "Jeez, I don't remember even writing that; that was cool!"

Of course, I've not yet had anybody agree with me on that last part.
Quote:
Originally Posted by GucciGhostXXX View Post
...Also, I’ll be more specific about dialogue to the OP: do a separate read through of only 1 character’s dialogue at a time. I’ve found that to be helpful in learning if they’re repeating themselves. I’ve caught a few redundancies that way.
We all have our little tricks. I'll try that one, sometime.

When I tackled my big old African epic a couple of months ago, my goal was to finally get the thing below 120 pages. It had started at 145 and was stalled at 122.

My trick was to go through the thing - not reading it word-for-word - but to examine page endings. If I saw a bottom border of 9.8 inches, I knew that with some sort of edit in the page I might bring up that short description paragraph or short dialogue from the next page! Also, I wanted to apply the old "get in late, get out early" rule, as aggressively as I could. Especially at the ends of scenes, it's awfully easy to add a short dialogue or description paragraph, one that upon reflection can be blown away without effecting the flow or intent.

Well, using both tactics, every few pages it seemed to work. And holy cow, I ended up doing this on enough pages that I cut FOUR pages out of the entire script length!

One might worry that you'd cut out something important, especially since in this case I wasn't doing a careful word-for-word read-through. But it's surprising just how many 3-line paragraphs can become 2, 4 to 3, etc. Or maybe you can combine two 2-line description paragraphs into a 3'er. Every line counts, when you're in the shrinking mode with a 120+ page screenplay.

I mean, the goal is to be as tight as possible, knowing that if you win over the fans (at least, one with MONEY), they'll want to change it all up anyway, and probably even expand or add scenes. They might do this for any number of reasons: To expand a scene for the leading actor, or to use up their pyrotechnics budget, for all I care. "We need more explosions!"

Once I have the $$$, it won't matter to me what they want to do with it.
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