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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Brandon Trowel-hands

Digging deep.

That's what I've been doing for the last lil' bit.

It's an odd thing to have to try and re-break a story you thought you knew inside out.

Savage Knights has been my love-project for a while now, it was one that I submitted to the CFC and ended up getting a big reaction for. Their biggest complaint was that it had too many ideas in it, that I should pull it back from the 2-hour backdoor pilot I had written and make it a strong 1-hour.

So that's what I've been trying to do. Of course, when you've already got the season plotted out (and about 3000 years of backstory) it can be tricky. Though, I'm pretty proud of myself - I looked through my notes and somehow managed to give myself a lot of room to move. I'm not sure it that was foresight or not, but it ended up working out pretty well.

I damn near cried when I hit the 'delete' key on the entire first scene - probably would've too if I didn't know that I've got the original backed up somewhere safe. It's a great scene (one of my favourites in the whole pilot) and a great setup, but it sets up the wrong character. Jack is the main character now - the stronger choice, even if he is a bit of a dick.

I've been debating for a long time whether or not to kill off Darien (the best-friend/side-kick character). His death would be a fantastic push for Jack but there's a chemistry between them that I don't want to lose (and don't think Ben or Maggie could replace), so for now, he lives on. I think that losing Darien would push the show into far, far darker territory than I'm planning on treading into for the first season. Yes, the show's pretty dark overall, but the sense of family is really key to what I'm trying to accomplish.

But damn... imagining what would happen to Jack if Darien kicked it... whoa.

That's a movie in itself.

Looking back at what I'd done, what I'd managed to fit into the original pilot, so much of it was paced to set up for a 2 hour movie - it's been painful to tear entire concepts out at the roots, dice them up and try to re-fit them. Most of the time, it doesn't work.

I think I'm getting an idea of what they mean when they call it a 'page one re-write'. I can keep a few concepts, some dialogue, but not a whole hell of a lot.

On the bright side, I wrote an utterly wicked scene in place of that first scene. It sets up the story better, speaks volumes about the characters, has a great conflict to it AND is absolutely centered on Jack.

Of course, my excitement is short-lived. I give the Teaser an entire read-through and it's now too long. Like 9 pages for a 1 hour pilot (I'm aiming for around 55 pages total... I like to be descriptive...). So then I have to go back and edit my language.

Am I being to 'prose-y'?

Yep.

So then I start rephrasing, same meanings, less 'talk'. Try and drop the page count. I get it down to 6 pages, of which 4-and-a-half are actual 'stuff' you'll see on screen. I trim the character descriptions, trying to put as much power into as few words as I can.

Jack goes from a veritable paragraph and a half to: "He's 23, broad-shouldered and dark haired. Attractive, though his scarred knuckles and tired eyes betray a man who's survived the worst the world has to offer."

I hope that the words coming out of his mouth and the reactions to the world and from the other characters will help to fill in the blanks. "Leave room for the actor" - a piece of advice I got many moons ago.

I know his backstory cold - could recite it in my sleep - but gotta leave the questions intact. More will come out as the episodes move forward. TV is all about the questions.

Delving into the first Act, I whimper as I unsheathe my machete.

Gone is one entire subplot. Just like that, Maggie is going to be introduced in episode 2. She gets a brief cameo in the pilot, brief - but that's it. I try not to look back as I slash through it like thick vegetation.

Moving on, scene after scene falls before my blade - flaying meat from bone, right down to the sun-bleached skeleton.

Hanging it over my bubbling cauldron, I begin the incantations anew.

ACT ONE.

And a new story takes shape - the same story, the same meaning, but different. The same beast in a different body, a slimmer body.

Svelte.

But it's 2am and the eyes are blurry - just as things were really getting good. Grumbling and fighting sleep, I save my work into a temp file and shut it down for now.

It's a fitful sleep at best, with dreams of demons and beasties and all sorts of wonderful plot twists. I awake, exuberant. The first hour and a half of my morning is lost, writing again - making myself late for work.

Dammit. Stupid work.

Sigh.

It would appear that the new angle has awoken old passions and new perspectives.

And I can't wait to get back to it tonight.

Cheers,
Brandon

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