Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hardwired Update #2

I already have Acts I and III plotted.

I knew they'd be easier, since the setup and ending were going to remain much the same, save for a few changes. Act II is where we have the meat, and it's where I'm going to be fashioning the new heart of the story. That said, I'm going to take the weekend away from Hardwired and work on a couple other projects I haven't been able to touch, getting back to it some time next week (unless Harvey and Lenny call to me earlier ;).

It wasn't a conscious decision, but somehow I've fallen into the idea of moving around and working on different projects concurrently. I'm liking it because it keeps me fresh and lets me satisfy those voices that are wanting to work on this and that, as opposed to going "balls to the wall" on one project only. I've got a TV pilot that I've yet to work on, as well as a web series concept that's been laying around the Batcave since November. I think I'll show them some love.

At least that's the plan for now. With me, things are always subject to change. But until they do...


Friday, March 19, 2010

Hardwired Update #1

Officially started the rewrite yesterday, adding notes from a couple different sources to the script document. Now that everything's in once place I can get to work restructuring the story. Because of the change in direction with Harvey's life at the beginning of the story (see the "Hardwired - The Introduction" post to get caught up), the original beginning sequence needed to be tossed out, but fortunately, I quickly came up with another that, at least right now, seems to work perfect in terms of setting Harvey up and giving some emotional insight to where he is when we meet him.

Much of the story will remain the same, but with the script currently running 131 pages, I was glad to see a lot of stuff that needs to be taken out. My goal is to get this down to about 110 pages. The way I come up with my page goals is funny. For me, it's about instinct - what feels right. And for some reason, 110 pages feels the perfect length the fit what I have in my head. Of course, if I get it all out and I come in under 110 - that's great, too.

In my notes I had an idea to add a third twist to the climatic scene. The two I already had were major, but I'm confident this third turn will add to the story and not cheapen it. Historically, I haven't been a huge fan of twist endings (and I hate when they're done to the point of numbing my concern for the story), but this story lent itself to it, so hey, why not put them in? I'll admit, it does make the story more interesting. Maybe this is a sign of my continued growth as a writer.

It's also looking like a supporting character, who dies in the original draft, might live through this adventure. In the original draft, the character's death marks the "all is lost" moment for Harvey, the biggest loss and setback before charging into the third act. But now I have a new "all is lost," and it hits closer to Harvey's core than the previous, so the former, while I'd love to keep it, just feels like too much. If I go this route, it's going to affect the new ending I planned, but that's not that big a problem. I'll be able to tell better when I get into re-structuring. I have a nascent idea for a sequel, so I could save the original character's death for that. Hmm...

As for tone, my actor friend was in favor of something hard-hitting and gritty, which I liked as well. As time went on, though, more and more humor found its way into the script. This is by no means a comedy, but I liked giving Harvey a deadpan, yet biting sarcastic streak - a world-weary intolerance for bullshit. Any type of witty humor is my favorite, whether it's sarcasm, parody or satire, so it's something that's going to appear in my scripts on a regular basis. At the end of the day I think Hardwired is going to be very similar in tone to Mel Gibson's Payback - which, if I can achieve that, will be perfectly fine by me.

More on the script as I go along. I'm anticipating an easier write than Lupus Moon, but I think that's my natural optimism speaking more than anything. Guess there's only one way to find out.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hardwired - The Introduction

With the first draft of Lupus Moon in the proverbial can, next up is Hardwired, an action/crime script that's a really a rewrite of a script I wrote a couple years back. Based on a concept by an actor friend, the original story was about a guy who's a family man by day and a hitman by night. In the script, he's hired by the head of a crime family to exact revenge on the members of a rival outfit responsible for the apparent murder of his daughter. Our hero(?), HARVEY, accepts, but is unceremoniously saddled with LENNY - himself a hitman for the crime family - under the pretense that a job of this magnitude calls for more than one gun. Together they set out to fulfill the contract, while Harvey works to makes sure his dual lives never cross paths.

The initial script was fairly received by my actor friend and his producing partner, but there were some valid criticisms, primary of which was the lack of development in the antagonists. The "rainbow coalition" of thugs brought together with the promise of making money and running the streets just didn't click, and came off more as a bunch of stereotypical, one-note archetypes.

Another major flaw, in my opinion, was the shortage of "danger moments" where Harvey's double lives threatened to encroach on one another. If a movie's supposed to be about a guy living a double life, there has to be those recurring moments where the ruse nearly falls apart, if not collapses altogether. Without those, I really missed an opportunity to get into the heart and soul of Harvey, and that lack of emotional resonance hurts the script.

Flash forward to 2010. Hardwired is a project that, while I'm writing it to sell to Hollywood, could easily be made independently here in Houston, starring my actor friend as Harvey (I know he'd love that). So if the studios pass on it, the script will immediately wind up in my "self-produce" queue along with the other projects already on that list. But as far as the story goes, I'm eyeing a couple major changes. Harvey is going to stay a hitman, and he's still going to be stuck with Lenny for the contract (at one point I considered taking Lenny out completely), but instead of the dual-life setup, when the movie starts, Harvey's life is going to have already gone to shit. His wife, to whom he'd promised he'd quit the hitman life, will have separated from him and taken his kid, effectively kicking Harvey out of his own house. This will put Harvey in a dark place right from the start. Emotional conflict will come from his attempts at reconciliation with his family while at the same time working the contract - maintaining an allegiance to an occupation he feels is the only thing he's good at, even if it means the deconstruction of his family.

On the antagonists' side, I'm going to make them all of one race; in fact, they'll be a family. They'll have their own purpose for being and their own goals (unlike in the previous draft). I plan to strike a balance with them of malignance and sympathy - the way the Magneto character was portrayed in the X-Men films (yes, even the third). A secondary villain, only present before in a half-assed attempt to add another dimension to Harvey and provide conflict that could be reappropriated, will be totally deleted. The double twist at the end will remain intact, however, though one will be tweaked a bit.

When I wrote the first draft, Shaundra called it the best first draft I'd written to that point. I can't wait to see what I do with it now, with a few more years of writing under my belt. I'm looking for a fun ride with this one.

At least there's no werewolves in it.


Lupus Moon Update #14


Pretty much, anyway. There's several notes I've made for things to go back and add, but they're all small and wouldn't take much work. As it is, the draft reads from beginning to end and relays the story, so I'm calling it. The script is 113 pages which, for those unfamiliar with screenplay format, means it should yield about a 113-minute movie. I was perfectly comfortable with this script going a full 120 pages, so bringing it in under that is a bonus. I'm sure it'll get trimmed more in rewrites.

I'm pretty happy with it, but if there's one area that bothers me, it's the action scenes. Most screenwriters write fights by hitting the high notes - not being overly-specific with the play-by-play. There's nothing wrong with this and it makes sense (whoever directs the script will most likely bring in a fight choreographer and change what you wrote anyway). I've even heard of one screenwriter simply writing "They fight." For some reason, I just can't do that. To me, it's lazy to write everything else in detail, then skimp when it comes to the combat. I just haven't allowed myself to get over that feeling - but I'm gonna have to. Writing fights is hard and it takes a lot of time and, while I enjoy coming up with them to some extent, I'm tired of doing them. When you roll your eyes and sigh because you realize there's a big fight scene coming up and you don't want to deal with it - that's a problem. So simplifying my fights is something I'm really gonna work on.

I'm gonna take a break from Lupus Moon for a few days, give myself some distance and a change to get back at least a shred of objectivity. There's some other projects I've been really wanting to work on, so that'll fill my time. It'll be great to work on something different. I'll start back on Lupus Moon next week with the first rewrite, after which I'll be ready for feedback (unless Shaundra wants to read it first) before I send the script off for coverage.

But I'm happy I stayed with it. In the end, I hope it was worth it. Time will tell. In the meantime, I'll keep you updated on the process as I get this script ready for the Hollywood market.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lupus Moon Update #13

Closer... ever so much closer...

I'm in the middle of the climatic sequence - page 108. I really wanted to have this thing completed last Friday, but it just didn't come to pass. I thought maybe I'd be finished earlier this week, but again, no dice. The hangup has been in plotting the final fights. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I'm merging material from an earlier treatment with where the story is currently headed; there's characters that no longer exist, the location of the climax has changed, as has the dialogue leading into it. Every change creates a ripple effect where everything after has to be adjusted.

Also an issue were the weapons Alexandria has at her disposal as she goes into this final conflict. The trick is to make the fight as "real" as possible, without ignoring all the logic that's come before. In the original treatment, Alex is progressively stripped of her weapons and is forced to go hand-to-hand with the big bad for much of the final fight after taking out his final minions. The way the script is now, Alex has a few weapons left. It only makes sense she use what she has, especially when the silver weapons take care of the werewolves (called "lycas" in the script) quicker than any other means. BUT, I also don't want her to plow through the last two henchmen on the way to the showdown with Tristan, the big bad. It's a balancing act that took more time than I anticipated.

Add to that some last-minute weapons and locations research and it comes together as to why I'm not done yet. But the light at the end of the tunnel is shining bright, and with these last lingering issues resolved, I'm poised to knock this thing out. I'm looking forward to finishing and taking a few days off before diving back into the script for the first round of rewrites.

It's been a LONG road, but I'm glad I stayed the course and remained persistent. I'm excited with the result and can't wait to share it.