“If you want your writing to be your own, you should write a novel!” If you’re a screenwriter, that’s something you’ll hear until you’re blue in the face. And the truth is – that statement is insanely accurate. The life of a professional screenwriter is almost entirely about compromise.
Take my last original script for example. Here’s how it went down:
I have a manager and an agent, so pitched them ideas of things I wanted to write. I don’t just get to just run off and write whatever I want. It has to be “approved” by both of them if I want them to be properly invested in the project. I sent over 154 loglines (encapsulated ideas) before both agreed on the one I should be writing.
I then worked up a beat-sheet/outline for the manager. You see, even in the planning stages, story decisions are not entirely my own. Fast-forward, the manager signed off on the outline and I went off to write it. After I turned in the completed script, my manager gave me mountains of notes. The notes took the script in a fairly new direction, but hey, I signed up for this. That’s the process.
Once we agreed on a draft, I gave it to my agent – and he weighed in with his notes. They were far fewer than the manager, but more notes nonetheless. I rewrote the script again and it was finally ready to go out. And then -- it sells! Great! Only, that’s when the MAJOR changes began. There was a producer attached and a studio exec assigned and together -- they put me through approximately 30 rewrites. All geared toward the way “they saw the story.”
So, after all this, how much was left of my original vision? I don’t know, maybe 20, 30%. That’s not to say the final script was worse. It was simply much different than my original intent. And in their defense, they paid me handsomely to make those changes.
Best site for new screenwriters? Probably http://johnaugust.com/ He and Craig Mazin have a podcast on ITunes that's pretty good too! As for books, I still love "Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting."
Joe Gazzam is a screenwriter. He has written Shadow Run, Barbarella, It Takes a Thief, CryptoZoo, and his debut novel, UNCAGED, available here --- http://tiny.cc/elcd5w