I’m facing a demon in 2011. It’s a project that has haunted me. Soon as my family asks what happened to it, I get defensive and don’t want to talk about it. It was a project of love (which should have been the first tip-off, but when you’re in love and tickled pink you have a finished product, you can’t see that). It was my first screenplay.
My brother plays ice hockey. I love hockey and felt there was a need for another hockey movie. The Miracle is a special movie for hockey players, families, and fans. The Slapshot franchise can be funny, but not everyone can watch them. Mighty Ducks fans have grown up and are waiting for the next Mighty Ducks-type hockey movie. I felt I had written that movie.
It was the first time I had really written a screenplay, worked with that type of format and writing. My brother, the hockey player, loved it which I thought was most important. I was “hockey player approved.” It was “done.” It had a beginning, middle, end. It was between 90 and 120 pages.
I pitched it at the Screenwriting Expo. All of the listeners requested the script. I was thrilled! That’s not supposed to happen, especially to someone starting out.
I sent them my script. I heard back from one agent. He wants to talk to me. I’m excited.
He calls. I can still hear his voice, “It’s good…it’s not there yet.” No writer wants to hear that. I ask how can I improve it. “The structure needs work…and I found myself turning back to remember who the characters were.” Oh! Devastation! How could I make those rookie mistakes? It was like it was my first screenplay or something…
From that point on I have been a screenplay skeleton junkie. If there was a class, a workshop, a DVD, an article, or a book on how to structure your screenplay, I devoured it. I became so gun-shy about structure, I questioned everything I wrote. Was I sure the structure was there? Was I positive? Was I going to waste someone’s time reading this?
Every rewrite was a page one rewrite, which is what it sounds like: scrapping what you wrote and starting again. I gutted my scripts.
Sketch writing interrupted my flogging. By the time I returned to screenwriting (a mighty almost year later), I had relaxed and gained some writing confidence and knowledge. As I reread some of the scripts, I realized not all of them were bad. Some of them I really enjoyed. Was there structure? Yes. Did I understand what was going on? Yes, and not just because I wrote it.
I finally learned the 2 real lessons of that phone call. First, don’t send out a first draft. I sent out my first draft of my first screenplay ever. It was my first attempt at a foreign medium; of course there were some rough parts.
Second, I can make my work sound really good. First time out of the shoot and I got read. I didn’t have a product to back myself up, which was my fault. But I’ve grown.
Instead of carrying around the fear of failure and embarrassment I have with that script, I’m applying what I’ve learned. I’m rewriting it properly and pitching it out of the park.