As I’ve oft-mentioned here, I’m currently studying screen writing at university. Which is not to say I’m not taking my prose seriously, but I’m pursuing that differently. Plus, there’s my interest in film on a whole anyway; how would you feel about me compiling a list of my fifty favourite films? Only, the Researching Cinema module involves a lot of “best-of” lists, and I was thinking of starting my own decennial list in the same the British Film Institute does with Sight & Sound.
I might do the same for Doctor Who episodes, too. So that’s something I’m considering. I’m not saying it’ll happen immediately, but eventually. But for now; this is what I’m calling my Writer’s Diary, in-which I share things I’ve recently written.
While I may be working on a novel, I won’t share that until it’s published, because I don’t want to make any false promises about it. But it’s the greatest novel ever written, though. A fine piece of classical English literature. On this, the initial entry in my Writer’s Diary, the writing in question is a screenplay called The Ghost in the Snow.
This was part of the Introduction to Screenwriting [sic] module, and took about five weeks to write after six weeks of story treatment and revision. Every week we’d workshop the scripts that were submitted. So that’s one draft every week for five weeks. And that’s a lot of rewriting.
But I’m glad I got the opportunity to do it, because each draft was better than the previous as a result of feedback from the readers – who were the other screenwriters – and the script editor, who was our lecturer, Adam J. Marsh, who wrote the screenplay for Devil’s Tower. The white draft was submitted 14:00 17 November. Running just eleven pages (four pages under the fifteen page commission), it spent too much time establishing the numerous residents of the village that there wasn’t enough time to develop the plot, which was contrived and written for its own convenience. The problem: I didn’t understand the characters enough to justify their actions.
So that brings us onto the blue draft. This is by far the worst of them all. Having recently discovered a number of films featuring great, character-driven dialogue, I wanted to try that out for myself and instead zoomed-in on a particular element of the white draft – that is to say, should the character then-named Muhammad help Molly, given the circumstances? The script, therefore, functioned as a nine-page(!) screenplay working as a single scene in-which they both debate the morality of it. After finishing it, I edited the dialogue to the fundamentals, which made it completely incoherent.
The problem was that I, the screenwriter, understood it, because I’d written it, but the readers didn’t. Adam described it as like a 1930 screw ball comedy without the comedy. He was right. The blue draft was submitted 14:00 1 December.
So, with a lot of work needed, I began the pink draft, which was then submitted 14:00 8 December. This was considered a considerable improvement on drafts white and blue and is where The Ghost in the Snow really begins to form itself as a drama, rather than a thriller. The reason the Introduction to Screenwriting [sic] module assigned a short film is because screen writing a good short film screenplay proves you’re a good screenwriter, because you can tell a good story through sparsity, and are able to work with limited resources. Which is why writing a thriller isn’t the best way of approaching it.
Everything should come back to the drama, to the characters. Genres are meaningless, they’re for the marketing. I’ll always describe what I’ve written to be dramas, because that’s the only genre I consider to really exist. But the pink draft wasn’t perfect, because it wasn’t going as far as it could in terms of the characters.
The plot was good, but the characters needed defining more. It’s at this point that Muhammad was renamed Jake, because calling him Muhammad sounded a bit stereotypical, and I wanted to avoid making the characters embodiments of ideologies. The feedback also highlighted the friendship between Jake and Connor – it’s as if they were a married couple. So I decided to screen write-into that for the yellow draft, which was definitely the most fun to write.
But that can often be a downfall for such a tightly-formatted medium as the screenplay. With prose, not so much, but screenplays lend themselves to an entirely different principle altogether. So what I essentially did with the yellow draft was to play-up the relationship between Jake and Connor. FYI, Connor’s description at the beginning was inspired by Evan Peters as Kit Walker in the American Horror Story: Asylum television series.
While I’ll only be sharing the final submitted draft, here’s Connor’s introduction, compared to the mental image I had:
After a script meeting with Adam, we discussed my strengths and weaknesses as a writer: my enthusiasm can often overshadow my focus on something and Adam told me of how I can often take small things, such as “these characters could be more focused in the script” and turning that into what was described as like an old British sex comedy, ala Carry on… This lead to draft the green draft, which was the penultimate draft of the screenplay. The majority of it was fixed, with the relationship between them more believable and less played-for-laughs. This was submitted at 23:59 17 December.
I then waited until the following semester for feedback and made a few minor adjustments accordingly, giving us our final draft: the goldenrod draft. This is the one I submitted to the script database at approximately 15:30. Honestly, there’s not much else to say about it. You can view it here.