Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Cardin' It Out Old School-Style

TWISTED is a messed-up horror/time travel movie written by Tanya Klein and yours truly, to be directed by LIBERATOR director Aaron Pope. For the last six months or so, we've been developing this as Coverage Ink's first feature film, which we plan to shoot this fall. We're pretty pleased with the script, but there was something in Act 2 that was just not sitting right. The script's only 100 pages, yet it felt like maybe it's running a bit long. But why/how/where?

We narrowed the issue to the end of Act 2. A certain ennui was creeping in there, a feeling of enervation. But in scrutinizing our structure, it looked spot-on; and every scene felt necessary and important. We couldn't cut anything without wrecking the delicate chain-of-dominos structure. That's when I realized that we needed to go back to basics. Time to break out the ol' index cards.

"Twisted" act 2, all carded out and color coded.
Of course, first I tried the index card feature of Final Draft. It's pretty cool that with a press of a button, you can have ready-to-print mini versions of all your scenes. Problem is, they're not color-coded (I always like to color-code my cards based on character so one can quickly see if a character is off screen for too long or hogging too many scenes in a row.) Easy enough to fix with markers, but the real issue is, FD's cards just give you a snippet of the dialogue at the top of each scene. I wanted PROPER index cards, you know, which list the important plot events in the scene at a glance. And so for the first time in probably ten years, I ripped into a pack of actual index cards (cutting them in half because they were too freakin' big) and carded out Act 2.

A couple things popped out right away. An important cutaway suggested itself for a character we hadn't seen in a while; another two scenes felt like they could easily be consolidated into one. But it wasn't until Tanya and I went over the cards scene by scene that lo and behold, we found The Issue.  Around page 70 or so, our protagonist has rescued her three siblings -- uniting the beleaguered family for the first time since they were taken prisoner. From here there was about 15 pages of them being pursued and then finally taking out the henchmen before rushing into act 3. Tanya quickly sussed out that we don't need any of that. With one fell swoop, six index cards went away. We cut right from the reunification scene to the siblings taking out the henchmen. It worked perfectly. That cut probably saved us thousands and lopped a couple days off the schedule. And when you're shooting the thing yourself, that's important as hell. But even better, we solved the problem that had been bugging everyone and kept our intensity level high right into the end of the second act.

Sometimes I think when you've been doing this for a while, you kinda start to think you know everything. "Yeah, I know structure; I know the Save the Cat! beat sheet, I know the UCLA method and Writer's Journey/Joseph Campbell and blah blah blah..." You think you can take shortcuts. But when push comes to shove, some damn index cards and markers got it done where two smart writers who know all this stuff backwards and forwards could not.

Deal the cards, my friends!

--Jim C.

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