Thursday, September 13, 2007

HERO TRIP then

The timescale on this:

August '05: I have an idea for a screenplay about a superhero and his arch nemesis who have to go on a road trip together across america to save the world, and having read that Sylvester Stallone (my role model in all things) wrote Rocky in three days, I decide to bash it out write it over a long weekend.

My agent at the time, the lovely Ginny, sends it out to various places, all of whom like it, but aren't sure about the ending. Because it just sort of stops. Like this: stops.

April '07: my new agent, the just-as-lovely Matt, sets me up a meeting with the British Film Council. I tell them about the script that just stops. Natalie at the film council, who is beautiful and wise, and (more importantly) knows her superhero comics, reads the script and decides that it fits the criteria of Things The Film Council Can Help With. It is like a vet who has been brought a kitten which is cute, but hasn't been fed properly and is thus a bit wonky.

I am assigned a script editor, Camilla, who knows about acts, and beats, and all the other stuff we were banned from talking about in the Green WIng office (and quite right too). The decision is to focus on the dramatic structure of the script, because if you get that right, the comedy will theoretically flow naturally thereafter. Also, there ain't no-one going to tell me how to write no comedy, no ways, uh huh (apart from anyone who wrote any episodes of Arrested Development, they seem to know their stuff).

April '07- July '07: technically, the film council are funding me to write two further drafts of the script. In fact, Camilla and I go through about ten smaller rewrites before the second draft is ready to go before Natalie.

August '07: Camilla and I take the second draft to Natalie, who has some Notes.

Now, writers are supposed to complain about Notes, but Green Wing Boot Camp taught me a lot about working with other people and how to not stand defensively over your script like a dragon standing defensively over a superhero script (metaphor breakdown there). In fact, the trick with Notes is this:

1. If someone suggests something that would make your script better, put it in.
2. If someone suggests something that would make your script not better, do not put it in.

Natalie (and Camilla) give good Note, so I take heed. Some of the junior members of the film council also step forward and shyly, looking straight at the floor, say 'you know that bit with the supervillain groupies? We sort of miss that bit, can it go back in?'

September '07: The Third Draft (incorporating Notes, and That Bit With The Groupies) is delivered. I notice absently that while the first draft was a cute, indie sort of thing* that was mostly people in silly costumes arguing about what to put on the radio, the third has laser satellites, a giant robot fight and scene descriptions like 'EXT. THE EDGE OF SPACE - DAY' (although it does have people in silly costumes arguing about what to put on the radio as well). It's like a proper film and everything, although that does mean the bit in my wikipedia page about it being low-budget isn't really true any more, and it's not really cool to edit your own wikipedia page, so if anyone feels like taking out that bit, I'd be terribly grateful.

Yesterday: I am taken out for steak and chips by the film council. I also have a glass of very nice Rioja. Draft Three is pronounced Good, and the next phase, getting it out to the right producer and/or studio, can begin.

And that, children, is how a script is made.


PS - I forgot - earlier this week, I read that Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky in seven days, not three. We can laugh about this when we next meet.


* Although that's clearly contradicted by this post.

21 comments:

Dan Owen said...

Wiki update done. Hero Trip sounds like good fun. Did you take any tips from how NOT to do superhero comedies from Mystery Men, etc? I'm imagining The Tick meets Plane, Trains & Automobiles myself :)

james henry said...

Blimey, that was fast, thanks!

Actually, I really liked Mystery Men, flawed though it undoubtedly was. But then I liked Elektra too - madness!

I was going for Batman and the Joker meets Sideways - but Planes Traines and Automobiles is the daddy of all road trip movies really. Oi loves that film.

Dan Owen said...

Mystery Men has a few good ideas in there, yeah, but that's about it. Not sure what the best superhero comedy is -- The Incredibles, probably?

Anyway, I hope Hero Trip gets made, if only because I think UK high-concep comedy is due a resurgence. Simon Pegg and Peter Serafinowicz to star?

james henry said...

Well I wrote the main parts with Brendan Fraser (who I think is a massively underrated comic actor) and Steve Zahn in mind - the story is look and feel like a huge US production (MIB, Ghostbusters and that sort of thing) - but with lots of british people snuck in on the other side of the camera. Thing is, it's such a huge project, I think studios would insist on big US names to get it made.

Yer Pegg is already doing an action/comedy superhero movie (the adap of 'Ant Man'), so he might have had enough of the genre by then. It would be great to sneak in some Brit actors though.

Oli said...

Nowt wrong with Elektra. It had sword fights and a bloke with living tattoos - what more could you ask for?

Well done on t'script... the process sounds mysteriously like fun. Where's the evil producer? The notes written in crayon saying 'More funny here'? Where are the clichés, man?

james henry said...

*makes note to avoid all meetings with evil producers*

kaiki said...

As someone who stands defensively over ANYTHING I've written - even a shopping list - and who cannot accept criticism at any level, I appreciate posts like this, which remind me that someone suggesting, however delicately, that I might consider making an improvement here or there is no reason to disappear into a big sulk lasting for days at a time. Thanks James!

patroclus said...

Kaiki: I'm the same as you, I get really upset if anyone makes even the tiniest criticism of anything I've written. It usually ends up with me lying awake at night convinced that I am not only the worst writer imaginable, but also the most worthless person who ever lived.

Robin Kelly said...

I didn't get Mystery Men at first but now I love it. I enjoyed Elektra and Daredevil too.

I wondered what exactly happens now with getting the right producer/studio and how involved are in the process?

james henry said...

I wonder that too.

The next stage is my agent and the film council having a bit of a chat and probably running the script past various producers, then deciding who's the best one to take it forwards - to whichever studio suits it best.

I'll be documenting the process, as far as I can, on this here blog.

Valerie said...

Having had my novel ripped apart by experts kind of cured me of any lingering defensiveness about my fiction, but sadly I get strangely defensive about things like business correspondence. I guess I have to cling to something...

Personally, I thought Mystery Men was just below genius and it is a favorite in our household. Sure, they missed some bets, but it stands together as a Greatly Silly Entirety. All hail the Gestalt of the Greatly Silly!

I'm quite excited to hear how Hero Trip is faring. Will keep a finger and a toe crossed until it's actually available on a screen near me...

llewtrah said...

Mystery men was okay the first couple of times, but after that it just seems too juvenile for my tastes even though I like the basic premise.

nanga parbat said...

I remember Hero Trip when it was just a first draft. I am *sniffs* So Proud.

*choke*

Ady Hall said...

I love those movies where the goodie and the baddie team up to take on the uglies! And excellent stuff that you have written a script in the ace 'superhero' genre. Plenty of opportunity for double meaning belly chuckles . . .

And have you read 'How to be a Superhero' (a how-to guide by somebody Levine, illustrated by Steve Dillon).

James Moran said...

I want to see this in the cinema now, please. Well done, sir, and don't worry, evil producers usually identify themselves to you first, like the evil hypnotist on Big Train. It's a legal thing, apparently. Stupid muppet cockbrain producers, however, will pretend to be normal, so watch out for those.

cello said...

7 days? Isn't that just a self-created myth born out of Sly's "I am God" delusion?

nursemyra said...

have you read "Monster" by John Gregory Dunne? It's his account of writing the screenplay for Up Close and Personal over a seven year period..... fascinating insight I think you'd enjoy

james henry said...

Don't know that one, will give it a try, thanks!

Stevie Newton-John said...

"Well I wrote the main parts with Brendan Fraser (who I think is a massively underrated comic actor) and Steve Zahn in mind..."

Two of my favorite comic actors ever (and I say that as an owner of George of the Jungle).


I will knock down old ladies to see this premiere when that moment transpires!

Congratulations!

Spinsterella said...

road trip, eh?

Will they have a boot full of extremely dangerous drugs?

Boz said...

I like janeane Garofalo.

Just thought I'd, you know, put that out there,