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
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.