Make it Better

When I grow up, I’m going to be in development.

Okay, I’m not. I’m going to be a screenwriter. We all know this is the goal.

But for the past couple days, I’ve felt kind of like I’m in development. For those unacquianted, development people are the ones who seek out scripts and develop them to the point where they can be good movies. That’s a super-simplified definition, but it’s not the point right now, so bite me.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading a script by David. I gave him lots of mean notes, all the things I could think of that were wrong with his story. Today I spent all day thinking about his script and his characters and their various intertwining plotlines, and I just finished a ginormous long email full of more notes, but positive ones this time.

This is starting to become a trend.

Because a couple weeks ago, I did the exact same thing with a script by Blair. I read his stuff, told him lots of mean things, and then sat on it for half a week before straightening out his story in my head and emailing him a bunch of what I hope were helpful suggestions, thereby causing him to remove the pins from his little Ryan voodoo doll.

I quite enjoy this process. Probably too much, as it leads me to spend two hours writing an email to someone and another 20 minutes blogging about it. I should be writing instead, slacker that I am. But it’s not only a fun process; it’s an incredibly constructive habit for a screenwriter.

Reading scripts that aren’t done, that you know need input and therefore could be seriously impacted if you come through with something intelligent, is a great challenge. It exercises the story muscles in your brain to be able to look at a story objectively (something next to impossible with one’s own work) and figure out what it needs to really make it shine.

I do this with movies as well as with unproduced scripts. Let’s face it: most movies aren’t that great. I can enjoy them, but there will be nagging little thoughts in the back of my head, telling me why I shouldn’t. In some cases, such as the movie I watched on Friday, the nagging is so great that I find myself actually rewriting the movie as I watch it.

I know only a few of the people reading this are screenwriters, but I’ll bet this applies to almost anything you might be passionate about doing. Watch other people doing it, or examine the finished work, and figure out what you would do instead. How could it be better? Do this whenever you have the opportunity. Just don’t be like me, and let it keep you from actually practicing your passion.

Ryan Elainska