Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Turning Crap into Fertilizer

That's been a little problem I've had to think about over the last few days. I've been writing a mid-block episode for a series. The arc of a block in this show tends to go - aftermath of previous block - new stories - thickening - climax. So what tends to happen is the real slam bam story eps tend to be at the beginning and end.

The middle ones aren't what you could call dull, but they tend to be there to jog the stories along , but as is the nature of things you do tend to get the odd greenie. You get the first draft down and realise that the way the story is structured and told just ain't really cutting it. Possibly because you don't have enough story despite scraping a 30 scene sxs together.

This is where you really earn your corn. On a tight TV deadline there's not a whole hell of a lot you can do about story when it's already been planned out X Eps ahead and others are busy writing those Eps. So what I do is have a look at the effect of story. Is there another character I can bring in who has an interesting/dramatic take on that storyline that is flagging? Another viewpoint? A source of antagonism?

Usually if you think about it hard enough there is. And with a bit of luck they don't impact on the future course of the story very much. Writers down the line will erect a statue to you.

Now some unkind people might call that 'padding' but I think it's the opposite. You can get rid of entire scenes that were lying there like rotten corpses by the judicious use of additional characters with something to say in the matter in other scenes. If anything it tightens up the script as well as giving another edge to the story.

This is where a good script editor is also invaluable. Or failing that at least one that agrees with you. If you call and say this isn't working because of X but I want to do Y to fix it, you want to hear 'Go for it'.

If your instinct tells you something stinks it is generally because it does. But crap can become fertilizer.


Lucy said...

TOTALLY agree. Some of my worst ideas have become my best - and in fact, the script that had the shittest visuals, narrative arc, characterisation etc has become the best and most polished one in my portfolio. SO SOMEBODY FREAKING BUY IT YOU BASTARDS!

I thank you.

wcdixon said...

Great post.

Parameters and limitations can be seen as constricting, but I'm with you - if you 'work' at it, generally you can do a lot, or a lot more with the ingredients at your disposal.