So, before we get into today’s topic, I wanted to share a little background about Rick and me and how we started writing together. I mean, you can obviously take the shortcut route and just read about us on our Writers page, but that’s the Reader’s Digest version.
We both were writing short film scripts for submission to a peer-review site called Movie Poet (R.I.P. to this great site), where every month a different topic was presented for you to write short script of up to five pages (and no more). It had a very dedicated following and there were some extremely talented writers on that site. I still run across some of these writers on other sites now, primarily Simply Scripts, another great peer review site (and free!).
One day — April 13, 2013, to be exact — I got an email from Rick asking me to read a series of two page scripts he had written. This was to be the first of 1,316 emails (to date) that we have exchanged about scripts and other related matters (gmail does save every email you’ve ever written, I’ve discovered).
I gave him some feedback, he thanked me and that was that, or so I thought. After a few months break, we connected again and I helped him with some notes and story ideas on his feature “Taking the Reins” (FYI, producers, this is a great script — ask Rick for a read!). Then, in January, 2014, we committed to writing a feature together from scratch, and out of that came a great feature script (in my total unbiased opinion) called “According to Plan.” It took about four months and when we finished, we sent it around, got a couple of reviews on the Black List, and put it on Simply Scripts (it’s still there, by the way, if you want to read it) but I thought it was one of those scripts where we thought we had written this great script (we had), but like 99% of most scripts written, it was destined to collect dust in the interwebs of history. Or so we thought.
Fast forward two years, after we’d been working on a lot of different projects — I had a short film produced and had been working with a director on a rewrite of one of his scripts; Rick had two feature films and two short films produced — he’s always been such a slacker — I received an email from a producer in L.A. who wanted to produce “According to Plan.” He paid us to option the film and after some discussion, he decided he wanted to turn it into something completely different, much to our chagrin. Rick and I wound up writing an entirely new script out of it, called “The Journeyers,” and the producer is trying to find a director to helm the project. We’ll see where it goes, but the option is still with him. I could write an entire blog just on the process with that film, but it definitely gave me the idea for writing the blog for this script.
Rick and I have learned a lot about each other during the collaboration process, and the interesting thing is: we’ve never met in person. He lives in Pennsylvania, and I’m in Texas. We swear up and down we’re going to meet up someday, but life, as it always does, seems to get in the way. We have similar backgrounds, both of us have experience, past and current, as DJ’s, we both have experience in the legal world, we’re both into fantasy sports. So we come from a common place and a shared background, and it has made for a great collaboration.
What I’ve learned in writing with Rick is that we each bring different gifts and talents to the table. He very much wears his producer’s hat and likes to think about the cost of everything that goes into the script; I’m more big idea guy and like to think about story, damn the costs. Rick is pragmatic and I’m whimsical. Rick does great subtext; I wouldn’t know subtext if it bit me in the nether regions. Somehow we make it all work.
All that is to provide you with a couple of disagreements we had right off the bat, before we even started outlining for the script. When I first thought about this piece, I envisioned this great opening where our protagonists enter to this great 70’s song from King Harvest called “Dancing in the Moonlight.” Then I thought about other songs from the 70’s that would fit perfectly into certain sequences. This needs to be a period piece, I thought. Like “Dazed and Confused” (only better!). Rick’s response: Uh, no. Okay, he didn’t say it exactly that way, it was more like this:
“I don’t think it’s advisable. I’ve been watching postings for scripts and I never see anyone looking for ‘period pieces.’ Probably because they’re expensive to film and continuity is a bitch with what was and was not available — plus some youngish audiences will not know or appreciate ‘how’ things were. It works for adult drama series because they get an older audience.”
Okay. I get it. Pragmatism 1, Dreamers, 0. I’ll get you next time, Pragmatic Rick!
Actually, I didn’t. Next idea was the use of flashbacks to help tell the story. I also envisioned an accident happening in one particular way. Rick wasn’t necessarily keen on the idea. His response:
“Really, I’ve been trying to stay away from flashbacks. Not even from a producer’s standpoint of expense etc. I just find it ‘too easy’ — like you’re telling the audience to ‘pay attention, there’s a reason we’re interrupting the action to show you this.’ I like the challenge of a nuanced approach. Anyway, hack away and we’ll go back and forth. Nothing is carved in stone.”
A ha! I’ll take that as a “maybe” and we’ll call it a draw! Pragmatism 1.5, Dreamers .5!
We’ll hammer it all out, I promise. And I’m going to get a victory for all of dreamers here soon! Meanwhile, the outline is underway and we’ll bring you up to speed on how that is coming along in the next few posts._________________________
The further adventures of the screenwriting and marketing process of Lake Regret wherein Gary Howell documents his and Rick Hansberry's screenwriting adventures from concept, to the writing, to how they handle disagreements, to marketing the script. Reproduced with permission