Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sound as a Pound Pt. 2

So here it is Kids, 3:42 am in Los Angeles, and I had to wake up and do something. I'm telling you that it's stress related. Lots of stuff going on here at the Secret Mountain HQ.

Anyway -- it gives me a chance to get back to telling you about the treatment for The Sound.

When last I left you, I had just negotiated myself into a corner by having to sell Velvet Steamroller on my take of the movie by writing a treatment based on the previous drafts of the script. Make no mistake about it - a treatment or synopsis or pitch is a sales document. You are selling them the movie, not the story. They have to see the movie you want to write in their heads.

So when I received the script, I read it and set it down for awhile (like a day). Then I went back and made notes on the script of what I liked and didn't like and more importantly why:

There were several characters who - while I liked them as characters - weren't doing much. So, I gave them something to do.

There were several attacks/attributes of the creature which didn't make sense, so I eliminated them and came up with a set of rules the creature would live (and kill) by.

I eliminated as much fat from the script as possible - dialogue, scenes, character bits - that didn't tell the story.

I knew VS liked the structure and yes, it was okay. It would make a good template.

What I was left with was the clay with which to mold a new treatment - a quick treatment that told the movie, not just the story. This was my pitch and it had to be short and sweet and in line with what these guys wanted to make - a scary, science based creature that comes out of nowhere and "getsya"!

This was a document that they could pick apart and mull over and I could do nothing to defend myself so it had to be bulletproof. Everyone would be able to tell if I hadn't done my homework.

Now inherently siutations like this come down to problem-solving. If you ask the right questions you get the right answers. I saw the problems that the folks over at VS had with the script, so if I solved those problems I was a hero, right?

So that was going to be the format of the treatment - I was going to answer their questions as the story progressed on the page. That way, I kept the structure they liked and answered all of their questions as to why it wasn't working, and more importantly how it could work better.

I showed them the movie they wanted to make. I invested myself and became the story's authority figure.

I started at the beginning of the movie and showed them how to consolidate the scene with another so as to show character and move the action along more quickly.

I followed the structure the other writers created and sped it up or slowed it down or twisted it into something new. The original writers gave me a lot of good clay to work with.

I showed them opportunities they missed and what it meant.

I gave them a conclusion that they weren't expecting.

(All in a very well-spaced 4 pages)

But, you're asking, "Bill, what if this is an original spec script that I'm pitching?"

I'll answer that in Pt. 3


Heidi said...

Perfect timing! I'm headed to Sundance and need to fine tune some pitches myself. Thanks for this.

- the book wort/one of Lis' unicorns. ;)

Bill Cunningham said...

Be still my beating heart...


CD said...

Bill --

Don't get me wrong, this is exciting, but are you going to be able to unveil that actual 4 page treatment at some point?

Bill Cunningham said...

CD -- no, I'm sorry, but until the movie is released, I'm bound to not reveal the story or plot details.

What I can do is something different though...

CD said...

Bummer -- but I understand.

Philip Morton said...

Very nice Bill. We're in very similar situations. Though I'm in oratory land right now, I will be asked for a beat sheet. I know it's coming.
WGA of course says not to, but as you say, it's a sales document. And writers at every level are asked for it all the time, that's the reality. Continue to kick butt.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Pardon my ignorance. My newbie roots are showing. But these characters you gave something to do... you didn't mean to imply that these were surplus characters and you found busy work for them?

Bill Cunningham said...

The characters were there as plot devices and weren't used to their full potential as characters even though they were part of the core group.

What I did was change their job descriptions and motivations around so that their functions within the group (and in the story) made sense and we could build out of that logical function instead of " we need the creature to attack this person this way, so let's make him a doctor."

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Thanks for the clarification.