Sunday, July 8, 2007

Re-writing v1.1

I have this old screenplay I wrote back in 1993 or '94 (the original idea started out as an outline in 1989 I think, maybe '90) that has received some fairly positive reviews from the close circle of friends that have read it. A producer optioned it back in 1995 and a production company once wanted to shoot selected scenes from it for a test/demo reel of theirs.

Over the years the one lonely printed out copy I've had has been passed around back and forth across the USA a few times and it's not in very good shape anymore. The problem is that the original disks that contain the screenplay are lost. Gone. Period. I've looked EVERYWHERE and by everywhere I mean EVERYWHERE. I won't get into it but I wrote it on an older Brother brand word processor which turns out is not compatible with ANYTHING and by anything I mean NOT EVEN THE BROTHER WORD PROCESSOR THAT CAME OUT IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARDS.

The only option to get the screenplay from the the Brother disc to a format readable by a Mac or PC was a CRAZY expensive conversion service. Not even Brother's on conversion software would do it. I was one version too late.

So, what did I do? I gave up like any sensible person would knowing that my printed copy was safe in my filing cabinet for me to type up later or make photocopies of or scan in and OCR.

Fast forward a few years and one day I get the urge to dig it out and start re-reading it. Only it's gone. The folder which held the script is still there, the notes and reviews from friends are there but the actual screenplay is goners.

To make a VERY long story short the friend who had it said he didn't, I didn't know where it was until one day it shows up in the mail. My friend found it about a year and change after me asking about it. Yays!

(as a side note, I have a TON of things I've written on that old Brother WP, only the disk drive in the thing is on the fritz so one day -actually I should do this now that I have a HD Video Camera- I'm going to pop the discs in, and if they read, scroll one screen at a time while I record the WP's screen with a video camera so I at least have THAT. Guh. That's a weird thought, editing my writing in Final Cut Pro...)

So once it was in my hands I decided not only to make a copy of it but do it by hand because after all these years it was still, literally, the first draft. Sure, I'd re-written some scenes and dialogue here and there when I initially wrote the thing longhand (yes longhand) before typing it up that first time but what I typed in that first time is what it remained for all those years. I wanted to update it.

That was the key for me, an epiphany of sorts: update. I'm a geek, I'll admit. I LOVE updating software and firmware, LOVE IT. So being the person that I am, dreading any re-writes at all I decided that I'm not re-writing I'm updating, I'm improving, I'm making better. I'm updating the engine under the hood that tells the story. And the first step was to give my screenplay a version number...v1.0.

Just looking at that number made me want to update it so it read something terribly exciting like v1.1 or even v2.0. I decided to go conventional and say that any changes I did while typing it up would bump it up to v1.1. So I began typing it in. Over the course of typing it into my shiny brand new word processor (which exports as a plain text file if I want so it's compatible in the future with just about everything, screw Brother...) I noticed little lines of dialogue here and there which would be improved or fleshed out, bits of description which could be more descriptive and so on. As I got to the end of the re-type I went back to the cover page and happily typed in "v1.1." Woot!

I'll get to another post another day about re-writes in general but for me that's how I look at them. Where once I used to DREAD the mere thought of going back and re-visiting these events, places and characters, now I look forward to it mostly. I think the problem I had is that it's re-writing MY work, rather than someone else's. I'd love to re-write more things from other people, that's a natural thing to like to do. But going back over my stuff, knowing all the sweat and emotional angst and stress that went into getting those words on the paper, let alone think about what emotional mazes I'd have to navigate to re-write it was too much to bear. But...thinking about it like software...thinking about it in terms of version numbers...ok, that gets me excited. Weird? Sure, but it works for me.

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