GOODBYE MY FELENI: The First Read Through

You want names? They’re right here and here. … Um, yeah: more to follow, obviously.

So, yesterday was the read-through and…. Read-through’s are always an heady, anxious, butterflies-in-the-bowels kind of experience. You’ve just emerged into the light with a draft that you think/hope/pray hits the mark. You anticipate the joy of hearing your dialogue sing and await the inevitable praise to be heaped upon you from your readers.

This read-through was no different.

The actors reading their lines sounded nothing like the voices I’d heard when writing the script. (Disclosure: this was a cold read.) Holes that I thought I’d papered over sufficiently stuck out like… holes don’t stick out, really, do they? The dialogue did not sing. Arcs I thought I’d artfully sketched turned out to be just sketches waiting some proper writing to define them.

Praise was not inevitable. Warm supportive noises were welcomed. Carefully phrased criticism was taken on board. No tears were shed. No pride was swallowed.

With an open reading less than a fortnight away, it’s about tightening and bridging and articulating and… writing.

Development continues apace.

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: Shared Custody

INT. PRODUCER’S OFFICE – DAY

TIGHT ON WRITER, lower lip trembling.

WRITER

You’re what?

PRODUCER

Oh don’t be a sookie –

WRITER

You’re swanning off to who-knows-where so I have to deal directly with the director –

PRODUCER

Shut up and have a Chupachup.

The Writer crosses his arms. Looks meaningfully at a corner of the Producer’s desk.

The Producer follows the Writer’s eyes.

Beat lengthens.

PRODUCER

If I have to reach into that drawer, you better drop the tears and trembly lips.

The Writer’s lips tighten, then tremble again. They tighten.

The Producer opens the DRAWER – we see only a faint glow from its contents – as --

PRODUCER

(as if to a dog)

Who’s a good boy?

OUT ON WRITER.

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: The First Draft – Final Postscript

Recap:
 –  a 23-page working first draft of the script was submitted on Sunday (15 April);
 –  on Wednesday (18 April) an actual, like, complete first draft of the script was demanded by the coming Saturday (21 April);
 –  Thursday was day-job day, and was full-on, maaan;
 –  Thursday was so full-on that it spilled into Friday, duuude;
 –  Friday was further made exciting by having to wake up at 0430 to ensure The Goddess caught an 0640 flight, and lengthened by having to stay awake to collect Her at 2400 later that day.

Friday, I must say, for all its excitement and marathon-like/-lite duration, was a little frustrating.

Oh, and then I was reminded that:
 –  Saturday we were expecting seldom-seen relatives.

Forcing condensing three potential writing days into five hours can be an exhilarating experience.  I love it.  After the fact.

Experiencing it is another matter as the knot in the stomach gnaws and gnaws, your fingers won’t type fast enough – and they keep inserting typos! – and a headache tries to distract you with variations of “How you like me now?”-type pain.

But it’s not all bad.  Honest.  There’s the actual exhilaration – the fevered and/or inspired connection and transformation of notes-to-self into a story, the page count in the bottom corner of the screen clicking over and reinforcing the sense of hard work in progress, and the process of writing, throwing shit down, cursing as you delete, mentally high-five-ing as it just flows.  Five minutes to the contracted deadline, and you’re done.

One thinks, Gaw, that weren’t so bad!

Oh how quickly one forgets.

(Final page count:  33 pages.)

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: The First Draft – Postscript

The hours/days/weeks/months of radio silence that follow the delivery of a script never get easy.

In this case, I only had to wait three days.

   From:  Producer
  To:  Writer
  Subject:  Goodbye My Feleni – first draft
  Message:  Where’s the second act?

Ah yes.

The second act.

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: The First Draft

It’s not as perfect good as I’d like. But it’s got a beginning. And an ending. What more could a story want?

So yeah: I hit 23 pages five minutes before deadline, held my breath and clicked on Send.

The Producer can’t ditch me now.

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: Pages

15.

A measly three pages since yesterday.

But I did spend an hour negotiating a formal agreement that reasonably I’m happy with. There were moments that gave me some ‘Nam-style flashbacks but everyone’s still alive and still talking.

It’s late afternoon now and we’re entertaining in the banquet hall so there’ll be no more writing today.

Three pages is always better than no pages.

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: The Director

INT. KEEP, FORTRESS MAMEA – NIGHT

Our WRITER hunches over his desk, fingers flying over his KEYBOARD, head bopping to Charlie Parker. A particularly intense buzz of typing and he squints at his MONITOR --

ON MONITOR where a page count shows “12”.

WRITER

Yeah, baby!

His CELLPHONE vibrates.

ON CELLPHONE which shows “New txt from Producer”.

He snatches up his cell.

ON CELLPHONE – “You have a Director.”

Our Writer’s brow furrows as --

CUT TO:

FLASHBACK – INT. PRODUCER’S OFFICE – DAY

-- our Writer squirms on his KINDERGARTEN STOOL, eyes barely clearing the top of the PRODUCER’S DESK.

PRODUCER

Do you want to direct?

WRITER

Hell, no.

PRODUCER

Shut -, uh. Good.

ON WRITER as he stares at the Producer, a bead of sweat tracking down his forehead as we --

CUT BACK TO:

INT. KEEP, FORTRESS MAMEA – NIGHT

-- and the Writer’s thumb hovers over the ‘Send’ button --

ON CELLPHONE – “Wow. Without a script, too.”

-- then he thumbs the ‘Cancel’ button, before trying another answer --

ON CELLPHONE – “You are so O for AWESOME.”

-- then he cancels that reply – a DROP OF SWEAT splashes the cellphone and he blinks and remembers to breathe – then types in --

ON CELLPHONE – “Thank you.”

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: The First Draft

I’ve got two months until we open.

Working backwards from mid-June, I’ll have three weeks of rehearsal, leaving me with five weeks to write a script. But I don’t have five weeks to write a script.

Did I neglect to mention that there’re two readings in the schedule? Part of the fixed-and-unmoveable-deadline package. The first reading is two weekends from today.

I have no actors. I have no director.

My wonderfully supportive Producer has pointed out that without a script, I can’t attract actors. A script also tends to have things like the number of characters, a description of where those characters are, what they’re wearing, and what utensils instruments/tools they are handling.

So.

I flash on Writing fast is really about writing smart which means that for the first five days of my ten day writing schedule, I do a Game of Thrones season one marathon, knock a few outstanding DVDs off my to-watch list, and circle and circle and circle the idea of a script.

With five days remaining, I decided to —

  1.  rework something I had lying around; and

  2.  eschew my current timekeeping programme —

WRITER

Today I spent four hours working on my pilot!

THE GODDESS

(without looking up from “You & Your Horse” magazine)

That’s nice.

    — for something more goal oriented like a page count.

I’m six pages in and I’ve got four days to go.

Whoa Nellie!

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GOODBYE MY FELENI: The Producer

Two months to jump-off, I call in the few favours I have remaining in this town.

INT. THE PRODUCER’S OFFICE – DAY

Our WRITER sits on a KINDERGARTEN STOOL in front of a MASSIVE DESK, behind which sits his PRODUCER.

SUPER: “Thursday, 5 April”

PRODUCER

You what?

Our Writer kneads a CLOTH CAP that somehow appears in his hands.

WRITER

I uh –

PRODUCER

Shut up.

Our Writer looks at his Producer, his eyes showing equal parts fear and a desperate plea for help.

PRODUCER

Do you have a script?

Our Writer’s face betrays an incipient look of “funny-you-should-ask” --

WRITER

I uh –

PRODUCER

Shut up.

The Producer stares at the Writer.

PRODUCER

You’ve got until –

(off CALENDAR)

– the fifteenth to get me a full script.

WRITER

(whine)

The fiftee-

He freezes off a look from across the expanse of formica.

He notices he’s standing and promptly sits back down.

A THOUGHT BALLOON over our Writer: “15 April MINUS today (5 April) EQUALS -“

TIGHT ON WRITER – is he crying? – as --

WRITER

... Deal.

PRODUCER

Pardon?

WRITER

I said –

PRODUCER

Shut up.

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GOODBYE MY FELENI

I’m going to write a play. Oh, I’ve doodled in the past, I know, I know. But this play’s going up in mid-June. This year.

Why theatre? you ask.

Because I’ve threatened to do it a couple of times in this blog.

And an opportunity arose. … Okay: I rashly – foolishly, even – accepted a fixed and unmoveable deadline.

After all – all together now – How hard could it be?

Partly for an escape or diversion or some writerly time-out, partly to provide you, my ever loyal readers, with some entertainment, and partly to start building some profile, I’ll be blogging about it.

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