When you conceive a great screenplay idea do you ever worry about how that idea might be destroyed if and when it gets produced as a film? How do you overcome the anxiety that a great idea will be poorly executed and go on writing?
Los Angeles, CA
Whether it’s an original script or an adaptation, screenwriters have every reason to worry that their great script will get butchered, mangled and ruined. At least in terms of plot and character, my hunch is that most movies were significantly better before they were filmed — generally, at the draft when the director signed on. Because it’s after that point that the compromises begin: we can’t afford that location; the actor doesn’t like that moment; we need to cut 10 pages for budget.
This is what sucks about screenwriting. Unlike a novel, a screenplay is not a “final” art form. However beautifully written, it’s essentially a plan for making a movie. And plans change.
Even if a screenwriter directs her own movie, it’s never going to be as perfect as it was on the page. Between the camera, the actors, the lights and the locations, nothing will be exactly as she planned it. Directors like George Lucas and Robert Rodriguez may use technology to nudge their films closer and closer to their original vision, but it’s never going to be quite what they imagined. For instance, I bet JarJar Binks was great on the page.
So, knowing that things will get changed, and quite possibly ruined, how does the screenwriter avoid creative paralysis?
You have to embrace the chaos on some level. Moviemaking is like white-water rafting. You know you’re going to get from point A to point B, but it’s going to be scary along the way. You’ll have to paddle your ass off. You might get thrown from the boat. But if you make it down in one piece, that’s success.
If you’re not comfortable with those risks, screenwriting isn’t for you. There are many safer and less terrifying literary forms out there.