Okay, bear with me, because I can’t give any specifics without risking contract violations and being hunted like a dog and shot down in a dark alley… but I’m rather proud of myself at the moment, so you get what I can give you.
I’ve been working on a teleplay (whose details I can’t divulge at this time… see paragraph above). The original idea was not mine, but that of a television producer I’m working with on a few projects. He recently asked me to do a treatment of his concept so we’d have something to present to the networks, and gave me his notes. But then he told me to “try my own take” on the show, and see what I came up with.
So I looked over the notes, and started to make some changes to the characters, in a way that I thought would improve the series. I came up with an opening episode that I thought would hook viewers, and started writing. I added some great moments to define the characters and the flavor of the series, added a few nice gags, et voilà: One TV script.
Happy with my work, I turned the script in; and a few days later, the producer and I talked. “I like it,” he said. “It’s got some great stuff. But you know, I really want the characters to be like I described them (details omitted… again, see opening paragraph). I know I asked for your take; but try it again, and change those two main characters back.”
Now, this is the point at which au-teurs most often like to say: “That’s why I can’t write for television or movies, or anyone else, for that matter… I’m not going to let them tell me how to change my writing.” And they’re right: If that’s how they see writing, they will never work for TV or movies, or any other highly collaborative mediums. I, on the other hand, am actively investigating the possibility of making a supplementary living off of scriptwriting; and this request was exactly what you’d expect from a producer. So I was up for the challenge.
I set to work, rebuilding the characters along the producer’s directions, but also finding ways to round them out a bit, and even to maintain some of the features I’d put into them, as appropriate. This required me to totally rewrite the opening half of the story, including replacing a few other elements the producer decided he didn’t want from my original story. But I wanted to largely maintain the storyline of the second half, which meant making sure my first half maintained roughly the same direction, and the right length to avoid making the whole thing too long.
It took a week for me to work out my new opening in a way that would hook an audience. I know that, if I do this regularly, I’ll need to be able to write a new script faster than that; but for now, I have no time constraints, so I just let it happen when it was ready. Because of the changed characters, I also had to add in some exposition and technobabble (hey, it’s sci-fi) to get things started, but careful to put in the right amount, not too much babble, but just enough realism and clarity, so as not to lose the audience I’d just hooked.
Once I had the first half, I had to edit the second half to dovetail into the first half and largely maintain the same story cues, but at the same time accommodate the changes in characters. Some of the scenes were easy, with either minor edits to some of the dialog and action, or perhaps a reversal of character roles in certain scenes. A few scenes needed full rewrites to better fit the changed dynamic between the characters. But I accomplished my rewrite, and brought my rewritten script in at 40 minutes on the nose.
I’ll take an extra day to polish it a bit; but basically, I’m happy with what I’ve managed. It’s one of the things that a television writer would be expected to do… and I dood it. Point, ME.
(We’ll see if the producer likes it next.)