In my last post, I discussed how, although we had a feature length script for our then untitled Bigfoot film, we were only in the beginning of what would be a long, stressful journey to actually filming something we’d both be happy with. The first draft was enough to get everyone psyched to work on the project, but for Tyler and I it was incomplete. Now, we began the hard work of rewriting the draft in a way that blended our creative differences and not destroy our working relationship at the same time…
I briefly touched on all the drafts, but after talking to Tyler, I feel that Draft 2 and Drafts 3 & 4 deserve more detailed accounts. This process was more involved and more difficult than anything we’d ever done before. Part of the reason, I think was the way it evolved. In the past, particularly with our work on the script for Consumed, Tyler and I tended to do a lot of talking and fleshing out of ideas before pen was put to paper, or rather finger to keyboard. We took a lot of time and effort to ensure that we were both in sync on the themes and tone of the story. That was a particularly complex and odd story to work through, and it took a lot more effort on my part to get into Tyler’s head and figure out what he was looking for.
With the first draft, having already worked through and abandoned Tyler’s darker, Bigfootless version, I was left to my own devices to write what I felt a Bigfoot movie should be, while making assumptions about what Tyler would like. I used the Hero’s Journey as a guide and took many of the horrory elements of the Tyler outline and meshed them in. The result was a script that read and felt like movie, which got us both excited, but which also lacked any dimension and felt… set up. I blame that on my first time, generic use of Campbell’s paradigm.
So, Tyler and I got hard at work on discussing what needed to be changed. Tyler had a list of items that he hit me with.
- Tone down the Campbellian aspects. One of the dangers of any story structure, particularly the Hero’s Journey, is that it can be easily recognizable and, therefore, predictable.
- Make more of a documentary feel, not a found footage thing, but a more handheld camera, natural acting thing.
- Make the TV thing more realistic. There was much picking of nits over my complete bullshit portrayal of a television crew on a reality TV program.
- Along the lines of the documentary feel, give some thought to the idea of no written dialog. Just a detailed outline. Let the actors improvise.
The first and third ideas I felt made sense, and I got to work on tweaking and rewriting with those in mind. The second and third points, however, didn’t gel with me at all. It was the first of a series of arguments we would have. I could not see writing this script with no dialog. There was nothing inherently wrong with the dialog it had, really. It was more a problem with the characters, but I don’t think that had fully clicked in our heads yet.
The documentary thing I thought I could write, trying to create a more rapidly paced script; quicker scenes, more visual breaks in the action text, more rapid-fire realistic dialog, tinged with humor and sarcasm. Sounds just like a documentary, right?
Not really. I got to rewriting, adding a new opening which I hoped would satisfy Tyler’s desire for a documentary style, as well as a “ghost story” telling of actual Bigfoot encounters. I added more characters, almost doubling the cast, as both a means of adding body count (since this is a horror film) and fleshing out the television program aspect of the story. And, I put dialog in because, damn it, that what writers do with scripts.
At first, I thought Tyler was going to dig it, but I was not willing to show any pages until the whole draft was complete. I normally only do that with first drafts, because I have a tendency to loose steam if I start getting too much critiquing too soon. Tyler knows this all too well, and was less insistent on seeing the pages. This draft was a big overhaul, bigger than I’d ever done before, and felt like a complete rewrite. It was admittedly slightly intimidating, even though it was my script.
At some point, about 30 pages into the new draft, I think I started to have doubts. Not about the film, but about whether I as capturing what Tyler and I had been discussing. I decided to go against my normal ways, and allow Tyler to read the new pages.
Although, he didn’t exactly come out and say it (sometimes we writers can be just as touchy as actors), he hated it. Honestly, I think he hated every aspect of the new pages, that there was nothing that he found redeeming about it. And, looking back on those pages recently, I must agree. I think subconsciously I may have know that it wasn’t working, that what I was writing was becoming a movie of the week clone, versus something that represented what we both wanted in a Bigfoot movie.
Being the touchy type, however, and not being used to this level of criticism from my creative other half, I went on the defensive, arguing for nearly every choice I had made, and against nearly every aspect of what Tyler wanted me to include and to remove.
He hated the bitch producer character that I had added, the interactions between all of the members of this so-called TV crew, even the ghost story opening. In fact, Tyler disliked everyone of the characters, none of whom had any likability, nor were relate-able at all. It was not pretty, and we at what seemed to be an impasse.
This was actually a first, and a very concerning moment for us both. I was beyond frustrated with trying to make sense where Tyler thought this should go, and he was finding it difficult to convince me that my mainstream approach was making the script flat and without an emotional backbone. In fact, little did I realize at the time (I only found out recently) that Tyler was actually on the verge of ending the project entirely. He was practically convinced that we would never see eye to eye, and would rather not make this film at all than force something that neither of us would be happy with.
Things were pretty bleak. But, an even would occur that would cause us to rethink everything and potentially salvage the project.