Co-writing with a director

I’m on hols in sunny Spain, relaxing at my in-laws’ place halfway up a mountain in the middle of nowhere, the perfect place to work on script revisions between important sessions of poolside vegging…

It’s essential to have somewhere quiet to work…

I’m currently working on a project with director Jon Wright. We’re on a deadline to deliver our latest draft by the end of the month and we’re swapping revisions while I’m out here. This is nothing unusual; this script has been written in locations as varied as the Royal Festival Hall, the Sundance Festival, a friend’s flat in Whitstable, and assorted trains from Waterloo. We’ll write together, one of us pacing as the other types, or solo, swapping rewrites over email.

More recently, as the script nears the final furlong, the rewrites have become more focused. I’ll often open Jon’s latest Final Draft file to find it in 150% mega-large print as he scrutinizes the script line-by-line, and this perfectly illustrates the advantage of co-writing with a director. Jon is the guy who has to make this work. He’s the one who’ll be standing there on location with the day’s pages, surrounded by an eager cast and crew, each with a million questions for him, and if he has a script that doesn’t work then he’s stuck, and that’s no fun when the clock’s ticking and each second represents a fistful of dollars.

So he will take some of my more fanciful stuff and give it a reality-check, turning something that looks cool on the page into something that can actually be shot. The running gag while writing this has been me turning in an awesome action sequence and then reassuring Jon that it’ll be a doddle to film. He somehow resists the urge to thump me and we then work together on knocking it into shape, breaking it down into set-ups, and trimming the dialogue down as far as it will go.

I love co-writing. Movie-making is a collaborative process and any screenwriter who wails about actors and directors changing their script should perhaps consider writing novels instead. But more than anything I would recommend writing with an experienced director; it’s an incredible learning curve, rooted in the realities of day-to-day film-making. If you get the chance take it!

PS. Bear in mind that Jon has been writing this during the post-production and release of his latest film GRABBERS. It has a wicked script by the mighty Kevin Lehane and is on release in Ireland on Aug 10th, at Frightfest later this month and in the UK later this year.

Check out the trailer…

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Published by

MarkStayWrites

Author, screenwriter, and co-founder of the Bestseller Experiment podcast.

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