After the preliminary script reading: Rewriting the screenplay for the better

Well, after listening to the 22-minute audio recording of the script reading of the sitcom I’m developing, I came to two cruel-reality realizations:

  1. I can write better; and,
  2. I can direct better.

No worries, though, because, well, there is no spoon.

And just what the heck does that mean? It means the craft of screenwriting is not unlike the realm of “The Matrix,” where what seems real may actually be an illusion — and this includes letting the audience reaction — or lack of reaction — dictate what you change in the rewrite process.

In short, you have to trust your instinct — at least, in part.

Who knows the story better than you, the writer/creator? Just because the audience didn’t react to something you know is critical to your story doesn’t mean it “doesn’t work.” The problem, in fact, could lie in the way you wrote or directed the scene, or perhaps the action or line of dialogue should be assigned to a different character, or rephrased.

(Note: This is part of a series of posts about my sitcom development process in preparation for a free staged script reading Aug. 1, 2011.)

Because writers like to write, writers write more than writers need to write. Don’t deny it, just accept it, and accept the fact that it’s time to refine some of that overwriting because, at the end of the day, the audience will thank you for it — even if they don’t understand why they’re thanking you. The ultimate goal is to deliver a crisp read that producers will enjoy reading and to create well-defined characters actors will enjoy portraying.

For the rewrite of my pilot episode, as well as the continual development of my overall sitcom idea, I’m not only using the audience reaction as a guide, but also the actors’ interpretations of what I’ve written. If what’s written on the page lacks clarity, an actor will have too many directions from which to choose, and specificity is the key to well-defined characters and well-written dialogue and action. What’s the purpose of a given action? What’s the point of a given line of dialogue? These are the things that must be top-of-mind to craft a script into entertaining shape.

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