Okay, my 95 page tight-as-a-duck's-bum masterful rewrite of ZvG is finished. Well, it's finished in the sense that it's 114 pages.
My first draft is always baggy and over-written. I direct the action, my dialogue is on-the-nose and even when it isn't on-the-nose the characters just don't know when to shut the hell up.
In fact, dialogue will be a major victim of my cull over the next week or so. The couple of scenes I've read back to myself, well, the dialogue is so bad it actually sounds like bad ACTING. I mean how does a writer put words on a page that makes an actor look bad before anyone has even tried reading it aloud?
I'm also unhappy that one of my secondary characters may have a more interesting personal journey than Titus. I start with the character as "subscribing to a silly one-God cult", ie, a young Christianity, but the emergence of the African gods by way of the zombie plague causes him to lose faith and blindly follow the lead of a corrupt senator without question or emotion (bit like a zombie - geddit? see what I did there?) but eventually repents and throws himself on the mercy of Our (his?) Lord before finding peace at last. I mean, it couldn't possibly be Titus's arc as the fat middle chunk makes him very passive, but it does feel like he overshadows what I have in store for Titus.
So, tone him down is the easy answer, but I don't want to do that. I want to improve Titus, get him up to that emotional level. I have some good ideas that will run parallel to that, but not sure if I have time to instigate it.
So that's my major fault list at the moment (and that's before even reading it) is this:
It's waaaaayyyy too over-written
The dialogue needs gutting and replacing
Titus is overshadowed by a secondary character
A bit of work to do.
Okay, that's my self analysis. Anyone else care to share their own pain?
I tried to keep as much of the original script as possible. The bath scene is pretty much as written in the original. Which doesn't make sense to me but the action scene reads well and may be very amusing...even if logically it makes me crazy. (Who chains people up in the water?)
The scene I wrote that is supposed to be an bonding and sharing moment between Titus ande Lavinia seems like it is way too much exposition.
I changed some of the sewer scene, but it mentions a cistern. Cisterns are clean water. Sewers are dirty water. They are separate systems. Not sure how much that bothers the movie going public but it bugs me.
I hate that in trying to stay historically correct the instigators get away unscathed from their actions.
I hate that I stayed with the original script but replaced the Coliseum with the Circus Maximus. But the location is right next to the Servian Walls so realistically it would be a piece of cake to escape the threat. Similarly the Circus Maximus is quite close to Palatine hill where the Palace was (I think?) So that kind of makes another scene (again accurrate) seem nonsensical.
I didn't like the names at all when I read the script originally but I thought it would be easy enough to change them later. But now I have read the names so many time they don't bother me anymore. It bothers me that it doesn't bother me. Know what I mean?
I empathise with the name thing. Hated at first all the "-us" names, but got used to them, so yes it's in the back of my mind that a first time reader will be annoyed by them.
I also took some serious liberties with geography. I have know idea where tge senate is in relation to the palace or the port or the Colosseum. I figured the audience won't have a map if ancient Rome in their pocket so didn't sweat it too much. In my world tge palace is simply "west" of the Colosseum. I think I got tge port correct but other than that I figured I'd change it via google earth if I had time (they do an ancient Rome version).
@Antony Davies if you made "the port" Ostia you did it right.
Myself I'm dealing with cheesy dialogue, a mix of overwritten and underwritten scenes. Some I literally spelled out ever action that would happen in a fight scene, some wound up barely above "people get killed."
The names bug me due to being bland and uninteresting but I started out keeping a few of the major names from the script and I'm trying to keep closer to the zombie movie feel. That's all great, but since I've also been ripping names out of history I wind up with a whole lot of -us names.
I am bugged immensely by terming my supernatural antagonist "Wild Man" but I don't want to spell him out as any particular god or demi-god and it's honestly the best fitting term.
Still wrestling over if my Titus' goal is clear, if my supporting gladiators should be arguing with his desire to stay in Rome more, if Quintus' goals are clear, if anyone will get that the "Wild Man" just wants to raze Rome to the ground.
And I'm still trying to churn out the last 20ish pages which should be the final fight between Wild Man/Titus surrounded by a burning Rome. One of the hard parts on that is how do I properly hint at Mars' divine intervention without having him just walk up and hand Titus a sword, but at the same time not leaving it so "subtle" (read:absent) that no one thinks "could that have been Mars pitching in?"
yeah... whee, next couple days are mostly free, time for a writathon weekend.
Blah so many typos in that, wish I could edit posts.
By "keeping closer to zombie movie feel" I meant keeping a low named character count. There's a bunch of soldiers X who show up at various points in the script but so far I have a whole 8 named characters making an appearance including antagonists and one of the gladiators that I murder in the first fight against zombies.
Wow, it's like you read mine. I need to ignore my current problems and get to "fade out." Then I can go back and fix things.
My major fault list at the moment is this:
Too much exposition
Low hero's arc
I've weakened Lavinia too much
laughable dialog in places
20 page more to write
40 pages too long
Lots of work.
On the good side I'm happy with:
my opening sequence
my Zombie creation method
my villian and my plan for his destruction
my story (but with too much exposition)
my humorous additions
my time period in actual history is followed by a banning of Senators from forming armies, the construction of a gate in the Servian Wall is named after my emperor (who plays a hero role of sorts in mine with a showdown occuring at the gate), several attempted coops during his reign and a mysterious death of a large portion of the population (although that happens a little after, oh well).
So lots of good, but still way too much to do.
Oh and, is anyone else's expository dialog to explain the villian's part in the outbreak coming out like a bad episode of Scooby-doo?
"Zoinks Scooby, Old Man Flavius caused the outbreak of zombies to try and Kill the gladiators..."
Okay I'm exagerating, but that's what I keep thinking when I read through mine.
Damn! You mean it's not supposed to sound like that?
Fade out: 123 pages and it will be tough to get it down to 110.
@David Dorrel - my dialogue is more like a school play that the kids wrote themselves. Or pigdin Shakespeare.
"He shall NOT rule Rome. We will not fail."
Oh, and hang on. What's the difference between the Suvian Walls and the Aurellian Walls?
Guess me and Google and Wikipedia will be spending done time together this weekend.
Ohhh, Servian wall pre-dates the Aurellian. I'm okay using Aurellian. And therefore also okay inventing a battalion of troops called the Aurellian Guard, right? I got bored calling people "soldiers" and "troops".
The legion in Rome was known as the Praetorian Guard. They were the elite soldiers of the empire and served as honor guard for senators and Emperors alike. They also had enough political pull to murder emperors and instill new ones including straight out selling the throne at one point.
And best part is they exist in an important role until about 284 finally disbanding in 312.
Actually my "the villain's motivation" dialogue was less Scooby doo, more Bond Villain.
"No Titus, I expect you to die. Now I'm going to leave you in this room with one criminally inept guard while I carry out my complicated but lengthily explained plan! muahahahahahaha"
Down from 114.
Now... can I hit the magic 100?
Nothing wrong with 105. In fact, that actually seems a more appropriate page-count for this kinda story than 100 does.
I'm at 121 down from 130 (the first draft). It's a page one rewrite but I kept some structure (in the middle) so the scene locations are the same but everything contained in then is changed.
I'm really happy with this draft and don't know how much more I can trim. I wanted to be around 110 but some great things evolved including a really cool ending that wasn't planned.
I think I'm going to continue to polish and make it better all the way up to the deadline - might as well use all the time given to us.
I'm also thinking of doing a dialogue track because it helps to trim and edit when hearing it read out loud so I'd be killing two birds with one stone! (smile).
Anyone else thinking of a dialogue track for theirs?
I agree with Adam, 105 is a really solid length. I'm sixty pages into my rewrite myself and if I had to guess, it's looking like it'll be around 90-100ish pages. But who knows. I don't plan the length, it starts when it starts, goes where the characters take it and ends when they've finished the story. It's nice that AS gives us such a big window on length, at least with the way I write.
RJ - Like I said above, I'm not even done yet. I only found out about AS about a week and half ago. I agree, you've got another 10 days or so, polish away. As for the audio track, I'd love to do one seeing as even one of my action driven screenplays like the rewrite for ZvG is pretty dialogue intensive. Dialogue is meant to be heard (obviously) so if I can't do it by the end of the month, I'll probably do one anyway in the coming months and for future scripts.
I was shooting for 100 pages, and right now have 108. I'm pretty happy with that. Doing a bit of polishing and will probably post it in the next couple days. It's a page one rewrite.
I carried over the four gladiators from the original, but everyone else is different. There's still elements from the original of course. And I was aiming for an adventure movie over a straight up zombie flick. I think I addressed the issues given from the AS notes, making the source of the outbreak more mystical, giving Titus a compelling back story and character growth, and making the bad guy a real conniving SOB. So who knows.
I kept the names and the spirit of some of the set pieces. Act 3 is completely original.
I was aiming for 100 but the reason I'm trying to get it down isn't due to some arbitrary target I came up with. It just feels baggy and overwritten. I over-direct the action (nothing new for me) and there's still way too much talking, which means I may be overdoing the politics for a script called ZvG.
Perhaps I'll leave it for a couple of days before hitting it again.
Anthony I know exactly what you are concerned with when you say "overdoing... (it) for a script called ZvG." Several times I have questioned the artistic merit I've unavoidably been adding to the script. I've come to the point where I've decided win or lose I cannot commit pen to paper (or in my case when writing screenplays... finger to keys) and write a meaningless popcorn flick with no depth. So if "overdoing" it means politics in your version, I say go for it.
Mine has turned into a drama/comedy/romance/horror/action-adventure/fantasy that takes place in Rome. Oh and there are zombies. Basically it's become a screenplay that isn't limited to the confines of it's genre. Perhaps you serve your script best by keeping what makes yours different from what you expect the others to be. Just a thought.
Sorry I added an "h" to your name.
Okay I am down to 118 from 123 with less than 50 pages left. My goal was 110. It won't be easy to reach. I looked at every scene and only see the brothel scene that I can drop and even that has some exposition I would have to add some other way. Plus I like the brothel scene and do not want to delete if I do not have to. Which means I am left with just tightening and getting later and leaving earlier from scenes. Not sure that will get me close to 110.
"...Which means I am left with just tightening and getting later and leaving earlier from scenes. "
That's my strategy as well. I've been doing it more and more towards the end. I'm finding it pushes the action along, just so long as I leave enough to keep the story intact, so the audience isn't sitting there going, "Huh? What happened?"
I'm still in first draft. Coming to my big showdown scene. Still lots to do, tie up loose ends, ride off into the sunset, set up sequel...
I think I'll make it. I need time to polish, it's still tarnished.
I know you read guru and other advice saying 95 pages is about right for a horror, certainly no more than 100. But even disregarding that (rather box-ticky) advice ZvG isn't a straight horror.
I just think if 105 pages feels baggy with a number of scenes going on too long, there HAS to be a few pages I can cut. Ask myself, how does this scene forward the plot? Is the conversation going round in circles? Can those 6-lines of dialogue come down to 2? Or 1? Or a single word? Is it actually needed?
But if your 120 or 140 page script honestly feels tight because there is so much intrigue packed in, then fine. Django Unchained is 167 pages long.
I have shed a page or so by that old advice - cut the first and last line of dialogue from each scene and see if it still makes sense. About 50% of my scenes, I dropped EITHER the first or last line. Very true.
Also, dropped about 20 lines of action when they were the final scene, ie, finishing on the dialogue instead of someone "aiming a glare" at someone.
Pretty easy stuff.
Unfortunately I have had to add a few chunks here and there in order to foreshadow some things that happen in the third act, to avoid the dues ex machina. I know it's Roman times, and their plays - along with the Greeks - enjoyed invoking gods to resolve sticky plot-points, but I chose to avoid that.
I am so sure I can cut about 2-3 pages of pure dialogue.
Gonna print it out hardcopy and leave it a few days. Always easier to come back to it then.
I suspect I'll cut a lot, get down to that magic 100, but then add 2-5 pages back in due to the lack of conflict between the group in my current draft.
God this is annoying. Would love to have another month at this. A page one rewrite of my page one rewrite would make this tight tight TIGHT.
"to avoid the dues ex machina" - I'm so glad you said that and have avoided it. I'm also a big fan of avoiding "acts of God" to help move my plot along. Which is why I hated the ending in "Gangs of New York!"
I personally don't think there was any good reason to have the ships start firing on the city at the very moment that the fight (which is what everyone has been waiting for) is about to happen.
And then the way Bill the Butcher dies - lame. How about put him on trial and hang him after being convicted by a military tribunal? Then when he says "Thank God, I die a true American" it would have a different meaning, or he wouldn't have said it at all because he learned that America is more than just killing people to get what you want.
To this day, I believe the best revenge stories are still “Ben Hur” and “The Count of Monte Cristo,” because they both demonstrate an archetype where the hero transforms himself into another person, changing his entire life’s trajectory, to get revenge. It makes for a very entertaining story rather than using a dues ex machine.
To see another moronic use of “God from the machine” check out the end of “The Departed” when the guy shoots Matt Damon in the head. Terrible ending.
And to ask the question “did you think you were the only one in the department” – yeah, he did! Because the point of the movie was to get a mole in the department! If there are already bad guys in the department then what is the point of the movie… the third act is for resolution, lol – not to add more unanswered questions.