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12/02/2003 Archived Entry: "Working on a movie script"

AFTER "INNOCENTS BETRAYED" CAME OUT, I GOT A REAL HOLLYWOOD-TYPE MOVIE SCRIPT TO WORK ON. Like all scripts, this one's a long-shot gamble. The chances of any script getting to production stage are only slightly better than the chances of an honest man getting elected to Congress. For every movie, there are hundreds and hundreds of hopeful, eventually abandoned scripts -- some of which might even be good. Can't get too excited yet.

Nevertheless, it's a stone thrill to work on this.

My job isn't to write from scratch. It's to take a script someone else drafted -- a script that already has "good bones" -- and give it the creative equivalent of a tummy tuck, a nose job, a boob job, a chin lift, and a little surgical touchup to remove those bags from its eyes. Come to think of it, a heart transplant is also in order, and I'm to toss that in as well.

The existing script has an excellent premise and many strengths. Characters are good. Visualization is often powerful; you can truly see, and almost experience, the protagonist's interior struggles. But because it's a libertarian tale, it is (don't be too surprised here, okay?) talky as a parrot on amphetamines. It has plenty of scenes of people lecturing each other about laws, philosophy, and technique, but few scenes of people actually doing anything. It also lacks warmth. Characters observe each other, intersect with each other, joke with each other, but never deeply, emotionally connect with each other. This, too, seems to be a trait of libertarian storytelling. (What is it with that, anyway? Is it prejudiced to guess that that emotional coolness is related, once again, to the fact that about 90 percent of all libertarians are male and of NT temperament type and therefore more comfortable describing a gold-plated gun sight than ... [gasp!] a feeling? Ah well, but that's another subject.)

To my sorrow, I've never felt I had any talent for fiction. If I were to sit down at a word processor and draft a script from scratch, it would be just as verbose and stiff as the one I'm doctoring.

But it's a creative joy to watch this one improve under my fingers (and with wise input from the man who originated the story). I couldn't create anything like this from scratch. But looking at what already exists, I can see that bringing this character to the forefront adds poignancy, that deleting that bit of exposition gives a burst of speed to the plot, that that image can eloquently replace two pages of dialog.

Should this movie ever get before cameras, it could be good. And after years of waiting for somebody else more talented than I to write The Great Libertarian Novel, it's more than satisfying to be helping craft what might, at least, be an important little libertarian fiction on film.

Posted by Claire @ 12:28 PM CST

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