To my own amazement, I wrote seventeen pages of my TV pilot script yesterday and finished it. Phew. No matter what happens over the next two weeks, I've got something can hand in at the end of the month to complete my MA screenwriting course. One week earlier, I hadn't written one page of script, now I've got a 60-page first draft. I've been talking a good talk about how devoting so much time to prep work makes the process of writing the first draft so much easier and, it seems, I was right. It was easy.
I'd taken so many of the structural decision agonies out of the equation, they never impinged on my writing. My scene by scene breakdown was guilty of a classic soap mistake - dividing sequences into too scenes and intercutting with too many scenes from other sequences - but I fixed much of that in the writing. I knew my characters so well, I could tell instinctively how they would react. Even then, they managed to surprise, taking on a life of their own.
When Giuseppe was introduced to a police constable, he gave the newcomer a hug instead of shaking his hand. When he was wronged, it was Giuseppe who was first to forgive. His wife Violetta showed herself to have a lot more bottle than was evident from my prep work. Both she and her counterpart in the Douglas clan of Scottish Protestants were smarter than I'd given them credit for. Seventeen-year-old Isabella is quite the imp.
Duff moments that never sat well with me in the scene by scene got cut, scenes got collapsed together and new characters emerged seamlessly from the setting. I found the first ten pages the hardest work, establishing house style and relaxing enough to let the characters have their own voices. But the further I got through the script, the faster I was writing. By the end of it I wanted to keep writing, to dive straight into episode two and see what my characters did next. But I can't, nor should I.
Next task is getting some feedback. [If anybody wants to give me some Power of 3 feedback, email me here: david at davidbishop dot co dot uk.] Need to let some fresh eyes see this first draft, despite how raw and unrefined it is. Normally I'd allow myself a few weeks before giving the script a polish and then seeking feedback, but delivery deadline in August 31, so needs must. Paying gigs need my attention, so I won't be back at Mackay St in June 1940 for a week.
Then the rewriting begins. Have I made enough of the first cliffhanger? Should there be a montage showing all the characters reacting to the news that twists events into a new direction, or would that fight the style and tone I've already established? Is the storytelling too soapy, too fractured? Have I overstuffed the script with storylines and characters, or does it befit the dual family saga I'm creating? Could I make more of the religious conflicts, the cultural divide? All questions for the future. I've been writing seven days straight. I'm having today off.