I was channel surfing the other day and I stopped the second I spotted The Dark Knight. One of my favorite movies of all time.
With The Dark Knight Rises officially released, I was definitely in the mood for Christopher Nolan’s version of The Caped Crusader. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t watched Batman Begins in a while and so I crawled into bed and put on the DVD.
I was instantly reminded of two things. First, Christopher Nolan’s brilliant film is still on of the best comic book movies ever made. Second, it reminded me of a page one rewrite the film inspired way back when it first debuted in theaters.
PRINT YOUR SCREENPLAY. START OVER.
I was in in college studying Broadcasting and an unfinished feature length screenplay was weighing heavily on me. I started it in high school and it was painfully obvious when I saw all the rookie mistakes. The characters came across as immature and there was a glaring plot hole in my story. Yet, I wouldn’t allow myself to write anything new until I finished it. This caused a problem because I couldn’t find the motivation to work on it. In those days, it was easier to just go out and have fun then stay home and write. Procrastination can be a dangerous habit to break.
The story was called Behind Max and it was about a high school basketball star desperate to find the support he needed to go for his dreams. When I finished the first draft I really rushed to the end and this resulted in a very weak final act. But really, the entire screenplay needed work. What I needed was a spark.
That spark was Batman Begins.
Christopher Nolan’s incredible interpretation of Batman taught me a very important lesson. It taught me to step back and look at my own films in different ways. To open my eyes to new approaches and different directions to take my screenplays.
I distinctly remember humming that unbelievable theme all the way home. That night, I stayed in, printed out my script and read it start to finish. I find you resist stopping to rewrite and tweak your script when it’s on paper.
Once I was finished reading the screenplay, I got out my notebook and got to work.
What is my story about? What am I trying to say? What have I said already? How can I say it better?
By the end of that night, I had outlined a much better approach to Behind Max and I felt alive. Things changed for me that day. Making the choice to go out to the bars was more difficult given the work I desperately wanted to finish at home.
Two days after that magical night, I went and saw Batman Begins again and it had the same effect on me. It was such a unique and realistic take on Batman. Who knew you didn’t have to have incorporate a high level of cheese just because it’s based on a comic book. What Nolan did was treat the material as if it could be real. A different approach and one that certainly entertained and inspired me.
After I saw the film a second time, I sat down with my outline and my old script and started from scratch. It took two weeks to finish the screenplay and I haven’t touched it since. It was exactly the story I wanted to tell. It’s still a story I began in high school and thus, suffered from a lack of maturity but I was proud of what I had accomplished. Proud to be a screenwriter.
Finally, it was time to move onto new projects. I have Batman Begins to thank for that.
Years later, when the DVD ended, I dug up Behind Max and read it again. Holding that screenplay always gives me chills. As I read it, I actually found a couple typos but it doesn’t matter. Writing that screenplay taught me how much I loved to write. I’ve faced many challenges since then. After a few down years, I’m finally writing features again. It’s fitting that a new Batman movie came along.