June 3, 2012
I woke up with a single intimidating goal:
WRITE… THE BIG SCENE!
It’s the scene I had to get right and it scared me as a result. How many other screenwriters share in my anxiety when it comes to the big moments? I was certainly nervous. The scene in question was crucial. It happens towards the end of the first act and everything depends on it’s execution. This one scene could make or break my movie. The pressure was on.
Essentially, this scene drives the action for the rest of the screenplay. It sets so many huge events in motion. I think what excited me most was the challenge. Nobody is calm before they face something they fear. You’re heart races. But there is no better feeling than pulling it off.
Here’s the thing… As nervous as I was, I couldn’t wait to dive into the drama. It’s an exciting feeling to finally get to the meat of your story.
So I got to work writing a scene I wanted to complete within 7-8 pages. I knew if it got any longer than that it would drag my momentum down. After my first pass, it was 10.5 pages long… Too long.
I started searching for ways to make it simpler and more effective. Slowly, lines began to combine with others. Others were lost all together. These types of scenes are always full of exposition and they’re tricky to pull off. I can’t imagine the nightmare adapting The Council of Elrond in The Lord of the Rings.
I think disguising exposition is one of the aspects of screenwriting I could improve the most. My second pass was much more entertaining and 8 pages long. I had reached my goal. It wasn’t perfect but there it was. At that point, I wanted to make sure everything leading up to this major scene made sense so it could truly deliver the drama I envisioned. I discovered that, even at 8 pages, it still slowed down the story.
My work continued…
On my third pass I had forgotten how nervous I was to write the scene. It’s always easier once you get your thoughts on the page. I wasn’t feeling intimidated anymore. I was ecstatic.
I carefully selected the moments I couldn’t bare to delete and rewrote the scene again. This time, I was more focused than ever and managed to pull it off in 5 pages. My crucial scene was finished.
I love writing screenplays.
WHAT DOES BUNGEE JUMPING HAVE TO DO WITH IT?
Truthfully, I feel nervous every time I tackle a scene like that but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I’ll never bungee jump but I assume I would feel the same way before the big leap. You’re looking down, unsure of what will happen after you jump but you’re excited to experience the fall.
The terror reaches it’s peak just before you leap off the ledge and you fly. When you’re safe on the ground you can’t imagine why you were scared in the first place. It was fun.
On this day I stared with a blank page. The ledge of the screenwriter. No matter how nervous I was, I couldn’t wait to experience the fall…
So I just… Jumped.
Ironically, when I finished the entire story, I realized my crucial scene still needed work. Actually, it’s not that ironic at all. Every scene should be perfect but the BIG scenes should be super perfect. (A subtle reference to The Matrix Revisited)
The most challenging part of the scene was making my villain believable. Until that point, this character is sympathetic and good. There were flaws and hints along the way but I really worked hard to strengthen the story so my villain could shine in that moment.
I’m bias but I really think I pulled it off. It’s a frustrating scene to read for all the right reasons.