Writing a film script is nothing like writing a book. I put together what I thought was a film script for Not Your Heart Away in a month when I saw an advert on the BBC Writers Room website back in March.
It’s not just that most of the descriptions of things are redundant. In a book you can spend pages talking about a sunset, or a cup of coffee, but you know that when (obviously you have to think ‘when’ not ‘if’) you see them on the screen both of them put together will be under a minute, and how they look is none of your business as a writer. Same with clothes, same with cars, buildings – all of that atmosphere is pretty much down to the director. If you’ve got any doubts about that go and watch Bladerunner, then read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
I’ve done a couple of TV scripts, but it’s a long stretch from half-hour subscription channel training programme to a full-length feature film so I did the only thing I could think of doing: put the whole book down as a film, then cut. And cut. And cut. The target is about 150 pages maximum. The first draft came in at about 320.
Luckily I only had to send the first ten pages to the BBC, but that was about as far as I thought it would go. A week later Cascade Pictures, true to their word, emailed to say that they’d capped the entries to 150 scripts. And mine was one they’d like me to go and pitch to them.
I thought exactly what you’d think: wind-up. But it wasn’t. I checked. You get ten minutes flat to sell them the idea from popcorn to Kia-ora drink. My first pitch and it went ok. The very first studio I ever pitched with my very first film-script didn’t option it. I know. How rubbish is that?
But the Amazon reviews are coming in for the book and people are talking about it, even arguing about it in some cases. I’d described the film as Four Weddings Meets The Others after I changed the ending; it’s much sadder, much spookier in the film. And got howls of outrage. Not about changing the ending, but because one of my pitch advisers thought it was much more The English Patient than Four Weddings.
But anyway. Cascade felt there was a gap in my narrative arc, but someone described what it doesn’t seem stretching it now to call ‘the property’ to someone else who thought maybe they could point it at another studio. Shouldn’t be a problem if the script’s finished. No promises, obviously.
So that’s my priority, aside from learning Spanish and getting a brass mouthpiece for my sax without any money. Hack another hundred pages off it. It’s going ok, but I can only do it in short bursts. Easy really.
So long as we can get Kristin Scott Thomas for Claire’s mum it’ll be fine.