Finishing a screenplay is always thrilling! 90-120 pages of blood, sweat and tears, and its all right there before your very eyes. What’s next? A vacation to Hawaii? Diving into a bank-vault of gold coins? Ideally, yes! But generally, no. It doesn’t take too long for that overjoyed feeling to be replaced with one of self-flagellation: you see all the mistakes you’ve made, the shortcuts you’ve taken, and the glaring errors in logic. Hopefully, you also see the potential of what you’ve written, the mini-strikes of brilliance, the kernels of something truly unique! Either way, it soon becomes apparent that, if this piece is going to stand on its own, you have to keep digging. As cliche as it is, yes, “writing is re-writing,” so you dive back in.
In writing Volition, we churned through a huge amounts of drafts — sometimes shifting the entire plot-structure, other times, pulling out set-pieces, and other times re-thinking characters and sharpening their arcs. After this intense process, we finally felt that we had created a draft worthy of shooting. So, what was next? The trip to Hawaii? The Maldives? Well, that didn’t quite happen, but we finally did have a draft that we could send to financiers. After various stalled attempts, we finally reached Paly Productions, and here we are today, gearing up to shoot! But, if you thought that was the end of the re-writing process, you may want to think again.
We’re currently going through a unique round of re-writes, looking at the draft from a very practical perspective. While, initially, our draft existed entirely in our heads. Now, it needs to actually manifest itself in real-life, and this means, we need to find realistic ways of achieving our vision. For us, this has meant looking to reduce extraneous locations, unnecessarily complicated sequences, and impractical set-pieces. Of course, the battle we have internally is by wearing both our writer hats and our producer hats. We want to retain all that is special and unique about the piece, while still finding a way to shoot it on a budget. Sometimes, we have to push hard to find creative solutions, but we believe we’re achieving this goal.
The next round of re-writes will likely emerge once we start collaborating with our actors. They will have thoughts on their characters, or thoughts on the way certain lines are expressed. We look forward to diving back into the draft at that point, polishing it up so that on the first day of Principal Photography, we’re in the best position possible. And then there’s the re-writes that will happen on set, and, of course, in the edit suite. But, surely, once all is said and done, that vacation to Hawaii, paid for entirely by our vault of gold coins, will be just around the corner. Ironically, knowing us, that entire vacation will be spent inside, re-writing a brand new script!
THE ROAD TO GETTING GREEN-LIT
Volition, like a lot of movies, has gone through many ups and downs to get to where it is now: ready for production. As we continue to go through our prep, we thought it might be helpful to other budding filmmakers to give you some insight into our process, so that you can be even more prepared than we were for the road that leads to getting your film into production.
The main gist of this story is (spoiler alert): don’t give up! Seriously, this project took so much perseverance to get financed that we considered shelving it many times. Luckily, that little inner voice that gets louder and stronger through time and experience kept yelling at us, “Don’t give up!” So we didn’t.
The road to any success is filled with so much failure. But this “failure” is just information. Along the way, you learn who you are, what you’re about, what you’re into – and what you’re not into. We had a few offers from some very exciting companies in the US, who wanted to make the movie with us, but for various reasons (casting, tone, etc.), it just wasn’t the right fit. Here’s what we knew going in to our meetings. We wanted to make an “independent film,” where we could stay true to our artistic vision – and live/die by that mantra. We didn’t want this to be (respectfully) a TV Movie. We needed to take a chance and go for what we thought would be the right fit for this movie, which is a genre mix, of films like Memento and True Romance. So, with all of those variables in place, we finally realized that we weren’t interested in selling the property for another team to make. Rather, we had to become entrepreneurs and look for financing. This was a drastic shift in our thinking – and, while it came with far less guarantees, it felt right. This meant, we had to create a business plan, a marketing plan, a look-book and pitch documents. We had to be the driving force behind getting this screenplay into production. With these “sales tools” in place, we knocked on many more doors, and, while we had some promising leads, we couldn’t find the right match for financing. It was around this time that we began to chat with Paly Productions – who are all about giving the artists the opportunity to do what they do best with zero interference. Months later, and with everyone’s signatures in place, Volition was green-lit. An overnight success. And it only took 4 years. J