The following is a journal entry written by screenwriter Kevin L. Powers as he rewrites the screenplay The Cleavers for producer & director Justin Sterns and producers Lynn McArthur and Cesar Aguirre. The following is meant to be a look into the process of screenwriting in regards to the re-writing process. Mr. Powers has contributed to the TFP Production Last Call (a vampire anthology) and has recently written & directed his film feature film through CenterSeat Entertainment.
10/22/10, FRIDAY – DAY 7
There is nothing more satisfying finishing a project that you’ve worked very hard on. It can be a simple sketch of drawing, the knitting of a sock, the writing of poetry, or any other type of artistic endeavor. I on the other hand write screenplays and most recently I’ve been hired to change the Robert Robinson short “The Cleavers” into a feature length film to shoot before the end of the year. I told the director Justin Stearns and producers Cesar Aguirre and Lynn McArthur that I could do it in two weeks not really knowing if I could or I couldn’t but it was a challenge that interested me.
Two days have passed since I last wrote on the screenplay but this is because I’ve been heavy into post production editing on my own feature film House of Secrets (being edited by Ron McLellen). My feature film is top priority but the writing of this screenplay has become one of the most fun and interesting experiences I’ve had in a while so I’ve been tackling both simultaneously while also doing my regular 9-to-5 job.
On my last day of writing I stopped in the story just before the climax and final set piece of the film which is the big Thanksgiving dinner. I knew I wanted this scene to run approximately 10-15 minutes long and be a huge reveal of all the characters so I decided not to rush this scene. I have a lot of passion for this story despite the fact that it is not one of my original pieces of work and I think the final dinner scene will allow for a lot of great fun.
The previous day’s scenes were key to setting up this scene as I’ve now presented only Mrs. Cleaver as an almost untouchable character. Mr. Cleaver has been beaten up by Marc and Marc was brutally cut and crippled by Mrs. Cleaver. Greta is left broken because she feels that there is no hope left for her or her unborn child. Everything for Mrs. Cleaver looks for the best until Mr. Cleaver reveals that he has invited the forgotten son Blankface to the Thanksgiving dinner which puts Mrs. Cleaver on edge. This is the element that puts Mrs. Cleaver on the defensive and allows for the tables to be turned and the ending of the film to be unknowable.
I really enjoy writing all the characters in the film. I even enjoyed creating the characters and CECE and RICK fashioning them after a fantasy I once had when I was younger (being a writer allows you the opportunity to examine the things you have done in your own life and those you wished you had done).
I enjoyed writing the climax of the film as it allowed me to finally get all of the ideas that have been bouncing in my head since I started the process out and on the page. Having no treatment or outline for the film has caused my brain to be cluttered with ideas and scenarios for this story and not knowing which of those would work and which of those would definitely not work.
Allow when I finish the screenplay it only comes to 69 pages this is a vast improvement over the original 30 pages and it will be close to producing a 90 minute feature film since there are several montage sequences and action sequences that will fill out the running time. I also need to take into consideration the rewrite phase which will probably add in several more pages. I’m hoping the end screenplay reaches about 75 pages which in my opinion will yield an 80-85 minute feature film which is my ultimate goal.
I promised the director Justin Stearns and the producers Cesar Aguirre and Lynn McArthur that I could have the screenplay done in two weeks and I accomplished that goal. It was an experience that I won’t soon repeat but I learned a lot about my craft and my ability to meet deadlines and work from someone else’s materials. These are but the many things I take away from the experience of adaptation of someone else’s writing by assignment.