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.
10/09/10, SUNDAY – DAY 3
On Day 2 of re-writing the screenplay “The Cleavers” for producers Lynn McArthur and Cesar Aguirre and director Justin Stearns I created the story around the characters of Greta and Marc but now as I get into Day 3 I invest my time in establishing the conflict between these two characters and how it gets mixed in with that of the Cleavers themselves. Creating this type of internal conflict is key to the story and the film as it dictates what is spoken between the characters and how not to mention what isn’t spoken (in terms of what we keep hidden from the characters themselves and what the characters keep hidden from others).
I’m not one of those writers who likes to say everything out loud nor do I like to have my characters do that either. Instead, I rely on what is said in between the lines and what characters reveal about other characters (and not themselves) through conversations and interactions and how they interact with others.
In this project I decide to make the character of Mrs. Cleaver into a racist whose life has to be perfect in every way. She’s a homemaker who cooks the best meat pies known throughout the county and she keeps a tidy home. The only outward problem with her is that she’s a cannibal. This on the surface makes her a pretty likable character especially since she’s like the grandmother that we all wish we had. I imagine her as that character on Desperate Housewives who has the perfect household (or tries her best to make it seem as though that’s what she has) and I twisted it by making her a racist which comes to a head since Marc is Mexican and I’m setting up the story to reveal her ungodly temper when she encounters a young African American later in the story.
I do something similar to Mr. Cleaver who on the surface may seem like a no good lazy husband but he’s all about family as he cleans up all the dirty work and messes of the family and harbors a secret fatherly relationship with the son that is kept locked up and away from the family. Despite whatever problems his son may have he remains the dutiful and caring father who will do anything for his son. These are the traits that I bestow on my two villains of the film.
It’s a lot harder to do this for Greta and Marc as their stories won’t truly come to a head until the Thanksgiving dinner scene that I have planned for the end of the film. I have no idea how that will turn out as I’m still putting the pieces of the puzzle together as I write. All I can tell you right now is that I’m now finding the voices of all the characters and writing what comes next is getting easier and easier as the writing process continues.
I have gotten into the habit now of as the day is finishing jotting down a few notes in regards to what happens next which is a good starting point for the next day of writing. Today I end with Greta and Marc’s car running into car trouble and them setting out to finding assistance and coming to the front door of the Cleaver’s house. I decide to end the day’s writing there as I know how I want to start the next scene but I want to have that anticipation of writing that next scene flowing through my veins when I next start writing.
Anticipation, in my opinion, is a good thing as it gives me the chance to take a breather from the film and sit back and assess what and where the story will go next. If I just write until I have no more ideas then I run the chance of getting writer’s block before I’m even done with the screenplay and that is a bad thing for everyone. This has happened to me before (and I have a lot of unfinished projects to prove it) and it’s just better for me as a writer to do it this way so that I’m anticipating every day of writing which is what I love to do and hope to one day do full time.