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.
10/19/10, TUESDAY – DAY 6
I can feel the ending coming.
Rewrites on the short film “The Cleavers” into a feature has been luck of the draw, in my opinion. No screenplay that I have ever written has ever come together so fast and as completely as this one. It’s even more surprising since this is not my personal screenplay, so normally I wouldn’t have as big a connection with the characters as I would if they had been my own creation. Screenwriter Randy Robinson has to be given credit for creating such a rich group of main characters. I simply took those characters and let them tell their own story allowing me to simply follow and document everything that happened.
Today is exciting as I allow my main character of MARC escape from captivity. My original plain was to have him escape and run away into the woods eventually coming to Blankface’s shed and them having an altercation but as the character of Blankface developed in my mind his story became more of a son who has been locked away and forgotten by his mother (although in the script Mr. Cleaver has a very active relationship with his son). When this happened there was no longer a reason to have Marc encounter Blankface and I changed the escape completely. I decided that Marc needed to escape and then he had to try and save Greta (his girlfriend who is also pregnant with his child) from the Cleavers. The story needed to bring these two characters together one more time before the end and it needed to acknowledge all the secrets between the two characters so that the audience would empathize with them before the climax of the story.
Changing the escape was motivated more by character and made more sense in the long run especially since I decided to have this be a huge scene between Mrs. Cleaver and Marc. Mrs. Cleaver, who on the surface may seem like a perfect housewife, actually has some uncanny skills with knives. Part of the back story of the characters in the film (that never comes to the surface in this story but helped me craft the characters) is that Mrs. Cleaver actually used to be a knife wielder for the carnival who falls for a military man (Mr. Cleaver) when they were young. In the scene between Mrs. Cleaver and Marc, she gets to show just how talented she is with a pair of knives and she takes Marc to the edge of death. It’s an exciting scene that prepares the audience for the final “diner” scene. The story having taken place during Thanksgiving I needed to get all the characters to the point of being on the edge for the diner scene which will be the centerpiece of the film.
I was extremely excited when I was at the point of writing the dinner scene but I decided to hold off on it because I knew that if I started writing that scene I wouldn’t be able to stop until the story was 100% complete, which would be okay except I had already written 10-12 pages and didn’t want to write another 10-12 just to finish it off.
As a writer, when you get to that point where you’re almost at the end of a long journey you can’t help but rush and try to get it done. What I wanted to do was give myself a night to conceive of all the characters and just how I wanted everything to come together and explode in order to have a very good climax to the film. There are a lot of characters in the dinner scene of the film and I need to make sure all the characters are adequately taken care of in terms of story, plot, and character. Character has always been at the forefront of this story and I don’t want to blow it.
I end today’s writing with the montage imagery of Mrs. Cleaver fixing Thanksgiving dinner all the while her guests are all about to collide for one hell of a feast.