The good news was that my comedy monster movie had been greenlighted (received financing)! The not-so-good news was that the producers wanted me to relocate the story to America and, thus, reinvent all of the characters. Oy! I sort of saw why, and was sort of on-board, but was also sort of freaking out. OK, lose the “sort of.” I was freaking out.
Where to begin? I started with a must: someone from the original country must to move to America, bringing the problem (monster) with him. But why would he do that? To save the creature! But why? I worked on my outline for a week, brainstorming and tweaking, tweaking and brainstorming. Result? A mishmash of characters from the old version bumping into characters from the new version, like satellites competing for airspace. The story elements refused to blend. I went into the weekend depressed, knowing that, come Monday, I’d have to start again from scratch.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, I had a different problem: The previous weekend I’d pulled up a badly worn carpet, exposing a leprous patch of floorboards, and my efforts at sanding and staining had left them a muddy grey. For lack of a better solution, I sanded and stained the spot again. It didn’t match the area around it. So I started over again. After five times as much sanding as before, it looked (drum roll, please) a tiny bit better. I was about to shout, “Good enough!” when a still, small voice whispered, “Keep sanding.” So I sanded away the fresh stain and started over again—again. After easily thirty times the previous amount of sanding, I realized the floor was actually beginning to look like fresh lumber. The change had happened so gradually, I’d been unable to see it as it occurred. I sanded some more. And then some more. Then finally reapplied the stain. The difference was astonishing. It felt like a miracle.
A gradual miracle.
Monday morning, I returned to my writing with just one thought, “Keep sanding!” Instead of throwing away the previous week’s work, I modified it to bring it in line with the new protagonist’s story arc. Everyone extraneous to this was sent to character heaven, and everyone connected with it grew new motives. All of this, mind you, for a ridiculously over-the-top comedy. Because even farces need to make sense. Ridiculous sense, but sense nevertheless.
Three days later, I read the outline to my writers group. They liked it! Applying their suggestions, I polished the miracle some more. And then I read it to my college students (the movie’s target audience). They loved it! Somehow, ever so gradually, another miracle had occurred.
Of course, now I have to write the actual screenplay, which will, no doubt, require copious amounts of sandpaper. But at least I’ll have a coherent outline to follow.
Back to making gradual miracles.