I’m in the middle of reading Chicken Run, Hatching the Movie, which is both a pleasure for the eye and for the (screenwriter’s) soul. Here’s why:
Very few people have any concept of how much excess material a screenwriter generates during the process of writing a script. Even producers usually haven’t an inkling. It’s amazing how few ideas, scenes, characters, plot twists, etc., actually make it into the final 100 or so pages.
Screenplays sometimes take years to come to fruition. And yet the resulting script seems so … brief. It’s not an eight-hundred page novel, or a gigantic Technicolor triptych … it’s about 15,000 words, or the equivalent in text of a modest short story.
It took you three years to write that? You want how much for it?!
Reading in detail how the Chicken Run story went from version to version, how characters came and went and how locations materialized and then disappeared again, is not just a fascinating and educational read for any screenwriter. It’s also confirmation that this is a perfectly normal process.
One of the most difficult decisions, especially for less experienced writers, is to cut or replace material you’ve become attached to. Partly for ego reasons (Hey, I thought of that!!), partly out of neurotic fear (I’ll never think of anything as good as that again!), and partly because it entails extra hard work (damn, now I have to go back to the treatment stage again!).
But it inevitably happens. A new, better idea comes along and you have to remind yourself the quality of the finished script is the only thing that counts.
So next time you hesitate to throw out a character or a scene that is holding up the story, or that has passed its sell-by date and belongs in a previous version, just remember it’s what the guys and gals at the top of the food chain do too. And be aware that the more you write, the more you write.
Just don’t throw out your notes. You never know when one of those old characters or ideas might be just what your looking for.
Oh and hurry up and order your copy of Chicken Run, Hatching the Movie. For some reason they’re giving them away for next to nothing …