Rewriting a short film script – a total reboot

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One of my ongoing projects is rewriting a 30-page short film script I wrote six years ago as part of my bachelor’s thesis. It is a ghost story based on true events. The interesting thing about coming back to and rewriting something this old, was in the way the script felt absolutely fresh and raw.

So raw, I ultimately realised the script needed a full reboot. The reasons for this laid in the length and structure of the script. Stories at this length are bound to be pretty straight forward: there’s simply no time for elaborate subplots. Consequently, I have a single clear protagonist whose goals and choices affect the whole storyline. And the problems in the story centered around this character too, her internal goals, to be specific.

Another major element that’s going to change to the next (third) draft is the language. The first two drafts were written in my mother language, Finnish, and this time I’m going English. As you can probably imagine, a lot of the dialogue gets rewritten. Some things are bound to get lost in translation. Being an educated Finn, I do speak English quite well, but writing something as creative as a screenplay in English is a task of it’s own. Luckily, screenwriting isn’t as much about word plays and linguistic nuances as it is about clearly expressed action and carefully constructed drama.

So, as the third rewrite of this story is going to be a total reboot, I’m actually now building things from the ground up. I’m killing precious darlings, brainstorming new story ideas, coming up with whole new scenes. There are different ways to approach this. Mine has been to create a sort of mind map of the story world on to a large piece of card board. This is how I see and visualize the story ideas all at once and I can move around with them however I want.

This really is the fun part. Bouncing ideas back and forth. After this it’s about mechanics, ways to execute the ideas, and ultimately structure the shit out of the mess I’ve made up. A clear, beautiful mess.

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