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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

99% And The Line Painter Dilemma

The progress bar can go to hell ya hear me!!! I'm killing this draft!!! It's either you or me!!!

I'm not angry with my screenplay, really I'm not. I just want to finish it. Being in the final rewrite stage feels good but also tense. It's right there in front of my face. The feedback has been good. I'm this (holding my thumb and forefinger together) close and I know it. I also know that it can't be a sloppy run through. It can't. So I'm being very brutal to make this a clean, polished screenplay that I can walk away from satisfied. The progress bar will not inch it's way up to gauge where I'm at. It will remain at 99% until I do the final grammar/spelling polish pass that symbolizes all is well in screenplayland.

This morning I read John August's latest blog entry where he lists ten things he hates about his own work. I guess if you can find at least one thing that you share with him, consider yourself in good company. This is mine:
9) WHAT’S YOUR WORST WORKING HABIT?

Particularly when I’m re-writing a script, I suffer from what my friend John Gatins refers to as the line-painter dilemma. Here’s the short version:

A guy is hired to paint the yellow line down the middle of a country road. The first day, he paints five miles. His supervisor is impressed. The second day, he only paints two miles. His supervisor thinks, “Well, maybe he had a bad day.” But the third day, the guy only paints half a mile. The supervisor asks the guy what’s wrong — why is he getting so much less done?

“Well,” the guy says, “I have to keep walking back to the paint can.”

The screenwriting equivalent, of course, is that at the start of each day’s work, one’s instinct is to go back to page one and read-slash-revise up to where you left off. Which is a very counter-productive habit.
It's truly a bad habit. You start to put more attention on the front end and the back end suffers. Here's a different approach; when rewriting, start from your last page and read your way back. It will give you a totally different perspective of your story. Things might take on new meaning.

Check here for all ten.

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