Monday, July 11, 2005
A Rainbow of Disaster
In my continuing efforts to de-mystify the movie industry (in other words, to explain how things can and do go wrong so often), I present to you...
The Rainbow Script.
This script is a shooting script for a film the studio is doing in another country. In the interest of discretion, I will not mention the title of the film, nor any details. It's not really relevant, other than for the purposes of idle curiosity. The tale I'm about to tell applies to so many movies at so many studios, the details are really a footnote.
Please note right off the bat that the script sits in a three-holed, D-ring binder. Immediately, you should be aware that this facilitates the removal and addition of individual sheets of paper with little fuss or muss (What is "muss" anyway? Is it a word Madison Avenue invented to rhyme with "fuss?" But, I digress). Also note, if you will that the pages are colored. I will explain the rationale behind this in a moment. Also note (because this factors into said upcoming explanation) that it's not just one color, but several.
One day, a few weeks ago, we were in preproduction for this film. The "shooting script" arrived, on white paper. I've learned that the words "shooting script" are really never to be taken literally. See, you might think that the first thing one needs to shoot a film is, well, a script. You know... character, plot, some dialogue, a couple of cool "kablams," all laid out on 8 1/2" by 11" paper, to be used as guide as to what this film might actually be about. Oh, naive fools! You know nothing! Aren't you glad I'm here to divest you of that preposterous notion.
Meanwhile, the movie starts shooting with their clean, white script. Over the course of the next two weeks, as they're shooting, two writers have been hired to do rewrites -- as they're shooting. Every couple of days, new pages for the script began to arrive every day or so. Each set of revisions comes on a different color paper. The title sheet lists all the colored pages. So, each time you replace the changed pages with the new ones, you replace the title page with the new one. That way, everybody knows that everybody got all the revision. Little by little, the white screenplay began to be laced with other colors -- blue, pink, green, yellow, goldenrod, salmon. Now, there are only so many shades of colored paper in the world, and if the script changes keep on coming (did I mention that the movie was shooting? That's important, so I wanted to make sure that you guys got that), you run out of colors. Then you start getting "2nd blue," 2nd pink," etc.
Then one day, as if by a miracle. And entire new script arrives for this movie that's currently shooting. The pages are all green. It is called, appropriately enough, "2nd green draft" (it being a whole new draft, and green and all). So, now, there are no white pages. At all. It's all color, all the time. And the pages keep arriving. 2nd yellow. 2nd goldenrod. 2nd salmon. Salmon's pretty much the end of the line, colored paper-wise. So, now we're on 3rd blue.
It's a veritable smorgasbord of colored pages. And the movie is shooting. Right now. And the script keeps changing. Frank Darabont, who directed two of the best films I've ever seen, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile makes a big point in many of his interviews (including the Q&A he did in October, 2002, which I moderated) about not liking the colored pages. He has this wacky notion that, before you start shooting the movie, it would probably be a good idea to have a completed script. You know. Done. Like almost as if you knew what was going to happen in the movie before you started shooting it. That Frank. He was born in France, so he can be forgiven a wild hair. It's crazy talk. Way ahead of it's time. If it were to catch on, all hell could break loose.
So, what is our movie about? I really can't say. Not just because it's a confidentiality breach, but because, I really can't say. I have this general idea. But new pages are arriving every other day or so, so that could change. It doesn't matter, though. If you've been wondering (especially this summer) how it is that you keep paying $10.50 to see these movies that are so mediocre-to-bad, I urge you to look at the top photograph. Colored pages. There's your answer. A finished screenplay in Hollywood is a luxury, not a necessity when beginning to shoot a movie.
So you take a little blue, pink, some goldenrod, mix it with some yellow, throw in a dash of salmon, and what do you have? A recipe for box-office disaster.