Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Calling Doctor Script

I had an interesting experience, although professional discretion prevents me from giving you all of the details.

I recently went to Blockbuster and took out a western I had been hired to do a rewrite on. We, Tim Ratajczak and I, were contacted by the prospective distributor of the film. The distributor thought the story had potential, but that the script shot itself in the foot. Tim and I were interested if only because the production company apparently had a former James Bond on board to play the villain. (He ultimately wasn't in the film.)

They sent Tim and I the script via Final Draft. (If you're a screenwriter and you're not using Final Draft, you're not serious about your craft.) I read it first, and, frankly, I thought the writing was really terrific. It was succinct and visual. It really put you in the action. Frankly, the writing itself was as a good as I had read in scripts by pros like Joe Eszterhas and Paul Attanasio. I read about twenty-five pages and called my contact and asked why am I reading this? He asked me what page I was on. I told him twenty-five. He said keep reading.

Two or three pages later, the story went completely haywire. It was way too dark and violent for their intended audience. Additionally, characters no longer behaved like rational human beings. There was indeed a great deal of work which needed to be done.

Tim and I were initially contracted to read the script and offer solutions to the problems. We came up with a detailed list of ten problems and their solution. This lead to a conference call which revealed that the production company was not excited to have us involved in the process. I felt bad. No writer likes to be rewritten, but, on the other hand, I felt we had real solutions to real problems. In the end, the production company said they would let us rewrite the script if we could rewrite it within the next seven days. Our schedules did not permit that, so they took our notes and went their way and we went our way. The distributor and the production company soon parted ways as well.

The film came out straight to video a little while ago. It was picked up by a good distributor. The reviews were very mixed, and seemed to point to some of the problems Tim and I had with the script. I took the film out not knowing what to expect, and I was happy to see that it wasn't bad. From the credits, it appears as if the director had rewritten the script and fixed the most glaring and damaging problems along the same lines that Tim and I had suggested. That was good to see. It showed our work wasn't in vain and that somewhere, somehow, we had helped the film.

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