But when is a script ever done?
Short answer: never
Longer answer: on the last day of production
But technically: when the edit is done
And if we're being honest: it's also really hard to know when an edit is done, and usually you decide it's done because you run out of time, money, or energy
I'm at an interesting place right now with my writing where I have a few different projects at various stages, from super early research to "Is it done? I think it's done, right?". It's easy to identify when you have a long way to go with something. But it's much harder to know when you're finished. Because there's always something that can be better.
I've definitely met a lot of people who write one draft of a script and are all like, "I did it! I'm finished with my script! It's brilliant and totally done and now it's time to make it!" And I get it. That's a great feeling to have. It's awesome to find a sense of accomplishment. And when you've just gone through the grueling task of getting through a draft of anything, it's easy and super tempting to believe that it's perfect and great and totally, completely done.
But unless you're a total dummy, you know... There are always a couple things that a little voice in the back of your head tells you are maybe wrong with the script. Things you can easily dismiss or excuse because writing is so hard and because that draft was such a monster to get through. But how do you distinguish those things from just general feelings of insecurity/imposter syndrome? How do you know when it's really done?
I had a draft of Scattering Jake last year that I was convinced was my last draft. I was ready to walk away. It was a finalist for a production grant, which felt validating and great. The voice in the back of my head was a little concerned that maybe Kolby, the protagonist, wasn't distinct and compelling enough as a person. That things happened to her, but that we didn't have a sense of who she really was outside of all those terrible things. This is a big concern to have with a script. But I was able to believe that everything was fine and that nobody else would think that. Maybe I was just too close to it, and the problems were all in my head.
Well, I didn't get the grant, and sure enough, I had a meeting with a producer, whose main note was that Kolby didn't feel distinct enough as a person.
It wasn't in my head. It was real.
And it was a super bummer. Because I wanted to be done. Because I didn't know HOW to fix this problem. It seemed so fundamental. I felt like I had done the best that I could, and my best wasn't good enough, and I could never get this script where it needed to be. I was ready to give up on it. To just be done. To walk away.
Sometimes, you have to take a break to see things straight again. I did walk away. Not forever, but for a little while. When I came back, it was only because I had advanced to the second round of the Sundance Screenwriting Lab (wow, that sounds like a total humble brag, sorry... let me go ahead and tell you that I did NOT get in), and I realized I had to try and put my best foot forward in sending them the full script. I had to make it better.
I had a breakthrough then that really transformed the script. At a point when I thought I had taken it as far as I possibly could, I found that the obvious answer for how to make it much better was dangling right in front of my eyes, just waiting for me to notice it. Since that rewrite, I've done yet another pass, getting it into even better shape. And while I've gotten plenty of new feedback on the script, none of it has been about Kolby being too passive or not feeling distinct enough as a character.
Is it perfect? No. Is it done? I don't know. Maybe? There are still things that could be better. There always are, but I think this time those things are less fundamental and more minor. I'm certainly ready to move on to some of those other writing projects, especially that one at the super early research stage. Where I stand is that it's done until I start getting feedback as a result of moving it into actual pre-production.
And then, that will be a whole new round of challenges! Yay! (Anyone feel like funding an independent feature film? Anyone at all?)
Quick updates: Scattering Jake advanced to the quarterfinals of the ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship, and I wrote a new draft of a short film, Outstanding Ladies, that I plan to submit to several funding grants soon. (Anyone feel like funding an independent short film?) Maybe I'll tell you more about that in my next post. Also, I'm heading to LA at the end of the month, so if you're a west coast friend let's connect!