Artwork via Dor Shamir, Jeremy Spektor, and Tim McGovern

Exaggerated confessions from neurotic screenwriters: notes – part I

by Tim McGovern

It was 10pm and I was livid. Although, to be completely fair and equitable, I’m usually this way whenever Jeremy and I receive notes, and frankly, notes seem to arrive late at night, when people have finished the long laundry list of things to do and have nothing better on their agenda than to read over an animated feature. That’s what Jeremy and I are writing. An animated feature. We have suffered scoffs, shrugs, and the occasional cackle in the past when we’ve told other writers that we endeavored to pen a full length feature animated movie, but by now we take such judgments with stride. We’ve been working on this for over a year and we have come a long way.

When I first started work on this animated feature, the idea was a seed. It was action-adventure-comedy (any more hyphens and it might qualify for any movie ever made), but like a seed, it lacked direction. A seed, if it’s industrious, and, of course, well educated, will grow where it is supposed to grow, namely upwards. But in the beginning, our story could have ingrown, and become one of those pimples of a script, the kinds that once you start reading them you instantly want to explode them with your digits in a pincer motion. Our initial vision involved a trio of adolescent grape princes who lived on a vineyard that gets overtaken by a horde of marauding lemons. Naturally, the story about what happened beyond those narrative parameters was completely up for grabs. What kind of adventure would these three grapes have? Would they all go on the same journey? If our adventure involved fruit, about how much screen time would avocados take up?

It’s hard to abbreviate hard work in hard, concrete writing. Over the next year, Jeremy and I, along with some people who helped us with the story, were focused on making the treatment (a shortened version of what happens in the script) as honed and perfected as possible. It was mostly an internal process. Then, when we had finished a working draft of the script, we first started sending it around to people we trusted who were good writers, then good professional writers, then just anybody who would take a read. And we got hammered. We had to accept criticism after criticism, in unending waves from very different sources. Long story short, it was not very encouraging. When I began this blog post saying that I was frustrated at 10pm, I was referring to the final feedback we had received on our 4th draft of the script. We were under the impression that our 4th draft was our final draft. To be fair, we had thought our 3rd draft was our final draft. And our 2nd. And ashamedly, our 1st.

Over the course of our journal, Jeremy and I will be talking about our creative process. Over all, creating is fun. It’s inventive, imaginative, and explorative. But for the most part, it’s glorified infanticide. It’s taking that precious newborn you just created with someone else and throwing him/her off a cliff because someone said your main character lacked substance. You accept the criticism and try to move on as best you can. At 10:05pm we had started taking in the notes and making some well needed changes. 10pm is hell. 10:05pm is why we started writing in the first place.

Tim McGovern

About Tim McGovern

Tim McGovern and his writing partner Jeremy Spektor first met at The Groundlings School of Comedy. Tim originally hails from Long Island, New York. He eventually moved to Evanston, Illinois to attend Northwestern. Tim aspires to follow in Johnny Carson’s footsteps and one day be the host of a late night talk show. One thing is certain: Tim loves what he does and will never stop doing it.

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