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  • Writer's pictureBen Anstruther

Script Development

So this post encompasses all of the work I have done in regard to my script which, even though its too long at the moment, I am really happy with as we approach the end of the module. I initially was concerned about the feasibility of the idea both in terms of ambition/practicality and also being able to make a convincing narrative and impactful in 10 minutes but I think I have managed successfully.

First Meeting With Chris:

I think I only had an outline written at this point – certainly not a completed draft. The narrative had been devised based on my understanding from speaking to people within the sheriff court system and my own personal experiences. The idea was to have the structure of the film reflect how fiscals operate (at least some of the time) – impossibly slow to begin with until suddenly its race against time to get organised. After discussing this with Chris and discussing short film structure, I realised that problem I was going to have was that the inciting incident was too late in my story, arriving around the time act 3 should be starting.

Next thing we discussed was intention and obstacle – what does the character want and what is stopping them from getting it. Nina, the main character in my script, feels oppressed and unfulfilled in her job and wants to successfully prosecute the case she is working on so she can progress her career. What’s in her way are her colleagues – Gordon who is also vying for the same promotion, Trevor who spends his time sending vexatious complaints to trial rather than helping his co-workers and the bureaucratic system which she has to contend with.

I explained to Chris why I wanted to make this film – to make something that not only I would be proud of but also indicative of the type of film I would like to make professionally – he suggested that I should think about integrating comedy into it, especially if I was interested in making satirical films.

Second Meeting With Chris:

A first draft was halfway done, I was struggling with the amount of exposition I had and needed to have. I knew it was going to be dialogue driven but that doesn’t excuse over-explanation. Still it was nice I didn’t have to write using subtext.

It was important for me to establish what my film was really about. What was the overall theme and what did I really want to say? The film is fundamentally about someone trying to overcome an impossible situation, it has a slight underdog narrative to it, and is a look at all the issues that are faced within the fiscal service. For me, it’s not good enough to say the problems are entirely systemic. Having done research and spoken to people, I have an understanding of both sides, from the people within the fiscal’s perspective and the people who work around them – judges, advocates, solicitors etc.

Third Meeting With Chris:

First draft complete. I was happy with parts of it, not so much with others. I had shown it someone who said that it was fairly implausible and the case that the characters were working around would not take place in a sheriff court which is where I wanted the film to take place. So I just removed that scene from the draft and even then it was too long.

Feedback I got was this: there needed to be more to Nina’s character to make her more likeable/relatable, Trevor and Chantelle were too unrealistic as characters, there were a few formatting issues and the pacing was off as speculated in the first meeting.

I agreed with all the feedback, there were things that were definitely needing to be cut and there was too much scene description. I also had to figure what case I needed to have them working on – it isn’t essential that all details were in the script because then it would just be expository but I have to know as the writer. I added an additional character, a bumbling police officer, who really needn’t have been added.

Fourth Meeting With Chris:

Second draft was a vast improvement. Chris commended me on my dialogue which is the thing I undeniably care most about. When I visited the court to do research, they were undergoing a fatal accident inquiry which I decided to use in my script rather than a case. All of the characters were much more defined and realistic, Chris particularly liked Raymond, the arrogant solicitor representing the accused. Good use of conflict too and had a great dramatic climax.

However some of the problems remained the same: the pacing was off for a 10-minute film and the ending could be stronger.

Final Draft (More Likely Penultimate):

We’re now in the present and a third draft has been completed. It got someone to read it through with me who helped clean up the legal jargon and made sure that everything that happened was plausible which it was – but only in the absolute worse-case scenario. He agreed that the ending was lacklustre. Another change I made based on his advice was to revert back to a case not an inquiry. Inquiries last weeks and with the point I wanted to make that wouldn’t work, however the inquiry that I had could be easily transferred to a criminal case.

From the outset of this idea I wanted it to be entirely behind the scenes and play out in real time. I have still retained most of that I think but the idea has changed since its inception. Initially, it was supposed to end with them just about to go into court, then it changed to a fade to black and them all leaving court with the accused being acquitted.

However it was necessary for the ending that actually there was a scene in the actual courtroom and so that’s the new ending which I have to say I’m really happy with and think it works brilliantly – putting feasibility aside. I’m writing this now without knowing what Chris thinks so could change my tune.

I’ve really enjoyed this process truthfully and I think I’ve come away with one of the best scripts I have ever written and am ready to go into production into the new year, whether that’s part of my studies or alongside it is yet to be finalised. I’m also happy that the idea has progressed so much since the start of this module and that I’ve been able to write something that I am really passionate about.


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