Don’t Stop Until You Reach “The End”
By Jacob Krueger
It’s a natural part of any revision that you’re going to reach a point where you think you’re never going to make it. No matter how brilliant your idea, at some point in the process you’re going to convince yourself that it’s the worst idea ever, completely uncommercial, impossible to execute, just downright bad. And likely when this happens you’ll find your mind suddenly swimming with thousands of other “better” ideas, all so much more promising, if you’d only had the foresight to work on them rather than this horrible project you have chained to your neck like an albatross.
Don’t believe these misleading siren songs—these new ideas may sing sweetly, but if you abandon your screenplay to follow them, you’ll soon find yourself dashed upon the rocks.
All screenplays have challenges. M. Night Shamalayan famously almost threw out The Sixth Sense during the 4th draft, because he thought his idea was too similar to Caspar The Friendly Ghost! The Sixth Sense turned out to be the number one grossing thriller of all time. So you can be fairly certain if Shamalayan felt that way on that script, it’s only natural that you’re going to feel that way on yours.
And even if your idea truly were bad— remember that even the worst ideas can turn into brilliant movies if we’re willing to keep pushing on them. Remember Lars & The Real Girl is really just a better executed version of Mannequin.
I started out my career at a huge production company working with professional writers who were in trouble with their scripts. My office was the office you ended up in just before you got fired. And it was my job to make sure we didn’t have to fire you, because paying me to help a writer fix their script was always a lot cheaper than hiring a new writer to come in and replace them.
Many of those scripts did not come from the place of love and passion from which your screenplay originated. They came from professional writers writing for money—saying yes to for-hire projects because it was good for their career, or good for paying off their mortgage, whether or not they had any emotional connection to the project.
And let’s be honest, many of these ideas weren’t even good ideas to begin with.
But what I found working with these professional writers was that no matter how disconnected, lacksadaisical or downright terrible a draft might be, simply in the process of writing it, somewhere, maybe just in one line or one moment, and maybe without even being consciously aware, the writer would end up putting something of themselves into it.
And if I could identify that one thing, and show the writer how to build on it, we could rescue anything. We could turn even the worst idea into a screenplay that both the writer and I loved, without sacrificing the demands of the studio, the needs of the producer, the budget, casting or any of the other commercial concerns of the script.
If you’ve followed the steps described in this article series, then by now, you should know what that one thing is in your screenplay. And if you don’t have enough training or perspective on your script to know what it is, or how to identify it, then you need to find someone who can show you.
Because once you’ve got that one thing, you’ve got to follow it until the end. That doesn’t mean your whole script is going to work, or that you’re never going to need to do another revision. And it doesn’t even mean your script is going to sell.
But what it does mean is that you’re going to learn.
You’re going to learn what it is to find something you care about, and keep pushing through the darkness until you find your way to the light.
You’re going to learn what it means to fight for something you care about, and not give up on your ideas, no matter how long the road may be.
You’re going to learn the skills your need to survive in a collaborative industry, and spin other people’s bad ideas into gold, just like the best writers in Hollywood.
And most importantly, you’re going to learn that you can make anything work, and the confidence and freedom that comes with that knowledge.
If you need someone to help you find that confidence, or help guide the writing or rewriting of your script, we at Jacob Krueger Studio are here for you, with our One-on-One ProTrack Mentorship program, our screenwriting classes in NYC and Online, and our international screenwriting retreats.
I hope you enjoyed this rewriting series, and am excited to be a part of helping you achieve your goals.