Kill Your Darlings

I’m in love with a scene I wrote in my new screenplay.   Picture this.   A short shipwreck of an old bridge, in the middle of nowhere or actually, Queens.  It’s the Francis Buono Bridge and on the other side is Attica.    On the bridge, there’s a Jag hybrid in which sit four gorgeous girls.  The driver is a tattoo freak who sports an incongruous chauffeur cap.  He checks his watch.

A black limo drives onto the bridge.  Four men get out.  They look rich.   What’s with this, though? The four guys sport identical tee-shirts that read, “I love my wife.”   As they cross to the car, two of them high-five, even as they eye  the girls like  juicy steak.

They dig into their pocket/wallet/money clip and start counting out bills to the driver.  SFX: Bang bang bang bang!!!!  The girls pull guns and shoot.  They swivel their guns to the driver.  They kill him, too.

I love the scene. It’s so Guy, and it’s actually a kind of righteous social commentary in its own way.  I might call the husbands the Weiner Club but the temptation to pun is overwhelming…weiner…weener… Anyway, there are so many names: the Weiner club, the Strauss-Kahn club, the Tiger Woods club, the Billy club, the John Edwards…

This scene happens right after the midpoint (page 50) of my new screenplay, The World’s Worst Lover.  The screenplay is a love story.  A funny raunchy Big Fish meets Forty Year Old Virgin.   And lo: The guy who actually produced Big Fish is interested.  Yes, thanks to my incredible connections in Hollywood, I “took a meeting” with him last time I was in LA.  On the Warner Bros set.  Where he has a run-down office.   Run-down is cool at the studios.  Check out Art Linson in his ripped $1000 MiH jeans.

But my producer is really truly a nice guy, even if his jeans are a bit swampy.  I sit opposite him in his trailer office, trying to overcome the fact that I’m different from all the other people he “takes meetings with” on a daily basis. They are young.  I am ancient.  They are male.  I am ancient.  What I do have going for me is this NYC credential of being a bona fide playwright and the fact that I know big words like “dialectic.”

I pitch him The World’s Worst Lover.  He says, “Lose the The.”   He clarifies, “The title should be World’s Worst Lover.”  My manager, John E. Ferraro, shoots me a look.  The Producer has proffered a comment.  He’s involved.  The Producer follows with, “I’d like to see World’s Worst Lover when you’re done.”

He wants to see it! This major Producer! Hey, it might not sound like much.  But the whole thing of being a successful writer is getting the right people to read your work.  Now I have to hustle.  I have to finish the damn thing.  My manager, wanting the finished product by Labor Day, presses upon me an August 1 deadline so he and my agent can give me notes.

I will take their notes because the screenplay has to be as perfect as I can make it before I show it to someone like this Big Hollywood Producer.  You only get one read.  Repeat that 100 times, O wannabe writer.  Amend that. You only get one read of the first five pages—and if you don’t grab them in those first five pages, fuhgeddaboutit.

Kill your darlings.  Two months after the meeting with Big Producer, I’ve written eighty pages.  Good pages.   But I note—and here is the beauty of Structure, O Writers!—that I  haven’t yet arrived at my Aha! Event.   In a properly structured screenplay, the Aha!  happens no later than page 85.    My screenplay is too long.  Somewhere in the middle.  I get my knife.  My cutting knife.

And I come to the scene on the Francis Buono Bridge.  I love this scene.  But love has nothing to do with.  I love my cat, too, but do I affix Smudgey to my writing?  I Select.   I hit Cut.   But…I don’t have the heart to send the Bridge scene to the graveyard; the corpse is still warm.

So I Paste it into my Out-Takes pages, telling myself I’ll check it out later; see if by some miracle, it really belongs.  I do check it out.  When I hit page 100, and all is right with the world, and the structure.  I read that scene again.    I don’t love it any more.  It seems stupid now.  A kind of head bubble.   Something that burst out of my head.     I hit Select.  I hit Cut.  Bang bang bang bang!!! It’s dead.

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