I got my second lot of Dark Room feedback last night and seeing as I vowed to tell all about what happens with this script to make up for not being able to say anything about the others I thought I’d share some of it here.
First off on the feedback form I always ask for good things in the script. This is not just to make me feel better – I often find that this is the question that provokes the widest variety of responses and it’s always interesting to see what different people relate to on a purely personal level. There’s no point me discussing everything in detail as it will mean nothing unless you’ve read the script, but one thing that came from this feedback that I’m happy with is that the ambiance of the Dark Room nightclub was strong. This is a good thing as it needs to work to sell the premise of the film. If that place isn’t interesting no one will care about the people in it.
The main bad point was to do with exposition and the fact that the story wasn’t integrated with the characters. I was expecting this one. As I’ve said before, this script was a case of taking characters from older scripts that I liked and forming a story around them. Now I’ve done that I can work on integrating them.
The other bad point was the action/violence getting in the way of the story, and that there was so much of it you become desensitised. I think this is something I was aware of but I was hoping to achieve something else. My ideal SFX person for this film (in a magical world where it gets made and I can choose anyone) is Screaming Mad George, the genius behind the effects in such classics as Society, Mutronics and Faust. I really wanted to create that kind of fleshy, rubbery reality where horribly violent things become spectacle rather than realistic to attain a sense that anything can happen. I think that would work great if Screaming Mad George did some test footage but in a script it's hard to get across and I was always aware of the risk of it taking something away from the impact of the violence. I think part of the problem is that I have such a strong visual idea of the film in my head. Compared to my usual scripts, this one has about three times the amount of scene description. Probably something that needs cutting down.
In terms of characters the three good guys all got the thumbs up which is good, but the bad guys did not impress. Which is kind of the opposite of the first lot of feedback I got. The main point about the bad guys was that there wasn’t a clear central antagonist – something I both agree with and am going to find difficult to change, but also realise I’m going to have to. It’s an inherent flaw in a script in which all of the heroes are anti-heroes and the villains are only marginally worse. There is an overall evil entity but this is the part of the script that needs the most work. Also, the character I consider to be the lead villain was written for a specific actor that I know and I think that’s maybe caused some problems. But in my previous feedback he came out as the strongest character. It’s one of those issues that requires more feedback before I make any more decisions. I also wonder if I'm going to end up with one of those scripts that divides opinion.
Overall the premise and the opening (which you can download on the right) got good scores, the ending, story and pace got average scores, and the dialogue got a really low score which is a shame but not unexpected – at the moment it exists mostly for exposition. Funnily enough, the title got a really good score, and despite my plans to change it a few weeks ago I think I may stick with it after all. I certainly haven't come up with anything better.
So it was fairly positive overall, but I am starting to wonder whether writing this script was such a good idea. I'm finding it much harder to take criticism on this one than on my previous scripts. I know it's far from perfect - it took me two weeks to write and it suffered from me never planning it out - but it's made up of characters and ideas that have been with me since I first starting writing and while I'm aware that doesn't automatically make it brilliant, it does make me want to try and explain the things that aren't coming across - stuff there isn't really room for in a 90 page script. The thing is, I started it as a reaction to the scripts I had been writing this year, and a need to do my own thing for a while and create something new and interesting. I got that out of my system, but what I've ended up with is something that's unfinished. This will sound horribly pretentious but I wanted to create some art - something that people would look at and appreciate for what it is. But a script can only ever be unfinished art which can be incredibly unfulfilling - especially in a year when I've written six of them. Also, I kind of know this won't ever get produced - it's big budget and a bit alternative same time. And I'm not sure I want to make it less alternative.
So this has been bothering me since last night, but there are options. I am going to do a second draft. I still think it's a good example of my unfiltered writing and from the feedback I've got so far it seems like people are enjoying it, it's just going to be a bugger of a second draft. What I'm wondering is whether I should look into telling the story some other way, like a novel. Back when I first announced the project I expressed a fear of going that way with it. But now I've planned out the plot and I know how the characters fit into that plot it seems less scary. I'd have to get good at writing prose again though, which is the scary part.
Anyway, that's something to think about in the new year. I'm blogging about it so I do actually think about it and I can look back at this and think 'oh yeah, I was going to try that'. For now I could do with a break from writing until after Christmas. I'm setting the Ten Dead Men release date as my deadline for getting my samples together to start writing off to agents. Currently that means doing second drafts on three scripts, which is a lot, but I'll worry about that in the new year. Speaking of the DVD release, there's no mention of any commentaries on the website so I've been thinking about recording my own to download from here. Something else I will probably forget to do unless I write it down here.