Thursday, September 19, 2013

Modern Family script: rewriting "What would Brian Boitano do?"

I decided to write one more post about my third and final Modern Family script because these posts seem to get most reads and also because as a writer I think there's a responsibility to share stuff as much as you can with others.

So, one of the most important things about rewriting a script is that before you actually start rewriting it, it's better to shelve it for at least a week or two. This gives you perspective and lets you look at it a bit more objectively.

In my case with 'What would Brian Boitano do?", I shelved it for four months because I didn't have any deadlines and there weren't any competitions that I knew of. So I was really able to distance myself from the script.

Once I finally managed to open the file - and yes, it can be very difficult - I was pleasantly surprised how emotionally honest the storyline with Luke, Alex and Haley was already.

Nevertheless, the biggest problem was with the storyline in which Jay and Phil come to Cam's rescue after Cam manages to break his toilet. This one didn't make enough sense and the storyline was too contrived to be honest.

The problem was that I didn't know how I could make it seem plausible that both Phil and Jay would come to help Cam (pretty critical stuff). I had to rethink a bit and had to come up with a solution that would make the storyline seem more believable and natural.

Of course the only way to know whether the solution worked was through rewriting it first and then by checking how good or bad it looked. There was no guarantee that it would work or that it would make sense - although in this case it worked, almost too well.

Anyway, the storyline that worked best is the one involving Luke/Alex/Haley. It was about Luke having a date and Alex being curious and wanting to know about it. To give some details about it, the storyline revolves around the idea that Luke gets so confused that he doesn't know who he is anymore.

As I wrote in an earlier post,  for this storyline I wanted to 'steal' from an old Simpsons episode in which Lisa's substitute teacher gives her the note that reads 'you are Lisa Simpson'. Since Alex is basically a Lisa Simpson herself, I thought it would be nice to do a role reversal and that in this case it's 'Lisa' who gives the note.

Naturally this whole thing required that I would come up with ideas of my own too. So, for example instead of Luke being happy about the note, he basically says to himself  "how is this going to help me?". In the very last scene we see that the note does help him after all.

But there was still one more storyline left and that was the one about Claire and Mitchell going to a skating rink with Lily. This storyline is the one where we get the title for the episode. We get to meet Brian Boitano, who - it turns out - feels inadequate about himself.

Yes, this was yet another serious storyline coming from me, but as far as I'm concerned, I think it was appropriate to treat a person like Boitano with dignity and respect and not try something that would make you roll your eyes.

I mean, he did win an olympic gold medal in figure skating with one of the greatest performances of all time. Therefore I think it was pretty obvious that since he gave us something awesome like that, my responsibility as a writer was to give something good back too.

I guess perhaps for this exact reason, I still haven't polished this part of the script. That is because it has to be good - even though it's a spec script and even though it will never be actually produced. It has to be good enough.

In any case though, hopefully I'll manage to finish this script soon and hopefully I'll also finish my first feature screenplay before the end of this year too.

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