Rip It Up and Start Again
Gerwig: I’d never had an entire movie written and said, “You know what? The middle 40 pages actually need to go,” and thrown it all out. Stuff like that. It’s painful, but Noah [Baumbach] is so good at being ruthless that I learned how to be a little ruthless. It’s throwing stuff out and moving stuff around and just chopping.
Koppelman: Always be open to the idea that we should just cut a huge section, start again. Have done it many times. It’s brutal. But then kind of joyous because you are at the beginning again, with all that open road in front of you.
Bell: Once I have a draft down, that’s when I start to get pretty obsessive about hitting the right beats. But initially, I write without judgment, without adhering to any rules. My first draft is always very free, and the draft later, once I’ve written “the end,” then I start to be a little more hard on myself and start adhering to the satisfying beats in a film that you want to have, even if you derail a little bit.
Feig: I try to not fall in love with my writing. It’s the downfall of so many writers. There are two things I always have in my office. One is a model of the Titanic, to remind myself that no matter how great something seems, it can still sink and fall apart. And the other is a bust of Shakespeare, to remind myself that I’m not Shakespeare. All writers’ writing can always get better.
It’s the falling in love with the first thing that comes out of your head that is what will take you down. It will make you impossible to work with and it will result in things often not being as good as they could be. Sure, sometimes you nail something the first time, but even then, it’s worth taking a crack at making it better. As Judd Apatow told me when we were prepping the pilot for Freaks and Geeks, “Let’s have you try to make the script even better. If it’s not, your original script will still exist. We’re not going to burn every copy of it.”
Koppelman: The opening voiceover in Solitary Man is one of my favorite things I have ever written. Maybe because I finally got to use a line I’d been carrying around for years. It was something a friend’s father said to him when my friend was a teenager. “Son, find ‘em where you fuck ‘em, and leave ‘em where you find ‘em.” Hilarious and mean and great. And I think it helped to land Michael Douglas. Because it was so dark. But we cut it in editing. And in so doing, basically saved the movie. It took me months to realize it. Made the character too unlikable too soon. But I still love the hunk.
Rash and Faxon: There was a scene in The Way, Way Back that we ended up having to lose in the final edit. It was a scene where Duncan (Liam James) is riding back on his bike with Peter (River Alexander) after staying out all night at a party. This was a fun scene that we loved on paper and when we shot it, but it slowed down the story as we headed into the final moments of the film.
Cody: I don’t have a formal rewrite process; I just compulsively groom and regroom scenes like a cat with OCD… I’m still mentally rewriting Paradise and it’s been in the can for months.