You know you are not going to make the next round of voting in the 2015 BlueCat Screenplay Competition when the ‘What I Like’ section of the written feedback for your screenplay submission is hardly a hundred words – but the ‘What Needs improvement’ section is six paragraphs. It is a bit like buying a huge bag of jelly beans, and realizing you only really like the black ones. The red ones, orange ones, yellow ones, green ones, are just left in the bag. I wonder if you can get bags of black jelly beans. I might look into that. And while I throw them into my mouth one at a time I will have a good, thorough read-through of American Sinners, wondering if I can have a full bag of What I Likes.
What they liked or thought could be improved is neither here nor there right now, primarily because you have probably not read it. And sure, you can, just as soon as I fix it. American Sinners is a character study that jumps back and forth and through loops and around and around between no fewer than fourteen characters in Plymouth, MA. A movie of high drama, named not necessary about characters that have sinned, but they have certainly comes across them in some way. Some of these people may be redeemed, some may miss out, some may not even deserve it, or be looking for it.
Part of my feedback from BlueCat that was really important to me was that American Sinners, in spite of so many different characters, seemed to give off that I “did a good job of clearly establishing all of them from the very beginning and making them very unique.”. This is something I worked hard on. Very, very hard. You can write fourteen compelling characters that filter through high dramatic action, but if you don’t establish them well enough then it could all be over before it begins. Establishing character in screenplays, in movies, is essential.
What the BlueCat feedback also rightly pointed out was that even at “a solid 120 pages, it isn’t enough time to really explore seven separate sets of characters.” I was shaking my head. Disappointed. Angry that I had cut out in the region of 45 pages of the screenplay over a very intense few weeks to squeeze the movie down into a format fit for competition entry. I pretty much sold out. Made a screenplay worse, ultimately. This is not the fault of any contest or their rules. The only one to blame here is me, the writer, who forfeited a greater impact and success of a script for the sake of entering the contest. It is a lesson I have learned that I could easily have avoided, but am kind of glad I did not. And I thank Gordy and the BlueCat team – and whoever it was who read my movie, and maybe, off the record, can read the longer version some time in the future.
Currently I working hard on several other projects, but when the window of opportunity opens I will grab it with both hands. I will sit down, and put the pieces back together of a screenplay that is very much alive, just badly injured at the moment. American Sinners was close to three hours were it transferred to a movie running time. And I am not going to lie, I love Nashville and Magnolia, and both movies would suffer greatly if they were chopped down. I look forward to answering those questions and concerns left for me. I look forward to fleshing out the characters and their journeys. I look forward to recovering American Sinners to the screenplay it was before. Work to be done, and I am now looking forward it. Especially as I will be stocking up on black jelly beans too.