Emily’s Steps to Your Final Script

As an emerging screenwriter, I’m still figuring out my “process”. Currently, I’m completing the final draft of SADIE. I figured that since I’m in the throes of re-writes, it’d be a great topic for my inaugural blog post. This is something that I’ve always found challenging as a writer – editing my own scripts. Here are Emily’s Steps to Your Final Script.

Emily working on Sadie

Working away on the SADIE script

Step 1: For your first draft, you can pretend your budget is a billion bucks. You can do this, and I say go for it and pretend away.This is the only stage where you can really maintain this level of ignorance – during your Fantasy First Draft (unless you’re like Martin Scorsese or something and your budget really is a billion bucks, in which case, Hi Marty! Thanks for your interest in female filmmakers! And yes I can call him Marty because he is hypothetically reading our blog). Anyhow, for your Fantasy First Draft, you can pretend to have a “Pirate’s of the Caribbean” budget. However, when you start making changes to your script, you really should consider what’s possible, given the budget, whatever it may be. Things will get cut and it’s better to look ahead and decide what is likely to get cut and creatively maneuver things around, if that’s possible. It’s also a great idea to discuss potential changes with the rest of the creative team before delving into subsequent drafts.

Step 2: Consider all things practical: How many different locations are there? Are all locations necessary to move your story along, and for the collective vision of the team? How many secondary characters do you have? Do all characters individually serve a purpose? Sometimes, all the elements of two (or more) characters can be combined into one single character. Creatively, this is effective because combining the two characters into one will likely beef up said character – the fuller the characters, the stronger the script. Practically, hiring one actor costs less than two, which will free up some money for another part of the production.

Step 3: Look closely at the story you’re trying to tell (this is good to do before your Fantasy First Draft, really). Try to break it down to its simplest terms. I find that I really let my instincts guide me through my first draft; however, it’s really important to have tangible reasons for what you’re writing that you can articulate. Film is inherently collaborative – that’s one of the reasons I love it so much. This collaboration means that many people are going to be asking you questions and making suggestions about your script. This collaboration will be successful if you can honestly answer those questions.

So far, these are some of the things I’ve done in order to finalize the script for SADIE. Have I mentioned that it’s a thriller? The first thriller I’ve ever written? In honour of our old friend, Marty, I’ve attached a very short clip from one of my favourite thrillers, Cape Fear. This film just happens to be directed by Mr. Scorsese, and edited by Thelma Schoonmaker, who has edited all of Scorsese’s films from 1980 (Raging Bull) through to 2013 (Wolf of Wall  Street).  Cape Fear Clip:


Thelma Schoonmaker – The Queen of Cut, Oscar Winning Editor, Long Time Collaborator With Marty Scorsese (Photo: Marc Ohrem Leclef)

By Emily Bridger