Monday, September 12, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: Sea of Love (1989) - When Others Want to Change Your Script; Character

[Quick Summary: Intense homicide cop falls for a female suspect who could be a serial killer.]

Novelist/screenwriter Richard Price understands show BUSINESS:
...You can pose and play the artist all you want, but if you're going in there you better have your Screenwriter's hat on, not your New York Novelist's hat. You're getting paid by them. It's their project. They've got to sell it in the morning. Now what I have to do is write stuff that I can live with and they can live with.
He gets the importance of COLLABORATION:
The whole point of this book for me is that as a screenwriter you are constantly surrendering your vision. And what I am saying now is that my vision, my role as an independent artist, ended with these drafts. Which is not to say that a lot of the stuff that was done after these drafts was not good and necessary....One thing to remember is that the only screenplays that don't get fiddled with are the screenplays that don't get made.
So what do you do when your show biz partners want to change your script?

Price faced this with Sea of Love.

His first pass (1987 draft) was deemed "unshootable."  (I liked this draft.)

The final 1988 draft included more for a female star, and a more typical Hollywood structure and ending. (I didn't like this draft since the tone changed.)

I understand why producers wanted changes, but it destroyed what I liked best.*

Yes, the script wanders a little, but Frank takes us on fascinating mini-adventures.

He's so much more than his job, and I wanted to see more of that side of him.

He opens his locker to hang up his sport jacket. On the inside of the door is a photo of a woman, ringed in red, with a diagonal slash across the face a la Ghostbusters. This is Denice.

Detective Gruber, much bigger than Frank, but soft and sad-looking, comes up to him.

GRUBER: Frank...


GRUBER: I don't want you calling us three in the morning anymore...You want to talk to Denice, you call her decent hours. (beat) Next time you call like that, it's you and me.

FRANK: (unintimidated) You and me?

GRUBER: Try me (Beat) and I want you to take down that picture of her (pointing to the cross-slashed portrait) I find it offensive.

FRANK: (holding his rage) You find it offensive?

Frank slams his locker and walks away, leaving Gruber standing alone, infuriated."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I have no easy answers, but wish the producers had kept it a character piece rather than insisting on a mystery format.

Sea of Love (1989)(draft from 1987)
by Richard Price

Sea of Love (1989)(final draft from 5/26/88) 

* "Part of my problem as a screenwriter is that I'm much more engaged by the moment, the veracity of any particular moment, than by what happens next. Think of a screenplay as a pyramid; you've got four characters on the bottom, you have two hours, and they all have to converge at the apex of the pyramid. Well, my problem perpetually is that my guys constantly wander and mosey on their way up, because there's something very interesting ten feet from the base, and there's something over here forty feet up from the base, and they might not ever get to the top of the pyramid except that I have to do it. My heart is in the moment." - Richard Price, p. xvi.

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