After the past month or so trying to squeak it past the submission guidelines, I finally turned "Nova" in to the [lately] oft-mentioned screenwriting competition that was recommended to me by a friend. There's still quite a bit of time until any sort of judging happens, and naturally, I'll keep updating this space whenever I find out something new, but for the moment at least, it is out of my hands. Which after the past twenty-four/forty-eight hours or so, is a bit of a relief.
The reason that I came in so close to the deadline with my submission was because I was waiting on some feedback from someone who I really trust -- someone with a good eye, and a real knack for editing, and while I knew it'd put me in a crunch waiting, I also knew the work would be better if I had their input. As final notes go, there wasn't as much as I expected, and most were easy-fixes, but there was one big thing that I initially didn't think I could do much about. And then I changed my mind, and at least five pages of the script.
To better explain, I suppose a little history lesson is needed. About ten months ago, while working on a feature length screenplay [re: Trendsetter], my Dad died. This derailed work on Trendsetter pretty badly, partly because so much of it was about individual happiness and personal relationships, not to mention the future, which was just not what was on my mind at the time. I wasn't even sure if I had it in me to keep writing, so I just tried not to force anything, and did my best to be content with anything I produced -- in this case, mostly short screenplays, which were either about my grief, or just fun attempts to try and make myself feel better. The first half of "Nova" was one of these shorts.
Now, I won't say that "Nova" isn't me dealing with some of my grief, but if you'd asked me at the time, I'd have placed it more in the category of something that would make me feel better, something safe, and funny, and sort of comfortable for me to work on. I didn't take as much care as I usually do to cover up my influences, and there was some Smith, some Tarantino, some Wright, and some Romero in it -- and by some, I mean a whole lot, to a degree that I might normally consider embarrassing. But it sort of worked, it was sort of compelling, and they did feel [at least to me] more like influences, and not direct rips from any particular thing. And as I worked through draft after draft [and there have been a lot of them] this disappeared, to the point that I think you could read "Nova" and say "oh, he must like this" or "I bet he's a fan of this" but not necessarily consider the work derivative.
But, I still had the damn thing set in a video store.
I thought that was a conscious choice on my part, not because I was a Smith fan, and not because I liked Clerks so well [though I do], but because I wanted some place that was dying, that was sort of going out of business, something that was almost an anachronism -- and some place where I could have a specific sort of interaction between two people happen. There's also something about a video store that reminds me of Dad, and all those times we'd bounce between the four or so different stores on the river, looking for deals, tapes for sale, or just the second sequel in a series to round out a movie marathon. Because even if they have Beastmaster 3, it doesn't mean they have Beastmaster 2.
It's possible the decision wasn't as intentional as I remember it being though, as again, when I was writing "Nova" and the other shorts, a lot of what was going into them were things that made me comfortable, things I liked, and I've always enjoyed Smith, and have even credited him as one of the reasons I started really writing. And in my earliest comics, almost all my settings seemed to come straight out of the Jersey trilogy. So it's possible that's what this was, and... well, you can't be influenced by Kevin Smith and set a movie in a video store without the whole thing just feeling derivative. Even if you were, say, the best fantasy writer in the world, if you called your mythical land "Center Earth" or "Barnia" you'd be hard pressed to be taken seriously.
So, way past the time I had intended to submit it, I decided the video store in "Nova" had to go.
It actually wasn't the first time. In the now lost original severe cut of "Nova," I stuck the protagonists in low-rent alley-view apartments, eliminating the store entirely. It botched the pacing I was going for, and I was never entirely pleased with it, but if we'd needed to cut ten minutes [I can't believe that scene used to be so long] and a location out of the film, the store could very easily go without hurting the overall story. But that version is still missing, and since I was submitting this, I wanted the pacing to stay strong, so I knew I had to substitute View and ReView Video for a new location. And I'll admit, I was actually kind of surprised, because it only took a few hours to turn my video store into a dive bar [note: This is actually misleading, as it really just concerns the aesthetic change -- renaming the locations in the scene headings, and describing the new places for the reader/filmmaker. A lot of in-story continuity issues took longer to smooth out].
The few people I've discussed it with felt it was a positive change. It's left me questioning just how important setting is in screenwriting, and I have a feeling whatever I work on next I'll be asking myself that a lot. Probably in an unhealthy, obsessive way. But for right now, under this deadline, I have to admit I'm pleased with what I have. And I'm very thankful for everyone who've helped me along the way [I'm sorry for not naming names and doing up links -- I'm honestly really tired, and worried I might offend someone if I left them out by accident. Just know that if you put in the time, I'm so grateful].
You know, I haven't really said this to anyone, but when "Nova" stalled before Kyle and I could start looking for funding, and with pre-production so close, I was actually pretty disappointed. Maybe it couldn't be helped, but I'd spent so much time [and so much time since then] working on this script, living in this world, that I was really getting to a place where I could see this being put to film. In a way, however, the stall-out was a blessing [though I hate that word], because had we actually taken steps to put "Nova" into production, I wouldn't have been able to submit it now. And even if nothing more comes of it than all these sleepless nights and losing my entrance fee, as a writer I found it quite the experience. Especially since, with the kinds of things that I write, I don't often get to submit work.
But, as I said before, it's out of my hands now.