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Redfield – Fourth Draft Feedback

Redfield [Pilot] [Fourth Draft]

Before I turned in my fourth draft to my tutors and to my cohort I was relatively pleased with how my script was shaping up; the advice I took on board from the feedback I got previously helped immensely I was writing this draft. People liked the visual link of John West’s hat to signify the passage of time between younger William and older William, they consistently praised the dialogue scene between Tessa and Sally and they commented on how well the dialogue was written as well as how visual my script was written, helping them to visualise the story and the setting clearly.

The only contstructive criticism I got around this time was that the end torture scene between Walters and Dick didn’t fit with how I wrote the previous scene between Dick and Jenkins. In that scene, Jenkins kills Albert (Dick’s father) and leaves Dick for dead with a gunshot wound. Thus, this raised the question why in the next scene between Walters and Dick when Walters is torturing him for information, why he doesn’t divulge the whereabouts of Jenkins to Walters sooner as he owed Jenkins nothing, and in fact should resent him. This made sense to me, as I didn’t notice how by including how the person who is getting tortured by Walters to appear in an earlier scene with Jenkins to determine how he knew where Jenkins was, I overlooked how important it is that these two scenes need to link coherently not just for plot reasons but for narrative reasons also.

As a result I’m considering on how I should approach rewriting the earlier scene between Jenkins and Dick to fit with Walter’s torture scene with Dick or vice versa.

Other notes of feedback consisted of not feeling enough flirty banter between Tessa and Sally and the notion on whether or not I could do more with the antique cutlass in the bank robbery scene with Patrick, Miriam and George Jenkins. At this stage I’m more inclined to take the feedback for the latter on board rather than then former. I feel that it would be dramatically unrewarding in the long run if I hint too heavy handedly at a possible romantic relationship between both Tessa and Sally in their first encounter. Reading it through, I think this scene plays more dramatically interesting because the homoerotic undertones are subtle and not too heavy handed.

However on the whole, I think this round of feedback has greatly encouraged me in my personal development as a writer as I feel that I am finally beginning to grasp the fundamental skills and aptitude toward becoming a professional screenwriter. I look forward to writing out my fifth draft with this newfound confidence.

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Redfield – Third Draft Feedback

Redfield [Pilot] [Third Draft]

With my third draft I took on the advice of my tutors to remove the character of Doggett and replace him with Wyatt. Doggett only served a functional purpose with how he was written previously. By replacing him with Wyatt, a character whom I plan for having a larger role in subsequent episodes, it provides me with more opportunities to show glimpses of his character before I decide to develop him later on.

Additionally, for how I was going to show the visual link between William at 13 years old and older William at 21,  I was deliberating on what I could do to address this. Eventually I decided on having John give William his Stetson hat with the red feather right before he gets killed and eight years later we see William with the same hat the first time we see him on the wagon. I felt this link further emphasised William’s relationship with his father and his quest to avenge him in the sense that the hat could sort of be a physical representation of William’s father.

With the bank robbery scene, I decided to rewrite this scene and add a physical altercation between Jenkins and Miriam after Jenkins rapes her and is caught by Wyatt. I added this because I felt that in the previous draft I needed a legitimate reason for Wyatt to be able to escape Jenkins in a way that felt natural. The physical altercation helped that. Furthermore, I also added in a sequence of how we see Jenkins escape the bank after he is caught by Wyatt. This was raised as an issue in the previous draft as it felt that sequence could end a lot cleaner if we see how Jenkins manages to escape.

Finally, I rewrote William and Jackson’s dialogue scene on the porch toward the end of the episode. I decided on making William be a bit more inquisitive in his questioning of Jackson and use this as an opportunity to shed some light on Jackson’s backstory. This way I could successfully establish that both William and Jackson have been through similar situations where they lost someone they care about to outlaws , giving Jackson a reason to agree to teach him.

The general response to this third draft, taking into account all of the changes above were mostly good. The main points of feedback I received was that I shouldn’t have made William too inquisitive as it gave away that power of that scene from Jackson. Also this scene ran in contrast with the previous scene between William and Jackson in that Jackson steadfastly refused him but now opens up to him with no dramatic development to warrant that. A way I was advised on how I could address this was to have Jackson have the power of that scene, and make William’s desire of learning about hunting outlaws link into his backstory that sheds sympathy from Jackson.

Additionally, I also got feedback from my tutor that the dialogue scene between Tessa and Sally needed to be a bit more flirty in order to achieve the necessary amount of romantic undertones to establish a subtle attraction between the two characters. One way I was advised on how I could tackle writing the dialogue of this scene was to write the scene from Sally’s perspective as if Sally was a man trying to chat Tessa up at the bar. This is definitely a technique that could help me nail this scene and achieve the romantic undertones I want. Also people mentioned that the way that the conversation segues into the reveal of the Nickelwood bank robbery was a bit clunky with the two men in the bar talking about it being too convenient. In response to this I’ve been thinking about ways I could get Tessa and Sally’s conversation to flow into revealing this information.

Finally my tutor recommended to me that I try and figure out a way to intercut the endings of the three running storylines (William, Tessa and Walters) in order to have a cleaner ending as the way I’ve written it now feels like there are three separate endings playing one after the other. This is something I had also been thinking about and I feel I’ll definitely address it in my fourth draft.

 

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Redfield – Second Draft Feedback

Redfield [Pilot] [Second Draft]

I wrote this new draft after taking on all of the advice I had received from the first one. In this draft, of the advice I took on, I rewrote the introduction of George Jenkins much earlier and with more emphasis than before. I completely reworked Tessa’s introduction which I’ll get more into later and I rewrote the final dialogue scene between William and Jackson, removing William’s monologue and adding a jump in between when Jackson lights a fresh cigarette to when he has finished it to symbolise a passage of time.

I’ve also made some additional changes that came to mind as I was preparing to write this new draft. Among those were the introduction of oil leakage subplot with Maggie, the first scenes where Jackson is introduced to William and co. at McKinley’s ranch and extra additions to Tessa’s narrative arc as her new introduction informed my choices to include certain scenes.

One of the scenes I included was actually showing the bank robbery at Nickelwood Town and we see the act of Tessa’s mother Miriam getting raped and killed. Initially I was only going to allude to this in dialogue as an event that has already happened but I felt that I needed to show the traumatic event in Tessa’s life that propels her into her character arc of wanting to bring these men who did this to justice, the same way I established William’s character journey from the opening sequence of the event that fuels his thirst for vengeance.

I also tried to introduce Tessa in a different light than I did in my first draft, showing subtly her desire to rebel from what society expects of her. I attempted this by showing a scene in which Tessa is dressed in riding clothes and hides her riding boots  away from her mother who was about to enter her room. I did not put much emphasis on Donald and Michael Trager as I did in my first draft as I felt it was better served to save those characters for the next episode. I also introduced the character of Sally Harding as a potential mentor figure to Tessa rather than someone she already knew as I felt that the audience would want to see how that relationship is established.

Additionally, I also rewrote Jackson’s first encounter with William and co. as I felt that the version in the first draft was too stilted and the scenes felt forced. With this draft I tried to make it seem as natural as I could make it.

The feedback I got from my tutors on this draft was overall positive, but they gave me a few points to consider. One of those points was that Tessa and Sally’s conversation scene felt like a meeting between two potential lovers. This took me aback because that wasn’t my intention when I was writing this scene but the more that I think about it, the more that I think that this could make an interesting dynamic to their relationship. It made me aware that if I was going for the mentor-protege relationship, it would just be a carbon copy of William and Jackson’s future relationship and that’s something I did not want to repeat. So I’m considering taking these two characters in that direction as I feel that it would give my script a contemporary relevance by featuring LGBT characters, even though it is set in 1900s America.

Another piece of feedback I received was that my reintroduction of William after 8 years needs to be clearer. So I’m thinking of having a visual reference that links 13 year old William to 21 year old William which I think would make for a nice transition.

Also, with the second converstion scene between William and Jackson, I was told that Jackson readily questions William’s desire to chase outlaws when in their previous scene he rebuffs him so I need to rewrite that scene to give Jackson the power in that scene and have William earn his interest.

And finally the role of Doggett was thought of as being just functionary in the scenes that he appeared in. I’ve been given the suggestion of fusing his character with Wyatt who appears later in the script as he will serve more of purpose later on in the story so this is a suggestion I would most likely be considering.

 

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Redfield – First Draft Feedback

Redfield [Pilot] [First Draft]

For the first draft of my screenplay the general feedback I got from my screenwriting tutor and my cohorts was that whilst my script was well-written technically and filled with a lot of promise as a potential television pilot script, there were a few things I could still consider in order for it to be better.

One of the conflicting responses I got from people centred around the character of Tessa Trager. Whilst many people said that they liked her character and how I had written her, some people were concerned that she comes across a bit too strong and too tough, taken into account the time period in which my script is set. I couldn’t help but agree that I had introduced her too strongly and not left a lot of room for her to grow as a character. I came to the realisation that how I had written her in this first draft is the type of character I would want her to eventually become, so the benefit of her character arc (that I had missed) is to use the format of television writing to my advantage and establish that Tessa would go on a path that would eventually lead her to becoming that type of person I had written initially. Television serial writing allows you as a writer to take your time in developing your characters and this is something I would definitely take on board when it comes to rewriting.

Another piece of helpful feedback I had received was the way in which I introduced George Jenkins. I was told that I waited too long in the opening sequence to fully establish George Jenkins’ character. Since he is pivotal character to the plot of my series it would be essential that I give him a much stronger introduction that separates him from the rest of his posse as a key character so this is something I would definitely take on board for my next draft.

In regards to the dialogue of my characters, some people commented on the fact that the language in which my characters speak wasn’t consistent as characters would use slang that was used during the early 1900s as well as contemporary curse words that modern audiences would be familiar with; this inconsistency came across as jarring so in my next draft I would have to choose as to whether I stick with the actual slang and curse words used during the time, or more contemporary language so that it would be accessible to modern audiences.

Finally, in the last dialogue scene between William and Jackson I was told that the monologue William delivers to Jackson basically repeats what the audience already knows from the first opening sequence. I was advised to find a different way to convey William telling Jackson his backstory but not make it feel redundant. This is something that I have to figure out as I approach writing my second draft.

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Dissertation Project Proposal – Final Submission

Project Overview

My dissertation project will take the form of a TV pilot screenplay that is set in the fictional county of Redfield, Texas in the year 1907. This period is the decline of the American Old West where the frontier lifestyle is dying out and is being slowly replaced by new technologies such as automobiles, machine guns and oil rigging projects. Since my dissertation project is a TV pilot, the whole screenplay will serve to establish three main storylines that will be explored throughout a potential season as well as an additional fourth sub-storyline.

The first storyline follows William West and his quest for vengeance against George Jenkins, the man who killed his parents and burnt down his home eight years prior to my story’s setting. William joins the Pinkerton Detective Agency to hunt down Jenkins but learns that the men he is now working with are in fact no better than the man he is trying to catch.

The second storyline follows Tessa Trager and her desire to become a law enforcement officer so that she can also track down Jenkins and bring him to justice after he rapes and kills her mother. She faces resistance from her father, Donald Trager, Redfield County’s Sheriff, who plans to marry her off to the son of a wealthy oil tycoon. As a result, realising that she can never become a legitimate officer, Tessa decides to run away from home and become an independent bounty hunter, although she is in for a rude awakening in regards to the harsh realities that she faces when it comes to hunting outlaws. She’ll eventually receive guidance from another established female bounty hunter and scout named Sally Harding (whose backstory will be loosely inspired from the real-life figure of Calamity Jane).

The final storyline follows Earvin “Skip” Walters, a famous outlaw who is also hunting down George Jenkins, his former right-hand man, after he defected from the gang after raping Tessa’s mother. Skip embodies the “noble outlaw” trope in a sense that he easily commits murders and robberies but rape is the one crime he cannot tolerate, especially if committed by someone in his gang. All three of these primary protagonists’ storylines will be intertwined by their search for this one man and in some cases, one person’s actions in their hunt will influence the other two in some form or fashion and vice-versa.

An additional storyline in conjunction with the main three will follow Seth McKinley and his daughter Maggie’s efforts to save their ranch from being bought by rich oil tycoon Noah J. Buchanan and his son Amos Buchanan (who is to be betrothed to Tessa). This task will eventually be taken upon by Maggie herself as Seth will become bedridden with illness.

The main theme that will be explored in my potential series is modernisation. As aforementioned, my setting is during the decline of the Old West as the old lifestyle of the American Frontier is being replaced by a more modern and less unruly society. My storyline following Maggie’s attempts to save her father’s ranch from being purchased by a wealthy oil tycoon will tie in with this main theme as Texas did experience an oil boom in the 1900s onwards. Additionally, I chose the year 1907 to set my story as that was a year before the Bureau of Investigation was founded (now known as the FBI) so my story would serve as an eventual lead up to that key event in US history. Government agencies were cracking down on outlaws during this period which leads to my secondary theme of my story: anarchism.

Anarchism was considered a real threat during the 1900s as US President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901 by anarchists. How present day society views terrorism nowadays was how society viewed anarchism back then. The whole political philosophy of anarchism will be explored through my outlaw characters and their backstories, exploring who they are and why they decided to become outlaws, probably as a result of them feeling disillusioned with the government. I will probably still need to conduct more research into anarchism.

Corruption of law enforcement is another theme I aim to focus on. When William joins the Pinkerton Agency, he immediately becomes alarmed to the underhanded methods some of the agents conduct in order to catch the men they are looking for. Pinkerton Agents at the time were reported to have been involved in intimidation, bribery, unlawful killings and excessive violence etc. Whilst these allegations have been disputed over the years, I’ve elected to include such behaviour in my story anyway in order to heighten my story for dramatic purposes but would take care not to exaggerate any such underhanded behaviour.

My final main theme which I wish to explore is femininity in 1900s America. Obviously American society was very patriarchal back then but I did not wish my story to just focus on men. I thought it would be more compelling to write interesting female characters that do not conform to how society viewed them back then. My main character for this is Tessa Trager but there is also Maggie McKinley, William’s love interest in the series, who tries to negotiate with Noah J. Buchanan to save her father’s land being purchased by him to drill for oil.

 

Context

In all of my previous projects I have either written or co-written them, however all the stories I have written were always London-based so I was always writing from what I knew. For my dissertation project I wanted to challenge myself and write something that I don’t know anything about as in the industry as a screenwriter, I know you won’t always be writing stories in settings you readily know so I thought this would be good practice and experience for me to be industry-ready. Although I know that the pilot I’m proposing to write would be a big-budget project and isn’t suitable subject matter for an emerging writer such as myself to write as a calling card to the industry, I still want to challenge myself to write something on this scale. I never intended for this screenplay from the beginning to be my calling card into the industry; I merely wanted to write a story that interests me and that I can have fun with.

In a wider context, if I was writing this pilot to be produced and eventually be picked up to series, I have to first identify what successful shows are currently being played right now as well as why they are so successful as that would help me write my story to cater to what the current contemporary audience are keen for.

For example, successful shows in recent memory like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad will contribute heavily to what I want to achieve from my pilot script. Game of Thrones is popular notably for its complex characters, its unflinching violence (this is also a point of criticism for it also), its production values and its willingness to kill off popular characters as well as its rich and extremely detailed fictional world which parallels eerily with our own. This would mean that audiences are keen to gravitate toward shows that are challenging and that do things aesthetically different from other mainstream television shows. Breaking Bad on the other hand is popular for the show’s great writing and credible characterisation of its main characters. This would influence me to really the nail the writing of my characters in order for them to be believable and relatable to the audience who would no doubt be eager for great characterisation in shows in the wake of Breaking Bad’s success.

 

Research

For my research into the historical time of the Old West I have tried sourcing a number of books. I have acquired two so far that are detailed accounts of former Pinkerton Agents during the Old West. These books will be invaluable to me as the Pinkerton Agency will pay a vital role in my story. The books in question are Life of Tom Horn, Government Scout and Interpreter by Tom Horn and Two Evil Isms: Pinkertonism and Anarchism by Charles A. Siringo. Another book I’m currently reading for reference is Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy which is set in Texas in 1850. Whilst the timeline of the novel isn’t the same as my story as they are fifty plus years apart, the book is proving useful reference point in regards to the language and dialect the characters use in the novel as it would be similar to how my characters speak as Texans have a very distinctive dialect in the how they speak as well as the different colloquialisms they use. It’s vitally important that I nail the dialect of my script or else my characters will not have any credibility which is something I’m trying to avoid.

In terms of visual media for reference, Deadwood was the obvious choice for me to go far as a reference as it’s the only major television show in recent memory that is a Western. In terms of reference for my script, even though Deadwood is set in an entirely different state than my story and in a different time period also (1876), I still wanted to watch it to analyse and identify how the writers of that television show balanced the multiple storylines that are running in tandem. Since my screenplay will establish multiple storylines, I thought it was important for me to get an idea of how I can balance multiple storylines effectively.

Another TV show that balances multiple storylines effectively is Game of Thrones which I mentioned previously as being an inspiration to what I’m trying to achieve. My pilot will have a relatively large ensemble cast of characters like Game of Thrones has, as I would need to explore different perspectives in different environments within my setting to fully capture the spirit of the time. I plan for my characters to be complex in nature and not have a clear good and evil dichotomy. At times, characters who would initially be perceived as good will commit acts of extreme disrepute while characters who are initially perceived as evil and despicable will commit occasional acts of kindness and thoughtfulness. All of these will depend on the context of the scenes I write as each character would act differently in different scenarios. Furthermore, since my pilot is a Western, there will be a lot of violence in it as those times were very violent in nature, especially since my plot revolves around outlaws. Game of Thrones is noted for its violence so that would be a point of reference I can draw from, although it has been criticised for its violence being too gratuitous, I hope to find a balance between showing graphic violence consistent with the times, but at the same time not being as gratuitous.

In relation to Breaking Bad, the concept of that series will be explored within both William West and Tessa Trager’s storylines in the sense that over the course of a potential series, William will transition from a lawman with good intentions to being inadvertently just as bad as the men he is after, all in the pursuit of vengeance which is very loosely similar to Walter White’s character arc from a relatively good man to an antagonistic figure. With Tessa, her character arc will develop from a woman who is privately disillusioned with a patriarchal society to an individual who outwardly rejects society’s opinion and expectations of her.

Django Unchained is a recent Western film set in the south which would provide an additional reference source in regards to the southern accents that my characters will speak with. Whilst Django Unchained is set primarily in Mississippi and not Texas (as aforementioned, Texans have a very distinct dialect), I still think this film would provide a valuable reference in order to understand the cadence of the Southern American accent as I can actually hear the characters in the film talking, unlike Blood Meridian where I am just reading dialogue and not hearing anyone speak.

 

Methodology

I work better and more efficiently when I set myself deadlines so I decided to set myself personal deadlines to meet each stage of my writing process. I aim to have a first draft of my screenplay completed before the Christmas break so that in the second term I can focus entirely on writing and re-writing my script until the deadline of May 4th. In regards to my approach to redrafting my script after the Christmas break, I would adapt my redrafting process depending on the feedback I receive from my cohorts as well as outside sources who I plan to have read my screenplay for feedback (i.e. filmmakers I’ve worked with in the past, some actor friends etc.).

For example, if someone were to give me feedback saying the dialogue of a certain scene in my script did not sound natural, my approach to rewriting that scene would be to bring in professional actors in to do a read-through of that scene and try and work out how to make the dialogue sound natural based on how the actors perform the dialogue.

 

Project Challenges/Contingencies

The main challenge I think I’m going to face is the amount of research I still need to do. I need to research law enforcement practice during the time period my script is set in, I need to research the political philosophy of anarchism and I also need to research the agriculture industry back then as one of the settings of my story is on a ranch. I’ll address these challenges by sourcing relevant books on the aforementioned areas of research as well as sourcing relevant historic websites as a secondary option if finding available books proves to be too difficult.

 

Schedule

Step Outline – to be completed by 10th November 2015 (status: completed)

Treatment – to be completed by 13th November 2015 (status: completed)

First draft – to be completed by 18th December 2015 (status: completed)

Final draft – to be completed by 4th May 2016 (status: pending)

 

Bibliography

Horn, T. (2014) Life of Tom Horn, Government Scout and Interpreter. United States: Createspace

Siringo, C. A. (2015) Two Evil Isms: Pinkertonism and Anarchism (classic reprint) United States: Forgotten Books.

Django Unchained. (2013) Directed by Quentin Tarantino. [Film]. Columbia Pictures.

Deadwood: The Ultimate Collection. (2007) [DVD]. Paramount Home Entertainment.

McCarthy, C. (2010) Blood Meridian, or, The Evening Redness in the West. Cormac McCarthy. London: Pan MacMillan.

Game of Thrones: The Complete Seasons 1-4. (2015) [Blu-Ray Disc]. Warner Home Video.

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series, (2013) [DVD]. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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