More On Script Rewrites

by Glenn Benest  “Secrets of Screenwriting”

Part 1:

Part 2:

Hello, everyone. Okay, so, we’re talking about rewrites and what you should look for when you’re about to embark on your second or third rewrite. We’ll talk about your fourth and fifth rewrite in the weeks to come.

Looking for deep emotional moments and how to expand and deepen these moments as much as possible is what your primary concern should be.

Let’s look at one of the greatest screenplays ever written: Midnight Cowboy by Waldo Salt. What really drives this story? It’s the relationship between Ratso Rizzo and the dumb cowboy, Joe Buck, played by Jon Voigt, who comes to the city and ends up being swindled. The very person who swindles him, Ratso, is the one he’ll be most bonded to.

If you’re the screenwriter of this film, you would look for every opportunity to develop and heighten this relationship. It’s really a love affair (if you want to look at it like this) between two men. It starts with betrayal and ends with a deep friendship. That entails a dramatic character arc on the part of our protagonist. Joe Buck goes from anger and betrayal to a deep personal connection with Ratso.

The writer on his subsequent rewrites would then look for any opportunities to deepen this friendship. As always in any relationship, it doesn’t progress necessarily in a linear fashion. The characters take two steps forward and one step back. Just when they’re getting close, the screenwriter, if he or she is smart, does something to pull them apart again. Then they struggle even more to fulfill their friendship.

By the end of the story, to show Joe Buck’s ultimate love of Ratso, he leaves everything behind to take him to Florida, which is Ratso’s dream. But Ratso is so sick by this point that it’s too late, he dies on the bus going south from New York City.

It’s a tragedy of sorts but also a story of redemption.

Could Midnight Cowboy be made today by a major studio? Sadly, no. There are too many Avengers and sequels. Don’t we long for the day that movies like this could be made by major studios? Now, you would need to make this as an independent, and then you’d have a fighting chance.

Find every opportunity possible to deepen the relationships between characters, allowing the deep, vulnerable feelings to come to the surface. The reason your plot is there is to service the character. To force them to face the things they normally would never face.

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