When I’m stumped on a prompt, I do the rebel thing and ask for opinions from other people to help inform my own.
This week, I’ve been getting a lot of very confused looks from my friends and family, and then usually, not getting much of an answer.
I guess no one’s sure what the hypothetical hardest scene for a hypothetical screenwriter would be. It’s probably a personal distinction. Or maybe it’s just too far removed from non-screenwriters to really deal with the gigolmetrics of behind-the-stage film culture.
I’ve taken a screenwriting class, and I heard some stories from writers because of that. I read some articles way before writing this, so who knows if I can find them again. More than that, I am grumpy and skeptical enough to believe barely a word of what happens in the original script makes it to the screen.
Screenwriting isn’t like paper publishing or book-writing, from what people have yelled at me. Book publishing, the author is indeed mostly responsible for the words (barring a ghostwriter, but still) and an editor will indeed make suggestions, but it’s not as if the editor is rewriting the book.
With screenwriting, it often feels that way, though. It’s pretty widely known that producers make changes to a script that could change the whole thing. While Brazil (1985) might be one of the biggest examples of executive edits, a more recent example is probably what happened with the ‘Snyder Cut’ of Justice League (2017) which would have been a two-parter; Part One ending with the destruction of civilized life on Earth via mind-controlled Superman, and Part Two time-traveling back to try and prevent it from happening (all of this would have been released a good year before Avengers: Infinity War in 2018, for anyone about to call foul.)
In fear of a lukewarm response (after Batman vs Superman had 30 minutes of important screen time pulled for the theatrical cut, leading to very mixed reviews) Warner Brothers demanded a rewrite of the script from scratch. Chris Terrio helped write it again, but shortly after director Scott Snyder left production after a personal loss, so co-writer Joss Whedon finished up with the re-edited script and ended up with so many reshoots that Henry Cavill had grown a mustache he legally could not shave, and they ended up having to CGI it out in post.
These changing script hands are why sometimes you will have multiple writers, though it tends to be assumed the first draft was probably the most solid one. Sometimes, if a film doesn’t really turn out, some scriptwriters will consider removing their names from the film entirely—something that means they won’t be able to claim credit or get any residual payments from the film. Screenwriters Guild members are able to use pseudonyms to keep the benefits of a name on a film without actually needing their name on it, but independent writers and people just pitching things into the machine aren’t able to do that.
Script rewrites happen all the time on smaller scales, too. Adding in a love interest to sweeten up an ending. Saying you can’t put a symbol on television because of parental complaints. Sometimes a director simply changes on the fly, and the shooting script may or may not change to reflect that. Sometimes nothing really changes in the script… but it is still going to be like telling a story through a game of telephone. Someone else is interpreting your work. Many someone else’s, even— directors, sure, but also actors interpreting your characters, and editors interpreting the scenes.
Maybe it’s just like anything else. The hardest scene to write is probably the one you want to mean something, and knowing it’s not up to you if it does or not.