How Many Drafts Will You Write Before Your Script Gets Produced?
Rewriting is writing. Nothing reinforces this more than seeing how many drafts it takes to move a feature from first draft to produced film. For this example, we’re going to use a project written by one of our ScriptArsenal readers. This was a low budget film, which means that in this case, the amount of drafts is likely lower than what you might see in a higher budget film.
In this case, the writer was hired and wrote several drafts, adapting a novel, for a production company. After three drafts, the production company took the script and partnered up with another company, for a co-production.
At this point, the script went through new rewrites at the behest of the new producers and a director they brought onto the project. While some of these rewrites were minor, in terms of pure separate rewrites, an additional nine rewrites took place.
There was a long gap while financing was raised. Once the film seemed likely to go into production, further rewrites were needed to accommodate the budget, schedule, locations, and cast.
This isn’t unreasonable or abnormal, it’s just the cost of doing business. If a scene is set at a mansion in the woods, but the production is more easily able to secure a small house on a beach, the scenes at the mansion must be rewritten.
If an actor comes in, but can only work for six days, and their scenes schedule out to nine days, their role must be rewritten. Sometimes an actor brings certain strengths or a unique personality and the role should be rewritten to better suit their talents.
Going into production, a thousand different issues can crop up necessitating further rewrites. In this case, additional rewrites occurred during production and even after production for some reshoots. In some cases, after viewing the completed film, the producers and director may feel they need another scene (in this case a new prologue was written and shot).
How many drafts, or rewrites, total, did this writer work on from start to finish? Again, understanding that a new draft might only have minor changes, the final number for this project was twenty-one different screenplay drafts.
The takeaway here is that rewriting isn’t just a headache to try and get over with as soon as possible. It’s an unavoidable part of making anything into a film (or TV show). Embracing that vs. dreading it is an important part of your life as a screenwriter.
How do you approach your rewrites?