How to Avoid Reshoots in a Screenplay

There’s a recent story about how Disney has ordered major reshoots for the latest Captain America 4 movie. Studios order reshoots when a preliminary version of the movie tests poorly with audiences. The big question is why do studios constantly shoot major scenes only to cut them later?

The key problem always lies with the story. All the action in the world won’t matter if it doesn’t make any sense, which Hollywood is finding out one more time with the latest Captain America film. It’s far easier and cheaper to define your story on paper before filming a single scene. Once your story works on paper, there’s a good chance it will work on film as well.

Screenwriters make this same mistake by writing their screenplay before they even know their story. Writing in screenplay format should be the last step you take. The first step should always be refining your story in text form (such as an outline or paragraph form) over and over again until your complete story makes sense. Only when you finally understand the story you’re telling and the characters you’re using should you even attempt to write your story in screenplay format.

So while studios rush to film expensive scenes over and over again, then cut them, writers rush to create a screenplay before they even know their story. This means writing a bunch of scenes that will ultimately have to be thrown out because they no longer fit with the rest of your story.

That’s just as wasteful and time-consuming as filming scenes that you’ll cut later. Always plot out your story as much as possible as plain text either in an outline, in paragraph form, or ideas on index cards. The method you use doesn’t matter. The key is to flesh out your story as much as possible as ordinary text that you can easily read and modify.

Only when you’re happy with your complete story should you start translating it into screenplay format. That’s when you can make minor changes to enhance your story.

Construction workers never start building a skyscraper until a solid plan is in place so you should never start writing a screenplay until you’ve created a solid story first. Likewise, studios should never start filming until a solid screenplay exists.

By rushing too fast, you’ll only waste time and increase frustration. Even worse, rushing too soon means you’ll likely never see the complete picture and cling to outdated ideas simply because you’re too hesitant to let them go just because you already created them.

Learn a lesson from Hollywood. Plan ahead and save time and frustration. Or rush ahead with no plan and expect to waste time, money, and your sanity instead.

It’s your choice.

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