Lessons Learnt: The Rewrite - The Final Draft


(Out of It) #1

We’re the creators of the web series Out of It. This is our weekly column to share with you all the things we learnt along the way.

9. Lessons Learnt: The Rewrite
Part 3: Dialogue & The Final Draft

Following on from last week’s article on Building Characters, the final part of our Rewrite discussion is delving into Dialogue and reaching the Final Draft.

Dialogue

Removing exposition is the key to redrafting or editing dialogue. Exposition always manages to find its way on to a page and usually you know if a line is expositional or not, the problem is knowing if you need it for the scene to make sense. In comedy, it is particularly important to sharpen dialogue and cut out any lines that are inessential – it’s quicker to cut it in the rewrite than in post-production.

So how do you know what dialogue is essential? We recently rewrote an episode of our web series and we realised that in the hope of leaving exposition at the door, we’d written the whole episode without once indicating that our characters were at their old Student Bar, which is kind of the whole concept of the show…

Here’s an easy exercise to attack exposition but still keep your story intact:

  • Take your first scene and cut every line of expositional dialogue – be brutal!
  • Read the scene afterwards – does it make sense?
  • If not, one by one, put back the minimum number of lines you need to create a sense of the action.

Not only will this make your dialogue more active, but it allows the story to be revealed and for the viewer to reach conclusions on their own.

For example, in our first episode we wanted to get across that one of our main characters, Lucy, misses her past life at University. Our dialogue felt too crowbarred in so we finally came up with a visual that summed it up perfectly; Lucy finds her University ID and looks at the beaming 18 year old in the photo before looking at herself in the mirror. It became one of our favourite moments in the episode.

Obviously, there are some web series formats where exercises like the above might not be as useful, for example single frame web series might have a completely different approach – let us know below if you approach dialogue differently!

The Final Draft

Is there ever really a final draft? Well, ideally, it’s the script you feel is ready for production, that has a clear structure, distinct and individual characters that tell an interesting story. Before you reach this stage, remember - It’s always good to put your script away in a drawer for a while so when you look at it again you can assess your script in a new (and hopefully relaxed) way. In approaching the final stages of a rewrite, here are some last questions to ask yourself: have I cut unnecessary dialogue, scenes and superfluous action? But most importantly – am I happy with this as my final draft? And hopefully the answer is yes.

Let us know below what problems you tend to find in your script and how you approach them – it’s always useful to share advice!