It turned out that this Francis Ford Coppola guy knew a lot about screenwriting.
When you’ve written enough, you may find that the old tricks used to complete pages and rewrite ideas may need a little kickstart. I know that I’m always on the lookout for new tips to see my stories in a different light and to find out what the finishing touches are all about.
Enter Francis Ford Coppola, director and screenwriter of three Godfather Movies, The conversation, apocalypse now, and many other films. Coppola is a master of his trade and does what he thinks is right, even when other people cannot see it.
I was browsing the internet when I came across this story where Coppola describes his rewrite process. It’s from the writer Steven Pressfielddescribing a correspondence he had with a friend who met Coppola.
His friend was an actor DB Sweeneywho played in Coppolas Gardens of stone.
Sweeney had read the script and was meeting with the director. He was worried because many scenes were cut from the book, as were many scenes from the previous script he had read. This draft was a bit skimpy and had some long and talkative scenes.
This is how Sweeney describes his interaction with Coppola.
“I said I wasn’t an expert, but it seems a little chatty. He liked that answer, said he agreed, and then said, ‘I’m going to teach you that you have to rewrite an entire production. He took a piece of paper and wrote “Page 99” at the top. Then he wrote “The End” at the bottom. “You write a script from front to back, but you rewrite it from back to front.” And he angrily scribbles the main plot events in reverse order. ‘If it’s not directly related to these things, it works.’ ”
Sweeney goes on to say that Coppola told him that you actually write three versions of the film that drafters sign, the one you shoot and the one you find in the editing.
You can Read the full account here. I loved hearing about that intimate moment between a director and an actor, two people who respect the craft and just want to do their best.
Any work on the script before shooting will only make the next two jobs a lot easier. And let’s not forget the scenes you add on the fly, just in case.
My main takeaway is that this is a brilliant way to shape your recast. Not only does it force you to think about the basics, it also keeps your structure tight. I may even realize that I need to add some scenes that support certain beats, and that definitely gets you to be reckless with the cuts.
As I type “fade out” on my latest design, I can’t wait to try this out. I will definitely list the beats first and then start adjusting.
Have you ever tried to write backwards in forwards? Do you think you might in the future?
Let us know in the comments.