Filter Your Writing Changes


Editing your script when it has an excess of 20, 30, and 40 pages can be really difficult to wrap your head around. You now have so much content in your script that making changes to plot points or character tweaks feels like you're biting off too much in one go.

Wrapping your head around everything all at once is a mind melting task. So I needed to come up with a way that helped alleviate some of that mind melting. I call it: The Coffee Filter Method.

Let’s say you have 4 main characters. They all have their own character arcs in the story line, and the main plot that drives their actions has 6 unique instances.

At this point, if you want to change something half way through, there are a lot of points that will need altering on each side of this scene for it to make sense. Making this change just got really complex because it really isn’t just this scene you'll need to edit.

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So the Coffee Filter Method is really simple, and works like this:

First of all, make a list of all of the changes you want to make. This can be altering lines, changing the action, or even continuity issues like “what is this guy doing when the other dude is over there?”.

Now they are all in a list, pick one and write it at the top of each page as you read through the script.

You want to read through your entire script only thinking about the change that you’ve chosen to write at the top of your page. Make that change and start over with another task on your list.

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This method isolates all of the other complications you might have and gives you a single goal. This might seem like a more time consuming method compared to tackling everything head on, but, at least for me, it removed that horrible dark cloud in my head and let me concentrate on the single task at hand.

So next time you have a shed load of changes to make, set yourself a task list and re-read your script with only one particular change in mind at a time. I have some filters that I use for every script I write. Here are a few examples:

  • Are these characters being tortured? Are they hitting rock bottom?
  • Does every scene change, turning from peace to violence?
  • Does every character have an independent activity in the scene? Get them to do something!
  • What is this line of dialog providing? If it was taken out, would this scene still make sense?
  • Are there any lines of dialog that can be replaced with action?

So next time you are tackling a massive script and don’t know where to start, try looking through a filter.


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