The Screenplay: Collaborating

One of the best film-related decisions I’ve ever made was enlisting the help of my good friend, Jack White, in writing the screenplay for my first feature film. Without him, I really doubt whether I would have gotten even this far in the process of making it.

In my office I’ve got whole boxes filled with drafts of novels, novellas, screenplays, all sorts of crap that I start but never get around to finishing. A lot of this stuff hangs around for years. I might pull it out every now and again to have a look, but I usually end up shoving it back in its box despondently. It’s a pretty terrible thing to see the result of years and years of work in such a scrappy state and know deep down that most of it is never going to see the light of day.

In contrast, Jack and I knocked out the first draft of PLAY IT SAFE in less than six months. And this is with us only working on it for between three and six hours a week on average - far less time than I spent on some of those projects that are still lying about in unformed pieces.

So what’s the difference?

In my opinion, having someone else around to bounce ideas off of, and also to be accountable to, helped immensely. Any time I ran out of ideas or was feeling exhausted, then Jack was there to pick up the slack, and vice versa.

It also had the added benefit of being a LOT more fun. Personally, I find writing to be an absolutely excruciating process. Just sitting there with the blank page, having to force every word out, looking for any tiny excuse to procrastinate. “Oh I better go vacum inside my computer instead of writing today...” When you’re collaborating with someone it’s not so easy to make excuses.

With Jack, instead of a hellish struggle, it was actually fun. A lot of the time we’d just be joking around and ideas would come out of that. Yes, writing the script was still incredibly challenging, and there were definitely ups and downs, times where we thought it wasn’t going well or we didn’t know what to do. But it was infinitely more enjoyable and effective than me trying to do it all on my own.

Chris Pahlow

Chris Pahlow is an independent writer/director currently in post-production on his debut feature film PLAY IT SAFE. Chris has been fascinated with storytelling since he first earned his pen license and he’s spent the last ten years bringing stories to life through music videos, documentaries, and short films.