The Problems With Outlining A Screenplay by Blayne Weaver

Watch the video interview here on Youtube

Film Courage:  Can we talk about outlining…do you prepare an outline before you write?

Blayne Weaver:  I’d rather not. But usually that’s required for the job. Like if I am getting paid for it, they’ll want to know…these days to get hired to write a script you pretty much have to write the script, like you have to write a 35-page outline for a 90-page script and turn it in before you can get hired to write the script. So when I’m writing for other people, I do whatever it takes to make them comfortable with it, which normally involves an outline.

For me, it’s kind of like…I’m not a musician, but I feel like it’s just jazz. I feel when it’s time for a change, I can feel when we need to know more about a character. It’s very (my way of working) it’s very artificial to say “At this point on page 12 we need to learn that Charlie has a secret.” You know what I mean? Because I don’t know what the secret is? Do I make it up now? Or do I wait until I get to know who Charlie is? You know, write that in. And I feel like the music of it, I just know on page 12 that maybe there is something he’s not sharing with us, maybe it’s this?

It’s just way more organic and I feel like it flows. A lot of times with outlines I’ll find when I’m writing the actual script I won’t feel it going the way that the outline was, you know what I mean? So it’s either I do something false. Writing for me (a lot of times), especially the rewrite process for other’s people’s work, is taking a round peg and putting it into a square hole. It’s like here’s a movie…(this is an actual true story) I had written a film that was a beach, sports, kind of romantic comedy that was set in Thailand. The note I got from the studio was “Great. Love it! Only now it’s in Bulgaria and it’s Christmas.” So my rewrite was to completely and utterly change the entire scenery and what’s happening right now.  Round peg, square hole and it’s like a Rubik’s Cube kind of problem. It doesn’t necessarily lead to good writing. Like when you’re trying to problem solve instead of telling the most compelling story, that’s what I hate about outlining. Like being pushed into a corner by some random decision I made three months ago when I was just trying to make people feel comfortable about what the movie was going to be, does that make sense? I can ramble about it for the next two hours because it’s something that I struggle with a lot.

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: When you finish a script, what’s your process? Let’s suppose you’ve gone through several drafts and it’s for yourself. This is not writing for someone else. And you’re like “I feel good. I’ve had a couple people look at it.” Then what’s your process?

Blayne Weaver:  Well, what’s cool about being able to write the movie and then make it and stuff (which is my favorite, of course) is that it’s never done. We get a whole new process, we get a cast, I get notes from the actors, I do a read-through with as much of the cast as I can pull together, then I get notes. Then talk about that, then we get on set, and we’ll talk about it then.

What’s great about being in charge is that I know I’m not Shakespeare. I know that there is always room for improvement and the key to being a good project manager or a good director is being able to listen to everybody’s suggestions and then make a clear, distinctive choice and then stick with that choice, you know what I mean?

Lyndie Greenwood and Blayne Weaver in CUT TO THE CHASE – watch it on iTunes here

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been really happy with the scene and gotten on set and the actor has said something funnier and I’ve just been like “Well, darn! There you go. You get the line that’s going to be in the trailer and I did not write it.”

I had Dave Foley in SIX MONTH RULE from KIDS IN THE HALL and that guy…I mean first of all, the only actor to ever come up to me and ask if he could do a different line reading, like most actors just change the line. And I’m certainly not offended by that, it’s like I’ve done it myself. But he came up to me and he’s like “Blayne, I have a line suggestion.  Would you like to hear it?”  And I’m like “Dave, yes I would. And I can go ahead and tell you that you can probably say whatever you want.” And he’s hilarious and he elevated every single one of his scenes, which were pretty funny to begin with. And I get to take credit for that because I’m the director. I let him say that, see that’s how smart I am. I cast him and then I let him be him.

Question for the Viewers: Do you outline your screenplays?






Blayne Weaver in CUT TO THE CHASE – watch it on iTunes here

About Blayne:

Weaver wrote, directed and starred in the Southern Film Noir thriller CUT TO THE CHASE. Previously he starred in writer/director Paul Osborne’s psychological thriller FAVOR and the acclaimed romantic comedy 6 MONTH RULE (alongside Martin Starr, Natalie Morales and John Michael Higgins) which he also wrote and directed. Previous films he’s written and directed include WEATHER GIRL (with Tricia O’Kelley, Mark Harmon, Jon Cryer and Jane Lynch) and OUTSIDE SALES. He also co-wrote and acted in MANIC (Don Cheadle, Joseph Gordon- Levitt and Zooey Deschanel), directed by Jordan Melamed, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. To date he has written 8 produced feature films.

He has appeared in films such as WHERE WE’RE MEANT TO BE, JUNK, DEEP DARK CANYON, OFFICIAL REJECTION and THE GOOD OLD BOYS opposite Tommy Lee Jones. His numerous episodic television credits include ER, NCIS, and THE MIDDLEMAN. He also provided the voice of Peter Pan in the Disney animated feature RETURN TO NEVERLAND.

Originally from Louisiana, Weaver currently resides in New York City and Los Angeles (read more here).