Our second residential was prefaced by individual project-based meetings with the very insightful Andrea Cornwell. The assignment that kicked it all off was a two-paragraph story and artistic vision pitch for Andrea to read prior to our meeting. I initially hesitated to commit my story to the above-mentioned pitch as I was (and still am) doing a lot of work on structure, character development and considered these potential changes capable of rendering my pitch useless. I was indeed hiding behind that ‘I’ll figure this bit later’ blanket statement that all writers default to when they get cross-eyed from micro-managing jokes and puns instead of worrying that they don’t really have a second act, so stop asking them difficult questions already!

What happened next, during our meeting, was really enlightening. Out of discussing those two paragraphs in minute detail, these crucial conclusions followed:

-    The character’s goals are too broad and general while her line of work is too niche for an audience to fully engage with or care for.

-    What I considered a character-revealing/shaping subplot did not necessarily tie in with the needs and wants of the film’s lead. By focusing her goals and efforts on something more specific, I will be able to lift this subplot that I grew so attached to and replace it with one that has real potential to affect the lead’s actions, strategies to get what she wants and the challenges she will be faced with.

-    Villains in heightened reality dark comedies tend to become larger than life characters that play a central part in setting the tone for the entire film. If you cast a well-known name cast against type for that part, you land the opportunity to bring an unexpected and exciting dynamic on screen. This in particular was until now an oversight on my part. Instinctively, I wrote the antagonist as a bit of a twisted facilitator for the lead, a messed-up enabler. Now, with an ‘upgrade’, my villain is a fleshed-out persona that operated on multiple levels, independent of the main character. And what a compelling meanie she is!

-    For practical reasons, when you pitch your story and arrive to comps, make sure they are not obscure festival pieces. Chances are, the people you’re speaking to have not seen that subtitled gem Netflix finally acquired.

-    Lastly but equally important (and dare I say, very empowering!), just because you are writing your debut feature, don’t let the pressure of figuring out ways to finance it down the road affect your writing. Dream and think big, give your story the scope it needs to fulfill its potential. Unless you write it all out, you’ll never know how far your imagination can stretch, you’ll never know how wonderfully original you are.