First drafts are tricky business. By their very nature, you know they’re not going to be amazing, and yet every time you turn in a first draft, a part of you wants everyone to think it is brilliant. The process that follows takes every bit of energy and will-power to see it through to the end and each journey is different.
Last night, I had a small reading to hear the first half of Season 1 of Emma and Henry out loud. I had worked with the actors before and the writers I invited were close friends and yet, I spent most of the day dreading that the reading would go absolutely cold. Worse, I went cheap on the reading space so we get there and it reminds me of those old, moldy Christian Recreation Centers. They place us in a small, humid room with no windows and pained in that disgusting off-white color. Also exposed electrical wiring and switch box in the corner and a terrible smell. My thought is… This is going to go awful.
The conception of “Henry and Emma” began back in November when I was out in LA for non-script writing gig. My friend Dave, who does work for NFL and ESPN, had bought a nice camera and equipment so that he could incorporate and contract himself out to do sport shoots. He wanted to get some narrative stuff for his reel and plus he likes my work, so he offer to shoot/produce something that I wrote as long as it was low-budget/easy. Over the month of December, I thought about it a lot and decided I wanted to write something incredibly easy and fun.
We shot “For Liberty” in December and that was the end of a year of work to get Roan a script that he felt 100% satisfied with. Also during that month, I had been really struggling with “Shoot Me, Antonia.” The producers and I were in different places and I didn’t have a good answer as to what the story was supposed to be. Since its inception, I had morphed it so many times to try and capture what the producers were looking for and so now I had a script with a lot of interesting ideas, but wasn’t cohesive. By the end of December, I had churned out a draft of “Shoot Me, Antonia” and took off to Seattle to spend a month with my brothers and clear my head.
In between the many phone conversations between the producers, director, and even a skype reading of “Shoot Me, Antonia”, I wrote the first season of “Henry and Emma.” Right away, I realize that no one is going to care about these long-winded stories over coffee if they don’t reveal something about the characters telling them. The second was, who is the person listening to the stories? And thus Emma was born: the attractive 21 year old aspiring comic. And naturally, I began planting seeds of a bigger story that Henry has a thing for Emma, BUT THAT WASN’T TO BE THE FOCUS. This was going to be my easy project of a guy telling humorous stories that I could just scribble off. So I sent it off to Dave and some other folks.
I return backed to New York City and life started again. I get “Shoot Me, Antonia” back on track with a draft that everyone digs. “Klack and Roe” continues on with a finished sound mix. And I start doing coverage for a company. Then I receive the first round of comments…This is funny, but we need more of the Emma and Henry stuff. So I do some rewrites and try to angle in on that aspect, and stage a reading.
Now I’m worried because by this point, the show has morphed. It has a lot of deep, heavy stuff in it and I don’t know how it is going to play. So we start reading and then they start laughing. Immediately, I knew okay… the hardest part is over. I got em laughing. All the rest of the stuff I can fix, but they’re laughing. And ironically, I’m no longer just writing a simple web-series about a guy telling stories… but a full on relationship, between two struggling artists.