Writing “Neon Baby”

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With my signed option agreement in hand for “Neon Baby” – the story I discovered and optioned the movie rights to as part of the work for my Acquisition and Development class – my next step was to find a screenwriter who could turn my vision for “Neon Baby” into a screenplay that is ready to go into production.

As a writer myself, I initially wanted to write the script for “Neon Baby” myself.  But to my chagrin, Karen Loop, the professor for the Acquisition and Development class, forbade us from writing the screenplays for this assignment ourselves: we had no choice but to find a different writer.

I’m glad she did.  As I jumped into the process of finding a writer and working to develop the script, I realized how much there is to learn about the writing process, and how many benefits there can be when working with others in collaboration.

After asking around to see who might be interested in writing “Neon Baby,” I was surprised and delighted that not one, but three writers stepped forward to be a part of the project, and that all of them were incredibly creative and enthusiastic.  I was faced with a difficult but very fortunate dilemma to have as a producer: how would I select who would write “Neon Baby” between these three incredibly talented people?

After looking at writing samples and getting a sense from each candidate about their vision for “Neon Baby,” I selected an MFA Film & Video student, Anastasia, to write the story – in part because I was inspired by the incredible range of ideas and possibilities that she presented me with.

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We met to flesh out the script, and I quickly appreciated having Anastasia on board.  I had some strong ideas about where the story could go, but with Anastasia’s help, “Neon Baby” quickly took off and grew a life of its own.

It is now as clear as day to me why it is advantageous for a producer to work with other writers, even if they are able to write themselves.

Through my work at Columbia, I’ve learned about how my strengths and weaknesses lend themselves to the filmmaking process.  Many of us have a lot of skills we are good at (writing, speaking in public, or interpersonal communication, for example), but we are truly excellent at only one or two.  One of the keys to being a producer is attracting talent to your project that is excellent at what they do.

I consider myself to be a fairly good writer, and I bet with practice I’ll continue to improve.  But am I as good a screenwriter as Anastasia, who has docked years of practice, dedication, and study to the craft?

At this time, the answer is no.

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This means that if I as a producer truly want to do what is in the highest good for “Neon Baby,” I have to step away from the possibility of writing the project myself.  I have to “fire” myself as a writer.

Fortunately for me, I am still able to make an incredible contribution to “Neon Baby’s” development.  The producer has a vital role in the creative process: it is his or her responsibility to ensure that the final draft of the script matches the vision for the story and its original intentions.

I was delighted to see how much “Neon Baby” improved after Anastasia came on board, and in seeing how much I learned from this experiment I am grateful for the unique opportunities that Columbia has offered me to learn and grow as a producer.