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Today’s post comes from WriteByNight star intern Brett Fowler, whose fascination with zombies is really starting to get in the way of her duties here at WBN HQ.

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Screenplays are scary to the average person. They’re oddly formatted, they’re blunt, they’re choppy–most people find them too foreign to consider them literature. However, I’m challenging you to combat the instinct to stay far away from screenplays by doing the exact opposite and reading one. Specifically the first draft of I Am Legend , which is a great introduction to the art of screenwriting.

Adapted by Mark Protosevich from Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel of the same title, I Am Legend is an extremely well-written screenplay, reading more like a book than a script. And the amazing thing about it is that the majority of the screenplay revolves around a single character—the “last” man on earth, Dr. Robert Neville (a.k.a. Will Smith). What makes this script such a delight is not only Protosevich’s poetic style, but the fact that so much of the material is quite different from what made the final cut. It’s an invaluable opportunity to learn firsthand about a topic most, if not all, writers dread: the rewrite.

My love for this script stems from one thing: my love of all things living dead. Zombies, walking corpses, the infected—whichever term you prefer, I simply can’t get enough of them. Yes, yes, I know this addiction may only be appropriate during the month of October, but now, thanks to AMC’s original series The Walking Dead I can get my zombie fix on a weekly basis.  Technically, if zombiedom were the Oregon Trail (and I didn’t have to restart the game on account of contracting cholera or my oxen drowning) then I’d consider myself a greenhorn. I mean, I’m certainly no expert on these creatures and my post-apocalyptic plans for the inevitable zombie fallout in the future are rudimentary at best:

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Step 1: Run

Step 2: Hide

Step 3: Go to an amusement park or an island

Step 4: Wait for Woody Harrelson to save me

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However, I do consider myself more knowledgeable than the average Joe when it comes to the living dead. So of course it’s only natural that I have a hierarchical ranking of every zombie movie ever made, starting with Shaun of the Dead and inevitably ending with the lesser-known, but very real Zombie Strippers (I’ve skipped out on that one, even when I was at my darkest hour).

Somewhere among my top ten zombie movie list sits the hotly debatable I Am Legend. It’s a contentious choice, I know, but I will adamantly defend its spot on the list due to one deciding factor: the first draft of its screenplay. Now, Richard Matheson’s novel of the same name was quite revolutionary for its time. The novel was one of the first mainstream pieces of literature to feature the modern-day version of what we know as the vampire. And yes, I do mean vampires, not zombies. Because unlike the movie, the book revolves around blood-sucking fiends that crave human flesh, as opposed to the movie’s crappy CGI zombies.

So how did the movie, whose main creature-feature was clearly a zombie, stray so vastly from the original material, ultimately culminating in a contrasting mess of shitty special effects and brilliant acting on the part of Will Smith?

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[Editor’s P.S.: Well, you’ll have to check the blog tomorrow for the answer to that question. This is what we in the business call a cliffhanger. If you don’t come back tomorrow, we’ll chop off your fingers!]

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[Editor’s P.P.S.: I don’t mean that maliciously or violently. I was just trying to turn a phrase. Cliffhanger = hanging by your fingers from a cliff = chopping off your fingers will make you fall from the cliff. We at WriteByNight have a strict policy of never, never, ever chopping off the fingers of clients or friends.]

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[Editor’s P.P.P.S.: But everyone else, watch the hell out.]

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As a contributing member of both The New Movement Improv Theater and the Austin Screenwriters Group, an immense fondness for and love of pop culture starting from an unhealthy age has equipped Brett Fowler with the skills necessary to avoid facing reality. One day she hopes to finally end her six-year-long “journey of self-discovery” at the University of Texas at Ausin and funnel her liberal arts degree into a screenwriting career, or at the very least, gainful unemployment.

In her spare time (when not making preparations for the inevitable zombie apocalypse), Brett enjoys volunteering at the local animal shelter, watching marathons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica, and, of course, writing.

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2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. By I Am More Rewrite « WriteByNight Blog on 20 Jan 2011 at 8:36 am

    […] WriteByNight Blog Write better. Right now. « I Am Rewrite […]

  2. By Wait, HOW Much? « WriteByNight Blog on 11 Feb 2011 at 6:15 am

    […] civilization will always conquer a less technologically and scientifically advanced society, unless of course they are zombies. A society’s true progress is ultimately determined by their ability to survive and reproduce in […]

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