David Kauffman’s The One I Wrote For You Opens This Week
My name is David Kauffman.
I live in San Antonio, Texas and I’ve written and produced a feature film called The One I Wrote For You utilizing the STC! method to beat out and benchmark my movie.
This family film, starring Christopher Lloyd, Kevin Pollak, Cheyenne Jackson, and Christine Woods, received a PG rating from the MPAA and opens in Texas theaters on Friday, December 5th.
Here’s a two-line description (not a bonafide logline): A songwriter past his prime is entered into a Songwriting Contest Reality Show by his precocious 10-year old daughter. After losing two rounds he takes on a win-at-all-cost attitude, even if winning means losing himself.
Blake’s methodology showed up over and over throughout the process of planning, writing, and reviewing. His vision for helping writers get their arms around story, character, and the beats that build your “spine” is one that I whole-heartedly embrace and promote when given the chance.
I was invited to share some highlights of the journey and I’m honored and delighted to do so.
Structure Is Freedom
I wrote 10 drafts of the script between February of 2011 and July of 2012.
Early on it was maddening to trim scenes or the length of scenes to stay on course, but over time structure became the doorway to freedom.
At Page 22, I knew I had about 3 more minutes (pages) to get to my Break into Two. That knowledge forced better writing, fewer words, and ultimately saved my script from being way too long.
Think of structure this way: If you’re building your first handmade chair, you probably want it to have four legs. After you’ve built three or four chairs, go ahead and try one with only three legs. But early on as a chair maker, take your cues from 99% of all chairs made… give it four legs.
That’s not formula, it’s form!
We Made 3 Movies
The Script, the Shoot, and the Edit
The Script was a Pilgrimage: a long and solemn walk. It took about a year plus several weeks of rewrites one year later.
The Shoot was a Sprint: a fast-paced heart-pounding 22 days. Since shooting out of sequence is the norm, it was essential to step out of structure and beats and step into scenes. The only thing to focus on while shooting was “Are the actors imparting the verbal intention, character intention, and story intention?” I wrote for this moment.
The Edit was a Marathon: When we edited, the puzzle pieces of scenes began to come together. Here, Blake’s Beats came alive on screen in ways that made me grateful for the arduous pilgrimage I put myself through. As gratifying as it was to see my beats come together on paper, it was a hundred-fold the amount of joy to see them live and breathe on screen.
Casting Directors Heidi Levitt and Monika Mikkelson, along with Assistant Lauren Fernandes, are colleagues of our film’s director, Andy Lauer. In the 45-day process of casting, I realized that great casting has two essential halves: knowing actors and knowing the script.
It was a real treat to hear one of the casting team recommend a certain actor vis-à-vis various essential beats in the script. They instinctively knew that our characters would all have their “moments” to shine whether or not they knew those moments were anchored to essential beats of the story.
Once again, the critical nature of structure and beats showed up.
To stay on budget we had to make many big and small decisions on the fly and in the moment. Whether a location changed because of inclement weather or an actor wanted to adlib a line or a whole scene, having the beats of my script embedded into my DNA was essential to success. I didn’t know how to solve problems, necessarily. That came from Andy Lauer and our two producers, Page Brown and Fernando S. Cano II.
But no matter the decision, we always referred to the beats; making sure we shot our marks on set, so we could hit our marks in the edit.
Win Texas… Win the World
Our movie opens in 16 Texas cities on about 45 screens on Friday, December 5th. If we do well in Texas, we can do well across the country… so sayeth the movie theater managers. If you’re a Texas Cat, come join us and see the spirit of Blake Snyder come alive. Check out the locations and the trailer here.
Develop a Mission
On my best days over the last 4 years, having a goal to achieve was plenty. But on my darkest days, I needed a mission — something that I was going for way beyond just making a movie: Song and Story for Healing and Hope. That is why I made this movie. And it’s why I’ll make the next one, given the opportunity.
If you want to produce the film you write, I’ll start begging you right now to do two things: Use the Save the Cat! methodology and develop a Mission.
They will be your deliverance.