A number of years ago – I think it was the year I interviewed the actress, Shirley Eaton, but couldn’t swear to it – my current wife bought me a copy of The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by J. Michael Straczynski. Although aimed at the US market, this book provided a wealth of information on the dos and don’ts of script formatting, structuring, how to work in the Hollywood industry – and there was even a section on writing scripts for the stage. To me, at that time, it was the scriptwriting bible; indeed, it was my only source of reference. Since then, thanks to the pointers made by my tutors at UCF, now I have a pile of nine similar books on the subject and I couldn’t do without any one of them.
Anyway, I digress. Mr Straczynski’s book includes, purely as an example of correct script formatting, the opening sequence of a film that had been “optioned repeatedly by studios and independent producers” (p.165) but had yet to be accepted. The script was called, The Strange Case of Christine Collins. When I read it all those years ago, I wanted to know what came next, it was so gripping and drenched with atmosphere (that’s a good thing).
Fast-forward to 2009 and we are watching the film trailers at the beginning of a DVD (we usually skip these, but for some reason we didn’t, on this occasion) when there was just a morsel of recognition that I picked out. You’ve guessed it – the film has now been made. It is now Changeling and its protagonist is called Christine Collins.
The moral of this story is that sometimes it can be many years before even established screenwriters get to see the results of their hard work.