Splitting Aces

“A deceased, Catholic-raised, professional gambler reflects on life lessons before playing a game of poker that could earn him another chance at life.”

That’s the logline for the script I wrote for a skillshare class I’m taking called introduction to screenwriting (taught by James Franco and Vince Jolivette)…I’m taking the class just for fun and because I’ve always been interested in movies/scripts (cause that’s the kind of cool I am).

The class required us to write something as an adaption from one of three texts provided, so I chose a character from the Spoon River Anthology called “Ace” Shaw.  Here is the source text I was working from:

“Ace” Shaw

I NEVER saw any difference

Between playing cards for money

And selling real estate,

Practicing law, banking, or anything else.

For everything is chance.

Nevertheless

Seest thou a man diligent in business?

He shall stand before Kings!

I choose this text/character because I like the idea of a character that believes in both chance and a higher power (the last two lines seemed otu of place to me so I looked them up and discovered that they are part of a proverb from the King James bible)…and uses both to find success in his chosen craft.

It also didn’t hurt that, in the PDF version of the book I read, Ace showed up on page 33 (one of my favorite numbers). :-)

…anyway for those of you that have *way* too much time to waste on your hands, here are the four versions of the script that I wrote as I worked through it all:

Rough draft:

http://gawk.it/static/Splitting_Aces_v1.pdf

I didn’t love the ending and was a bit worried that I put too many (weak) scenes into such a short script…but it was a start and I intend to tighten it up and evolve it.

2nd draft:

http://gawk.it/static/Splitting_Aces_v2.pdf

In this version, I tried to take the feedback from a few classmates and scale down some of the text, add a bit more personality to each character, and I also reworked some of the scenes (cutting a few super weak ones and adding in a few that I *think* better fit with my goal here)…I especially tried to focus more on ‘showing through scenes’ this time around rather than 'telling through dialog’.

3rd draft:

http://gawk.it/static/Splitting_Aces_v3.pdf

In this version I did a little dialog cleanup (based on feedback) and then went in search of more of the 'story’ I’m trying to tell. I felt like it was getting close to the final version I wanted it to be.

Final draft (for now):

http://gawk.it/static/Splitting_Aces_final.pdf

Having come up with the logline between V3 and this draft, I found I only made small tweaks and changes to the script (hence my decision to call it a *final* draft).

Overall, I’m pretty happy with what I have considering the small amount of source text I was basing this on (and that this is the first time I’ve ever attempted screenwriting of any kind).

I was amazed at how quickly the pages fill up and how little you can actually accomplish in the space…you really do have to get to the point as quickly, and cleanly, as possible.

I don’t know when I’ll try to do more screenwriting, but I did enjoy the overall process and am sure I’ll give it at least a few more tries (probably on material of my own choosing the next time).

Regardless, I learned a bunch and the lessons on writing a logline and pitching can be widely adopted to much of what I do (I’m especially applying them to my thinking/approach to the Coach Wizard story – which I’m very excited about).

The class is available on Skillshare right now (if you join before July 24th, you even have a [very slim] chance to earn direct feedback from the teachers on your work).

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

If you have comments, thoughts, or want to respond to something you see here I would encourage you to respond via a post on your own blog (and then let me know about the link via one of the routes mentioned above).