Turning The Santa Diaries Into a Movie Script

Laura and I are turning The Santa Diaries play into a movie script. This story was always meant to be a movie, but the opportunity to write the play showed up and we jumped on it. It got the story arc in place. For the past couple of weeks we have been working on the screenplay and the transition from play to movie script has been challenging.

A play has to be written differently because the audience can’t see facial expressions as well (no close-ups in a play). Thus more of the play’s story has to be in dialogue. More telling and less showing. For the screenplay we can “show” more and have significantly shortened some of the dialogue chunks. For example, in the play Josh was always on his phone doing business with New York and LA. On stage we couldn’t jump to LA without doing a scenery change. It would have slowed down the action.

In the movie script we can easily cut to another setting so we have added several new characters that inhabit an office on a movie lot in LA. This spices up the movie. Being in the same place all the time gets boring. Where we relied on the play’s audience to fill in some visual cues using their imagination (“…the ninja assassins have become vampires. The director wants lots of blood.”), we can now show vampires and spurting blood – in a humorous way. This is a Christmas movie, after all.

Movies can close in on faces so some scenes in the play that had something of a slapstick quality are being toned down. We don’t have to answer every question because the expressions of the actor hold the answer when the camera zooms in.

The process is feeling quite liberating.

We worked for several hours on Friday, called in a lunch order and sent my husband to pick it up. That gave us an extra half hour. Laura had to go back to her office to work at her day job and I rejoined her a couple of hours later to work some more. We should be finished in a few more days and the script will be ready for some fresh readers who will tell us what still needs work.

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