• I Am More Rewrite

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    Part II of Brett Fowler’s exploration of the changes made to the rough draft of the screenplay adaptation of I Am Legend. Read part I here.


    To answer this question, we need look no further than the first draft of the screenplay. Reading the first draft of I Am Legend is truly a great way to learn more about the processes which go into revisions, and an easy way for any aspiring writer to improve upon his or her own work. After reading the first draft and subsequently re-watching the movie, I was able to evaluate why certain elements of the final version were edited, cut, or completely altered.

    For instance, in the first draft, Robert Neville is much less attached to his canine companion. The dog doesn’t even have a name. In the final draft, Neville’s German Shepherd is named Sam, and Neville’s love for the dog is one of the driving emotional forces of the movie.


    ****If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want to be spoiled skip the following two paragraphs***

    In both drafts of I Am Legend the dog becomes infected after saving Neville’s life. However, in the first draft Neville doesn’t have the heart to kill the infected dog and he winds up releasing it into the wild. Ultimately, the first draft lacks emotional resonance because of it.

    In the final draft, however, in what I believe is one of Hollywood’s most emotionally riveting scenes ever, Neville suffocates Sam after she succumbs to the zombie virus. It’s heart-wrenching, primal, and bloody brilliant. Watch it if you dare.

    ***Spoiler Over***


    This dramatic revision was a ballsy move on the part of Protosevich and ultimately, a lesson to all writers: a single change to a single scene can alter the entire emotional landscape of your writing for the better.

    Don’t be afraid to make changes. Sometimes change is exactly the thing you need to propel your work toward greatness. And oftentimes, writers are afraid to make that big change necessary for their writing to succeed. Why? Too much emotional attachment.

    Typically, once you’ve finished writing a story you’ll find yourself having an “Aha!” moment, a “This story is my best work yet!” feeling. And because of it, you’ll find yourself less willing to make changes to your story’s structure, its characters, or its overall plot. Revisions are difficult, especially when you’re emotionally invested in a project. My personal advice to create some emotional distance: take some time away from your story. At least a month. After that month, when you revisit your piece you’ll be more objective, more rational, and more emotionally open to the idea of revision.

    As for what to do during that month: why not read some more screenplays? Drew’s Script O Rama offers a ton of free movie scripts, some of them first or second drafts. I recommend reading the screenplay of a film you’ve seen and then re-watching the movie. Learning how the pros rewrite and revise is a great tool for improving your own work.

    So until we meet again, I’ll see you in another life, brotha.


    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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