So, this thing is going to need a script.
And the script needs to be about an hour long.
Where on earth do I begin?
Well, like I do with any project that's large and daunting at first, I decided to break it down into steps.
I already had a few ideas floating around - I knew how I wanted to portray the red-line-on-the-map sequences, I knew that I wanted to do some of the bigger more difficult action sequences with shadow puppets, and I knew that I wanted to have a multipurpose piece of stage furniture. This was to be a steamer trunk (that I'd have specially made) that could "become" various things throughout the show. There would be no time for costume changes, so I decided that I'd wear the standard Indy costume and create the other characters (all 39 of them!) vocally and physically. There would be a few - a very few - props.
And although it's not an exact science, I knew that I wanted each of the three movies to take 15 - 20 minutes to perform on stage. (The concept was "Three Indiana Jones Movies In An Hour", after all).
This assignment was going to be one part creative invention, one part massive editing job. The first thing I did was to boil the three movies down into a manageable number of scenes, and note which characters and props were required for each of them. That gave me this document;
The next step was to flesh this framework out, but after quite a bit of searching online, I wasn't able to find any shooting scripts of the films. There were some earlier versions, but I obviously needed the dialogue all to be exactly as it was in the finished films. I gave myself deadlines, and reported regularly to the show's director, Russell Fletcher. This framework was essential to keep me disciplined and on track with what was, at times, a slightly overwhelming task.
Here's a progress report email I sent to Russell on 2nd July 2013. (Opening Night was to be 20th September)...
Tue, 2 Jul 2013 12:58 PM
'Raiders' script progress report.
I just wanted to drop you a quick line to let you know where I'm at with the script.
As you know, I've done my scene breakdown, (breaking each movie down to 15 - 20 scenes). I'm now going through Raiders and picking out pivotal lines of dialogue and action moments for each scene that still tell the story. ('Putting the meat on the bones', if you will). I'll then move on to 'Temple of Doom' and then 'Last Crusade'. As such, I'm hoping to get the VERY FIRST ROUGH DRAFT to you in the next week or two.
Hope that's okay by you.
Then, two weeks later, as I slogged on and on....
Thu, 18 Jul 2013 11:05 AM
'Raiders' script progress report.
Just wanted to give you a quick update on where I'm at with the script for the show.
I'm half way through transcribing the movies. That's right - transcribing them. As in word-for-word, as in "press PLAY, press PAUSE, then type, press PLAY, press PAUSE, then type, press PLAY, press PAUSE then type"... So I'm about half way through Temple of Doom, and hoping to get through to the end of Last Crusade by the end of this weekend.
After that, I'll do an edit, paring the dialogue back to the bare minimum we need to tell the story / stories. During that pass, I'll also put in any gags and bits of stage business that I've thought of so far, along with bits that I'll think of along the way.
Then I'll send it to you, to see what you reckon.
Sorry it's taking so long - the time I can spend on it is all a bit fragmented at the moment, due to work and family commitments, but there are blue skies ahead on both of those fronts. That is to say, Judi & Lily are going away for a week at the start of August, which is also when I'll be unemployed again!
Then, after he responded saying "No worries, I understand. But is there no freak out there on he web who's done the transcript?",
I got back to him with this...
Sun, 21 Jul 2013 9:42 PM
'Raiders' script progress report.
Thanks for your understanding.
No, I haven't been able to find transcripts of the movies as they actually ended up being shot. Various drafts of the scripts are online (which are interesting in and of themselves) but for the word-for-word accounts of the movies, I'm finding I need to go directly to the source. (Although the "quotes" sections of the imdb entries on all 3 of them have been helpful - luckily there are freaks who've already transcribed the various bits and pieces that they love....)
And so, on I soldier....
My wife and daughter did indeed go away for a week, and during that time, I worked on the Raiders script day and night, until by August 4th, I'd finally finished the first draft. It was 65 pages long, and contained WAY too much dialogue. There were virtually no stage directions, no shadow puppet scenes, and no mention of how any props or stage furniture would be used. I figured that these details would take shape organically as Russell and I rehearsed the piece. And I knew that, over the next few weeks, as we got it up on its feet, we would be cutting material, cutting material again, and cutting more material, as we streamlined the show, and made it - to quote George Lucas - "faster and more intense".
And that's pretty much what happened. Russell and I were able to schedule 20 days of rehearsal between then and Opening Night. As I ran the show with him again and again, we trimmed, we invented bits of business, and Russell gave me the benefits of his incredible mime skills. The show got faster, tighter, and entire scenes were sometimes dropped. The 8th draft of the script was just 30 pages long. And the ridiculous challenge that I'd set myself (of cramming all that material into an hour) even found its way into some of the dialogue of the show, as in this bit from Last Crusade, as Indy and Henry escape from Castle Brunwald:
INDY: I think I can get these ropes off.
HE DOES. REPO THE STOOL DSC.
INDY: Into the sidecar, Dad.
HENRY: What about the fireplace that rotates?
INDY: No time.
HENRY: Secret staircase?
HENRY: The boats?
INDY: Come on!
INDY COMMANDEERS A MOTORBIKE (LEG OVER). HENRY'S IN THE SIDECAR.
So by the time Opening Night rolled around, I was relatively confident that we had a script that was fast, funny and action-packed. It was a real runaway train of a show, that set a cracking pace and never let up. I had all the lines and moves down (after recording the lines into my phone, and playing them back on headphones ad infinitum), and I knew that this was the show I wanted to do. I was proud of a lot of the gags, of a lot of the stagecraft, and of a lot of the moments we'd created. As Opening Night drew nearer and nearer, I finished sourcing - and often making - all the physical props I needed for the show.
And they'll be the subject of my next post - Steamer Trunks and Shadow Puppets.