“I’ve always heard the term, but no one I’ve asked before seems to know the answer.”
A question from The Z:
Could you delve into what exactly a polish is for a script? What is looked at, rewritten, added, deleted, etc.
I’ve always heard the term, but no one I’ve asked before seems to know the answer other than, “That’s the last thing you do to a script.” Okay — so what is it?
If you look at the current WGA schedule of minimums, you’ll see [P. 1] there is a distinction between a “Rewrite of Screenplay” and “Polish of Screenplay.” However I don’t think there’s any official definition of the term other than its placement in the chronology of writing services:
- First Draft
To answer your question at a practical level, let me humbly suggest that a script polish may involve:
- Punch up the dialogue: For example, if it’s a comedy, look for opportunities to amp up the humor. Sometimes the request is specific to a single character. Do a subtext check to see if there are better, more oblique ways to have characters attack certain subject areas.
- Tighten the script: Look for scenes to cut or trim. Zero in on dialogue, especially exposition, that can be dropped. Trim scene description.
- Work on pace: A combination of dropping, switching, or reworking scenes to enhance the flow of the narrative.
- Make the script more cinematic: Look for opportunities to enhance visual moments. Consider ways to make transitions smoother and more visual.
- Up the emotion: See if there are existing scenes to dig into characters more. If not, brainstorm scenes to accomplish that end.
- Highlight themes: Look for chances to finesse and focus some of the story’s themes.
- Final edit: This is everything from reading dialogue aloud to spell checking.
Essentially taking a script that basically works, making it better, and bringing the project home.