One of the biggest breakout hits this summer was The Farewell. Everyone is talking about how intimate, funny, and heartfelt this movie is, and the person we have to thank for it is writer-director Lulu Wang. It's hard to overstate how much work she had to do rewriting this screenplay. 

Through tedious translation, copy editing and formatting, Wang had to constantly adapt her vision for an English speaking audience. 

Check out the video from Vanity Fair and let's talk after! 

The Process of Translation 

One of the most interesting things that struck me about the video was the arduous process of translation. Wang is a fluent speaker of Chinese, but cannot write it. So she had to work with her mother and producers to get the ideas from her head, onto the page, and then onto the page again in another language. 

While doing this, she was also rewriting portions of the story and dialogue. 

Sounds complicated! 


I think this is an interesting way to refine and continue to refine the ideas presented.  You're almost forced to rewrite constantly until it works in several different languages. Here are the steps she took in the process of translation. 


What language are we reading? 

A lot of newer screenwriters have no idea how to signify dialogue in another language. Wang uses brackets to help the reader understand as characters slip back and forth. It's a great and simple way for the reader to acknowledge who is saying what in each scene. 

I'm definitely going to be using the brackets in my own work going forward. 


What stays the same? 

In any rewrite, you're going to lose lots of details and dialogue. But some things stay the same. 

In the photo below, you can see the changes between the first and final drafts. Plot points like a breakup are gone from the script entirely, but there are nuggets of dialogue that remain. First drafts often have elements that linger, you just have to polish and refine to see them standout. 

Wang got there by dumping everything around the words that describe the crux of importance within the scene. 


What's next? Get started on your rewrite!

We've all heard "all writing is rewriting" at some point in our lives, but what goes into rewriting your screenplay and how can you tackle it like a pro? 

Click the link to learn more!