This is a lot to take in, and for a proper response I will need some time to digest it all. But I thought I'd post my initial reactions if only just to indicate that I am still alive somewhere and have been reading all of this.
Frank, I totally agree with you about the need for structure, and that we need to keep the ball rolling on this film. I also agree that Friday would be a good deadline for making a decision about where to go with death's character as that is the real lynch-pin in our film, and a decision that must be made before we can move forward. I personally feel that Saturday is too soon to have the final version of the script because if we will be boarding from it I think we will all need time to read it, review it and make changes if need be. As you have written all of our previous scripts, I am assuming that you'd be doing this one as well, and if that is your intention: GREAT! The other scripts have served us well, and I can only imagine that this one will top them all. That said, I personally would like a chance to read it, edit it and have input on it before we move on to boarding. Finally, while this may not be a popular thought I feel I have to put it out there: having our final board done before school starts seems like it might not be realistic and could be a waste of time. The fact is, when we boarded separately over reading week the results were disastrous, nothing fit, there was no direction, it didn't work. Now think if we had put the time into cleaning and scanning those thumbnails how much time we would have wasted. I think we'd be better to make sure we finally take the time to do everything right and be realistic about our abilities. My thoughts on how this might work are as follows: First as a group we need to develop a really tight script, and then we should each do thumbnail treatments of this script in whole or in part and based on whatever section(s) inspire us most. But not super quick "lets just get this over with and clean it up so it is perdy thumbnails", but thumbnails that take advantage of being thumbnails and allow us to work and rework the visual storytelling: the contrast/affinity, the continuum of motion, the screen direction, the continuity, and most importantly the acting, the character business, and entertainment (ie. put the funny in it). These kinds of things are admittedly lacking in our current boards because we never had the time to really work on them. Well now that we do have some time we should take it. If we could return to school with thumbnail boards that are really strong in terms of visual, cartoon, storytelling then I think we should all be very happy with that because then we need only clean and scan and edit in that first week back and we will have done a good job of everything. And remember what DQ said, these boards do not have to be beautiful - if our roughs serve to tell the story we might not need to clean them up very much.
As for the characterization of death debate: it is great to see all of the discussion going on. I agree with Tracy about the need for clarity and that is why, like Kayla and Jason (who both had some very good points on the subject) my vote is going to the antagonist version of death. It is clear and can be easily explained in a way that the old version never could: Death is a powerful villain with a complete inability to do his job in the case of one man: Evil Stevil. Evil Stevil is a daredevil, a "death-defier", it is his business to tease Death by putting himself in deadly situations and then proceed to NOT DIE! Death is a bully, he never had a problem taking anyone away until Evil Stevil stood up to him, but once that happened Death slowly begins to have a nervous break down about his own impotence. The humour lies in the conflict between these two characters and, as Jason put it, in Evil Stevil being too stubborn to die.
The other version took too much waffling to make work. At one point Death had to have wanted Evil Stevil to die, but after living with him he now does not, but then he is "ok" with it in the end. Those are three separate attitudes that need to be at least alluded to in the film or the whole thing makes no sense. And is Death conflicted about wanting ES to live? He should be, because he is death, but he isn't, because we don't have time to have him debate it. And then there is the infamous parachute, the real proof that this version wasn't meant to be. Why did we put it in? To justify the relationship between Death and Evil Stevil. To try to give it a reason to exist - a payoff. And yet the parachute really failed to bring that payoff because it didn't feel natural. Simply put: if it was necessary to create such a contrived situation as the parachute to give this relationship a reason to exist, maybe that is a sign that it just wasn't right for this story and this group. The relationship was so complex and yet had no real purpose within the context of the story - it existed as a concept that was funny to pitch to people but became the cement shoes on our film's feet.
I believe that this isn't the case with the new idea because not only does it take less explanation and justification, it fits into the story better. It provides an antagonist and a clear conflict: Death wants to kill ES, ES wants to live to do his final jump. And it helps us along the way to a clear premise and theme: If you live life without regret and fight for your dreams then death has no power over you. If the old version had a conflict it was muddy at best - ES could have been the antagonist, the Jump might have been the antagonist, or was it Death in his bid to stop ES from trying to achieve his goal? And the premise was even less clear. After 4 months of working on that story I'm still not sure about either one, so how could the audience be sure in 4 minutes?
In response to Kayla's post:
We need to, in simple terms, tell the audience that death, although death, is not as strong as folk tales make him out to be, this meaning, he can't just touch ES and kill him.
I'd say that death is still a strong villain, just not in the case of Evil Stevil, and that is why it drives him nuts and gives us opportunity for humour and to make ES a hero figure. Think Sideshow Bob and Bart Simpson. As for the touching, I totally agree, they need to be able to contact each other without ES keeling over. But I think that is as simple as making Death's scythe the killing tool, not his touch. This can be established in the 1st scene when Death tries to get him with the scyth but ES fights back and stops him, and then at the end we can have Death pull the soul out of ES's body with the scyth. It'll be totally manageable to never have the scythe touch ES until he dies. We can decide how much we want to make use of the scythe concept, but it would be a fairly simple solution.
As for the story list: I think that we need to resign ourselves to the fact that things will have to be changed. I agree with axing the stuff that didn't play well and as Kayla alluded too I think we need to rewrite Death throughout the film, particularly in the opening and the ending. I would also suggest that we get rid of death's sweat suit and the whole soap opera thing. This will allow us to cut time and keep the focus of the first section on what matters: the final success of the model jump and the character's reactions to it and to each other. In addition, I don't think that this Death would live with Evil Stevil, nor does it seem in character to poof into a track suit when he is trying to seem menacing and powerful (even if he is failing at it). I realize that people liked the sweat suit gag, but it won't really work in this case, and death will be easier to animate in his foot-less cloak anyway. And we can replace this gag with others so that people won't miss it.
To conclude: I am glad to hear that people liked much of our current version, and I think that by the sounds of it most of the things that people enjoyed will still exist in the new version and most of what they hated (the parachute) can be dispensed with and replaced with more of the good-stuff!
Hope everyone is having a good start to their break!