Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Isolation in Writing

Welcome to Perth, the capital of sunny Western Australia. We're brought up with the knowledge that ours is the most isolated capital city in the world. It's cheaper and easier to get to Bali, Indonesia than it is to travel to Sydney.

But that's not the kind of isolation I'm talking about.

Nor is the isolation all writers are familiar with - the solitary duty in their Goldman-esque pit creating magic for the screen, big or small.

No, this is more a sense of belonging that I'm yearning for ... and the realisation that maybe I'm never going to find it in our sleepy little part of the film-making world. Perth is perhaps best known for documentaries and children's television with the occasional low budget feature. And by low budget I mean 1-2 million dollars. There also appears to be a noisy and thriving no-budget scene happening ... and maybe that's my problem. Everything feels so ... small ... and slapdash ... and sometimes downright amateurish.

I guess I applaud the effort, it just feels somehow so ... ill-directed. And the thing that seems to suffer most in this rush to get anything "in the can" is the script. Lots of "director-writers" where the second part of the hyphenate is a dubious assertion at best. Of course, there are exceptions but they are rare.

There is also an angry, restless energy to these generally younger film-makers that I find quite negative and often naive. Many a strident argument has recently broken out in various social media formats about the industry and that hoary old chestnut of art versus business. In response, I have started to withdraw from the local 'scene' and eliminate those voices that distract and detract from what I want to focus on. That's where the isolation comes in.

I'm looking for people who can help me be a better screenwriter. The reality is, there are precious few people in my hometown who can do that. My writing sensibility is not an Australian archetype but far more geared towards the classic Hollywood storytelling model. Hence my increasing interest in US blogs/podcasts and excitement at the upcoming course with Paul Chitlik (whose book I will read over the Easter break). Added to this is the presence of a couple of 'newcomers' to the Perth scene with US experience who I "get" when we talk about film and screenwriting.

The question ultimately will be, can I survive and thrive in this sort of isolation or will I need to find a better writing environment? I enjoy the collaborative side of brainstorming and story sessions but there's really only a few people here who understand (and appreciate?) me as a writer. Will that be enough? I have resisted joining the populist network that's been set up for all local film-makers as it appears more social than professional but a strong support network is important for any writer.

Perhaps I need to delve back into my pit and not worry about such things ... maybe I need to cherish and be thankful for the small band of people whose opinions and talent I respect without craving more. Perhaps being an 'outsider' is not such a bad thing. I guess only time will tell ...


  1. I know what you mean about not wanting to conform to the populist network of film making activity and feeding into 'Australian' archetypes.

    I have been networking online and meeting people all around the world. I'd prefer to talk to a novice film maker in Nigeria with some originality and initiative, or a US professional with skill and extensive experience doing work that people want to see, than talk to an Australian film maker out of a sense of national solidarity or to pander to the local scene to get ahead.

    I use Talentville ( for meeting and keeping in touch with screenwriters (and producers, industry consultants etc.).

    I've also been writing a blog called Cinema and Fiction ( to provide a resource for people in Australia and around the world that goes beyond what is on offer in the usual 'Australian scene'.

  2. Thank you very much for the references. It's good to know there are people of similar mind in our little grotto of the big wide storytelling world!