Saturday, August 27, 2011

One Year Ago

Today is the first anniversary of my involuntary redundancy from a company I worked at for a combined 21 years.

A day I still have mixed feelings about. 

Loss of a decent wage, some semblance of security and maybe, if I was being honest, a sense of self-worth. 

On the positive side, the ability to be debt free and time rich. 

I have not worked a regular job since, living off my modest redundancy payout and writing. The time when that will need to change draws inexorably nearer. I suspect that nagging feeling I am experiencing is dread.

So today will be one of reflection. This afternoon I am going to see a play - a comedy - I hope the laughter takes my mind off other things.

Last year when told I was no longer required due to cutbacks of nine hundred people in a big national company I went to see Inception. May the right side of my brain continue to conquer the left in such matters.

Tomorrow will be a new day in more ways than one...

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Invisible Man

This caught my eye in a report today about Matthew Newton's troubles in getting back into show business:

Others [high profile agents] conceded the only role Newton could attempt is behind-the-scenes, such as scriptwriting.
"I don't think anyone wants to actually see him - he needs to be invisible," they said.
The revelation that agents apparently talk in unison aside, the fact that scriptwriting is considered the equivalent of being invisible made me laugh.

In my case it's virtually true - no more Facebook, no more Twitter, no more Google+, no more online distractions (well, other than this blog).

As Darryl Kerrigan from The Castle might ask, "how's the serenity?"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

No Hyphens Here

"I'm just a writer."

I normally tell people off for saying that, especially myself - there's no "just" about it. However, we're seemingly a rare breed in Australia. The norm appears to be to collect as many hyphens as possible - writer/director being the most notable. Of course, the collective noun for a swag of hyphens is "auteur" but that's a discussion for another time.

The reality - sheeted home again today - of being "just a writer" is that you can't get a film made by yourself, not even a short film. I never went to film school, have "directed" a sum total of two scenes for a workshop 6 years ago, don't even own a video camera. So I need a director... otherwise it's "just" words on a page.

Unfortunately I've had two short film projects on the precipice this year only to be scuppered when key creative collaborators withdrew. So there's a really nice short script that missed FTI's last funding round sitting in a drawer until next year; and another script that now has to find a new home before it can get made. Why the withdrawals? Personal reasons, scheduling conflicts; issues outside my control.

The disappointment is magnified when I see colleagues being congratulated for successfully navigating the highly competitive funding rounds or having their shorts selected in festivals. You have to "be in it to win it" as I always say but I can't even make it to the starting line lately!

My main focus is feature scripts but I'd like to think anything I devote time to writing has some chance of being seen by an audience otherwise what's the point?

I don't have time to dwell on it as the ticking clock of a deadline grows louder by the day. It's a reality of being a screenwriter... still doesn't mean you don't feel gutted when you have to open that metaphorical bottom drawer and banish another of your creations...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Screenwriter's Life Support

Pretty much any science fiction series ever made will have the obligatory "life support" scene where our intrepid heroes slowly asphyxiate as oxygen/gravity/sanity slowly ebbs away. They are usually saved at the last minute by some clever spark reversing the polarity on something or other and tweaking the [insert techno-babble here]. 

Well, screenwriters are just as reliant on "life support" to make it through to the end credits. If you don't have it you may as well be standing next to James T. wearing a red shirt because man, you're toast. I'm not talking about anything that requires anti-matter, dilithium crystals or even a flux capacitor, rather the support of people who have faith in your ability. People who understand. People who care. 

Let's face it, the fun part of writing is the raucous story sessions; off-the-wall brainstorming; discussing/debating/arguing beats or characters or any number of details with key creative collaborators. For me that would be the directors and producers I work with, and occasionally actors. I have never had a writing partner as such but I'm sure it's a similar situation. The ability to bounce ideas off others. 

At the end of all that spitballin' you have to lock yourself away and write. And that is HARD. So when you're stuck, writing poorly, tearing your hair out, lost in rewrites or simply battling a killer deadline any support is absolutely crucial. A few things lately have made me realise this even more...

I had a meeting on Sunday with my producers on the supernatural thriller script, the one where my head is fogged with so many possibilities as I approach the next draft. People like different things from different drafts but I've not quite nailed it yet. Not only did they tell me there was potential interest from the film market associated with the Melbourne International Film Festival, but they were backing me in to deliver the next draft in an insanely tight time frame (a little over two and a half weeks)... Faith. 

Recently another writer at a function asked me how that script was going and understood exactly what I was going through. Amazing what an empathetic ear and the offer of a chat over coffee can do for your spirits. 

Today I had a Skype session with a director I'm working with on another project. The banter flies pretty thick and fast, bordering on outright sledging but that has its own humour and connection. I wanted to finalise a damn infernal three page synopsis for a feature idea so I could disappear to work on the above rewrite. He took this in good spirits and we discussed next steps in our collaboration once I come up for air. The humour picks the spirits up and the preparedness to wait is an unspoken form of support and encouragement.

Then, unexpectedly, a writer-director rang me this afternoon to discuss the two short scripts I have written for Filmbites. He was working with the actors this evening on rehearsal techniques and wanted to know if there was anything I wanted mentioned re the pieces, especially in regard to theme. I thought this was a great professional courtesy to extend. We also ended up talking about our feature projects, the both of us on similar development paths. 

Then there's my friend, also a writer, who always tells me when I need to extricate my head from my proverbial; a writer-director who patiently listened to my rant a couple of weeks ago at my local writing haunt; and a few others who act as safety valves, wise counsel and inspiration. Small in number, huge in impact and utterly invaluable. 

Stephen King talks about the "ideal reader" in his excellent book On Writing but I would contend that sometimes you need the "ideal listener" to help you through the dark days of unfilled pages and unrealised drafts. I don't know where I would be without them...

This will be my last post for a while - time to go reward everybody's faith, understanding and support with some hard work and creativity. See you in a couple of weeks!