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!