Saturday, September 17, 2011

The "Re" Factor - An analogy (and quick rant)

Yes, remakes, reboots and re-imaginings. The bane of Hollywood at the moment. For example, how many Super & Spider Men do I need in my cinematic world? Problem is, audiences flock to go see them. I struggle to understand why...

Then I noticed a certain phenomena on Facebook: status updates that are cut and pastes from various comedy websites - without quotation marks or attribution (writers have a word for that but let's not go there) - thereby appearing to be the poster's own creation. Which is met with much acclaim and adulation. Oh, how hilarious the poster is! How witty! Likes and comments up the wazoo.

Zero creativity for maximum response.

I used to be notorious (until most of my offending friends took the hint) for berating people who forwarded recycled crap off the internet to my personal email. "Dazzle me with your own wit and brilliance" used to be my plea! I guess none of my friends' surnames end in Christopher Nolan.

Social Media appears to have increased the practice exponentially. But can you blame the poster? They get the response they want with minimum effort.

Isn't that what the big Hollywood studios are doing? Recycling old product in a slightly different guise? Of course they'll keep doing it if people keep paying their hard earned over the counter. Same as hitting that "Like" button. Why go to the trouble (and expense) of creating something new and original?

Drives me nuts as someone who tries to create new and original content (in both mediums) but it seems to be the way of the world these days - the quick, easy fix.

Rant over as I type '"today's funniest jokes" into the google machine...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mojo Risin' *

It would be fair to say I was struggling there for a while with the rewrite of my main feature script. Too many voices in my head, a loss of confidence in my writing ability and, as a result, I was procrastinating like crazy. Not good with a deadline approaching.

Thank goodness then that the fog has lifted and I am back in the zone.


Well, let me explain by taking a little trip into time and outer space. Specifically, April 14, 1970 on the way to the Moon. Yes, the day astronaut Jim Lovell announced to the world that Apollo 13 indeed had a problem. Beautifully dramatised by Ron Howard in the movie of the same name. In Mission Control, chaos erupts as the controllers struggle to comprehend the enormity of what the data is telling them. Lead Flight Director Gene Kranz (played by Ed Harris) then utters the line I most relate to when the proverbial hits the fan:

Let's look at this thing from a... um, from a standpoint of status. What do we got on the spacecraft that's good?

Substitute the word 'script' for 'spacecraft' and you have the catalyst for my change in mindset. Instead of focusing on everything that was "wrong" with the script, I went back and looked at what was working. Sure, there are things that need a fixin' but there's also a lot of really, really good stuff. Funny how you forget that when your confidence is somewhat battered. 

Instead of reinventing the wheel it becomes an exercise in problem solving. Once I flipped perspective from a negative bias to a positive one everything was suddenly freed up and the keys started a clackin'. I had my writing mojo back! 

So when things explode, the data (notes) overwhelm you and the script is flirting with "Gimbal lock" remember to ask - what do you got in the script that's good?!

* Apologies to Jim Morrison

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

“Talk about your habit for a second.”

I am forever surprised at the range of responses Jeff Goldsmith (formerly Creative Screenwriting Magazine, now the Q&A) elicits from professional screenwriters about their writing habits. Everything from highly structured schedules to quirky, interstate email partnerships to exquisite forms of procrastination. 

I fall into the latter camp (good to know I’m not alone!).

Someone said to me once the difference between a novelist and a dramatist (screenwriter, playwright) is that a novelist has a burning desire to tell their story and MUST write whereas a dramatist has to be dragged kicking and screaming to the keyboard with imminent disaster looming.

In this a deadline helps.

Which is where I’m at now – having procrastinated my way into a position where the only option is to write like crazy to meet a deadline. It’s amazing how it gets the creative juices flowing.

There must be an easier way but that just seems to be how it is. Somehow I still manage to be productive but it’s a helluva rollercoaster to take. When I write, when I’m in that zone, I’m fine.

Getting there is the battle for me.

I know, people say tackle the blank page every day until it becomes second nature, until the ‘fear’ subsides. I admire the people who can do that, write for a set time every single day. Not built that way.

So now I have to fly. Which means locking everybody out for the next three weeks and retreating into my head. I don’t know what’s scarier – the isolation of it all or the fact that I might enjoy staying in that space far too much.

I do know I have to banish all the other voices in my head - the doubt, the confusion, the panic, the notes, the theory. And just write. It ain’t glamorous… but that’s what you sign up for as a screenwriter.

Therefore please don’t be offended if you don’t hear from me for a while; or get a witty Facebook response; or a timely email reply; even a new blog post. I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing – turning blank pages into a visual story, a form of alchemy that is elusive, frustrating, amazing and ultimately rewarding in ways that are hard to explain.

The priority has to be the work. From that everything else springs. Talent gravitates towards talent and if the scripts are good then all the gifted people that are needed to make them come to life will follow – the actors, producers, directors, and all manner of craftspeople along with the creative and financial support required to make a movie.

That is the only magic I have to offer – words. Best make them count…