Tally so far on the feature script: 87 scenes since 1st Jan.
Last week: None.
FAITH is a funny thing. Belief that you can do something, belief that other people will understand what you are trying to say and help you build on your dream to make it a reality.
When no one else believes in you, it doesn’t matter if you only believe in yourself.
But if you don’t believe, then everything grinds to a halt. I don’t mean doubts, everyone has those and you probably wouldn’t be a good writer without them. I mean the withholding of energy from your project because you have lost faith in its value. What does it mean when this happens and what can you do about it?
Look at your life. What has happened recently? The reason may be outside not inside. Check your state of mind and health. Are you tired? Overworked? Stressed? So far, so normal. So if it isn’t that what is it?
Is it you? Has the reason you were writing this script gone away or been temporarily submerged by other feelings or desires? Has the emotional driver behind the piece fled?
I don’t know but for some reason this last week I hardly wrote at all. I was approaching difficulties in the plot. I was struggling to set up my recce trip. I felt I needed a producer to help me solve things – or at least to gee me up when I got down.
Sometimes life just gets in the way and a series of late nights (mostly work related), filming in a freezing cold factory, writing theatre reviews and long train trips to see relatives left me exhausted by Monday morning and unable to think let alone write.
Last night I slept for twelve hours. And after a slow start this morning finally wrote a couple of scenes.
Maybe I needed some time away from the script to realise what I was missing…?
So you gotta have Faith. And yes that is a song….
How do you recover when you’ve ground to a halt? Leave a comment here or tweet me @emlin32 on Twitter. Take care of yourself.
Factual research for a work of fiction is a two edged sword. What you learn can be fascinating but it can also feel like you’ve dumped a big pile of rubbish all over your story that you now need to wade through and decide what’s useful and what’s trash. So how do you rise above your research and find the truth of your own story?
1. DON’T JUST CUT AND PASTE
It’s tempting when you find a juicy story or piece of information to plonk it straight into your script. Consider first how you want to use it, or why it is attractive to you? Does it fit with the story you are writing? If not bin it.
2. TAKE TIME TO PROCESS
A lot of new information can be overwhelming. It could completely change the direction of your story. This could be a good thing – or a huge distraction. Don’t be intimidated. Wait and see which facts resonate with you and emerge in your writing naturally.
3. CHECK THE TRUTH BEHIND THE FACTS
Special interest groups and their campaigns can be a great resource. But check your facts are coming from an unbiased source or at least understand the bias at play.
4. LOOK AT BOTH SIDES OF THE ARGUMENT
Don’t just read research that confirms your own world view. How can you write your antagonist if you don’t know what they believe and why? You might find something that surprises you and adds credibility to your story.
5. YOU DON’T OWE ANYONE ANYTHING
Your greatest strength as a writer is your independence. Maintain it at all costs and don’t ‘get into bed with’ activists, governments or even people you interview who naturally enough have their own outlook on life. Stay true to yourself and your story.
6. BUT TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for yourself and your writing. Be accurate and truthful in your portrayals of events and characters in the world you’ve created, especially if your story is based on real events.
7. FOLLOW YOUR INTEGRITY when you write and trust yourself to find your own truth behind the lines.
What’s the strangest fact you have uncovered and how did it change your story? Leave a comment below or tweet me @emin32 on Twitter. Happy Writing!
For writers trying to break through the whitewashed ceiling…
Great opportunity to hear first hand from some very talented writers…
Through iTunes, the Writers Guild of America, East has made available many free podcasts.
Here’s Boardwalk Empire showrunner Terence Winter discussing the merits of premium cable with Denis Leary,co-creator and star of Rescue Me. There’s Tony Award–winning playwright John Guare explaining the challenges and rewards of adapting work from stage to screen. From 90-second clips to hour-long panel discussions,WGAE’s iTunes U site provides entertaining and educational media for any artist, writer or aficionado.
While perusing through their listings, I noticed podcasts discussing such topics as Writing NY: How the Big Apple Inspires and Informs the Movies, Reflections on Adaptation, and many other components of writing. Although, these podcast have more to do with television & film writing, I thought this could be quite interesting. They offer podcasts on mistakes to avoid, marketing yourself, and chat with successful playwrights and screenwriters.
Also while clicking around in iTunes, I came across some other free podcasts…
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How do you create energy around your feature film script? Forward momentum is essential, not just to keep you motivated as you write but to cut through all the other projects being pushed equally hard by everyone else out there.
I’ve just decided to go to Arizona to research my feature script, ‘Anchor Baby’, and recce locations. It was already a goal for this spring but setting the date and checking out flights has created a huge swell of energy and excitement. I feel like I’m in production already.
DON’T WAIT FOR PERMISSION
Features are so expensive and take so long to develop and make that you can often die of old age while the deals are being done – and undone – and done again. As a first or even second time director you are under a lot of scrutiny – can you carry a multi-million dollar movie? A lot of money is at stake so it’s a fair question but if you wait for someone to say yes, it’s OK, you could be waiting a long time. The popularity of Kickstarter and Indiegogo is testament to film makers who don’t want to wait for permission anymore. The digital revolution and the internet mean you now have the option to take some or even all of the movie making process into your own hands.
ACT LIKE IT’S TELEVISION.
The long development period on features can get you down. Working on TV shows I’ve learned that things happen fast. You are given a deadline and you have to stick to it. And with a lot of prep and hard work, everything can happen on schedule, on time and turn out pretty damn good too. Instead of looking forward into an uncertain future, be your own commissioning editor and give your project the green light – and a delivery date.
THINK LIKE A DIRECTOR
Go to the location that inspired your script – and take some shots, even shoot a trailer, visualise the scenes you’ve written. Make mood boards of inspiring images – costumes for characters, colours for sets. They could become part of your development package and, even if they don’t, they’ll help you be more specific in your writing as you’ll know what your world looks like.
JUMP BEFORE YOU’RE READY
If the script isn’t there yet, write it while you’re looking at the locations. Rewrite it while you’re casting, finesse it in rehearsals. The script has to be strong, but if sitting behind a desk is getting you down, start planning the movie and use that pressure to work harder and faster.
All these ideas come down to one thing and one thing only. Don’t let your movie exist only in your head… MAKE IT REAL.
If you’re not sure how to do this, brainstorm ideas with friends. How do you create energy around your projects? Leave a comment here or tweet me @emlin32 on Twitter.
The joy of bad art is unexpected. We have all sat through interminable movies and sworn never again to be lured in by the poster or the offer of a free ticket. And everyone knows that bad theatre is ten times worse as you have to look the actors in the eye and, in a small venue, you can’t even leave .
So why, after a long week of work, am I feeling so invigorated?
Because I just saw a really bad film/play/piece of performance art. Before you think I am mean and uncaring and love revelling in other people’s creative failures I really don’t. I find it tedious and excruciating and would much rather find things I like about something than not.
But oh, the joy of the truly bad. The story that cannot be rescued or improved upon, the production that holds you in its tentacles and won’t let you go for two hours of torture. The giggles that threaten to erupt every time you look at your companion’s face. The drinks you have to down afterwards to make it go away.
The running elatedly down the road when it is over and you are released… When something is this bad it’s gotta be good.
Is it because it makes us less precious about our own failings as a writer or director or actor? Almost certainly. Does it comfort us to know our own ‘middle of the road’ writing could never be that bad? For sure.
And any extreme experience is worth celebrating. Some of the best works of art are the polarisers – the ones you either love or hate – rather than those dreaded in-betweeners, the ‘pleasant’ painting, the ‘watchable’ movie or the ‘well-made play’. There is probably nothing worse than a luke-warm review. Or the look on the face of a friend when you ask, ‘Should I see it?’ and they can’t say yes or no, they just don’t know.
The joy of failure is now celebrated. I walk past a billboard celebrating the many failures of Abraham Lincoln and designed to point up the value of trying again. I’m not sure failure is ever that joyful when it happens to you. It may be useful in giving you a sense of perspective when you finally succeed I guess.
But the schadenfreude of watching someone else’s failure is maybe why we love an all-out turkey of a movie. Failure is liberating. And at least we all tried for that hour or so to make it work. Audiences desperately want to be uplifted, transformed, fall in love with your characters, your world, your story. It doesn’t always happen.
Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s often said but seldom meant. Nobody likes to fail. But it’s good to remember the world won’t end if we make something just a little wonky round the edges.
What’s your favourite bad movie? The worst show you ever saw? The funniest mistake you ever made?
Leave a comment or tweet me @emlin32 on twitter… Or check out this list and see if you agree…