Was trawling through through the depths of my writing folder today, looking at half finished scripts and long forgotten ideas that lurk in there. Found these early experiments for Al and Ned’s Balding Fringe promotional stuff.
Congratulations! Your domain has been renewed for another year!
I guess forking out to keep my own domain name active means that I should do something with this site; use it more, keep it nice and clean for when visitors come around, and more importantly, be more proactive with my writing and trying to turn it into one of those ‘careers’ that people go on about.
I turned 34 recently. I am not sure how that happened. I am not sure how I even let it happen, but alas, while I wasn’t paying attention, happen it did. It happened and now I have to live with it. Quite a lot has changed in my life in the past year or so. Possibly while I was being distracted by all the life stuff, the ageing thing took advantage of the situation. Though, I can sit here and make excuses for myself all day.
I finished my MA earlier in the year, I was quite pleased with Sky Edge, the major project I submitted. It was my first attempt at a feature film script. My first attempt at trying to write visually as oppose my usual cramming of flowery language into the mouths of my characters. I am still swinging between my preference between the two. Saying more with less or just saying more…with extra words for good effect. I like to talk lots and maybe that comes through in my writing. Often half the words I say are meaningless, but I still like to say them, or make my characters say them. They sound nice!
Anyway, since then I’ve been scratching at ideas, but nothing seems to stick. I have two rather rough ideas that I am currently trying to piece together into ‘proper plots’.
1. A film, working title, ‘Nos Da’ (Welsh for ‘Good night’) Set in the 1990’s, an outsider moves into a Welsh valley town bringing with him the perfect distraction from the current recession and gloom.
2. A play, ‘Fragment (Consider Revising)’ While a man attempts to escape from his current life, a train journey with a stranger brings him some home truths.
I would like to start writing comedy again, and I would like to collaborate with another writer again on a project. I would also like to use this blog for things other than lists of things I have done, will do or would like to do! Hopefully the next time you read me, it’ll be one of those posts about an actual subject, not another self-deprecating list.
Finally, after a very stressful year where life got complicated, Sky Edge is now complete.
A deadline helped drastically with letting go of the script, as, if left to my own devices, I might have redrafted the script for an infinite amount of time* (*removing all factors that prohibit my infinite existence or ability to write perpetually). I am sure lots of writers struggle with letting go of their script, I have been known to never let go, ever, of some scripts. Deadlines are good for me.
On the whole, the actual experience of writing this film has been enjoyable. Hopefully it is a more visual piece than my previous scripts as this was one of my main aims. When I started the script I had a sense of the pace and flow of the film that I wanted to write, the feelings that I wanted the audience to get from it. I had these things, and some plot. But there were parts of the plot that were far less concrete than the wibbly-wobbly concepts that I had a strong sense of.
Some scenes came fully formed in my head, I saw how they fitted into the rest of the film. What they revealed of the characters and how they drove the plot. I just wish my imagination had a 100 minute attention span so I could imagine the entire film fully formed in my head, but alas some scenes I struggled with.
The first draft, in my mind was flawed because I initially wanted to leave Thomas’ character a mystery- leave a bit of ambiguity in the back story to let the audience decide. Were his actions in leading George into the murky and dangerous world of illegal gambling pure, did he just want to help his cousin? Or, was he using him? And Thomas’ relationship with Mary, I didn’t want to spell out if he was using her either, or, if she had a positive influence on him.
Whatever the audience was to decide, I knew the real story behind the character. But I think the lack of solid answers is probably overall no pay off for the audiences commitment in watching the film. I have just finished re-watching the entire six seasons of TV’s ‘LOST’. I saw it as it was aired originally, and always admired the massive complex interweaving plot lines, the way in which a paradigm was established (flashbacks) and then played with to deliver a new way of story telling (*spoiler alert- they become flash-forwards) and then again (*spoiler alert* ‘flash-sideways’). I loved how the series set up lots of questions. I loved the cliffhangers, the jaw dropping revelations and the way that my brain would truly become addled watching it. Sadly though, the series left lots unanswered, it ended on a damp meaningless squib of an episode where the whole concept behind the entire 100+ hour entity hangs teetering on a toilets edge. Re-watching the entire thing back to back, I had hoped that it would all make more sense. But alas, no. Seems I need hard facts about what’s going on and what’s gone on and everyone’s intentions too!
The second draft sees the past slowly seeping out throughout the film, which hopefully makes for a more meaningful end.
The next thing to get my head around was the dialect. Having lived in Sheffield in the past, the dialect was always something quite difficult to get my head around at first. I was weary of writing too heavy a dialect that it makes no sense to someone without experience of Sheffield/ South Yorkshire dialect. But without it, it seemed unauthentic. . I started thinking in a yorkshire accent after a while, and in conversations almost slipped into talking that way. The next script I write will be in a Welsh accent/dialect (I can hope!).
On Saturday, I was fortunate to have the opening on the first draft of my current project read by a great bunch of actors. It was great to hear the characters I have spent the past few months imagining, coming to life.
In my last blog post, I was talking about the issues I had with this script. I felt detached from it. I had worried if this was down to the fact that I am working in a new medium. This is my first feature film script. Writing for a visual medium feels odd to me. Dialogue should be subtler and most importantly, I have had to force myself to be stricter with my structure, and because I am often an impulsive person, I found it difficult to push myself in that direction. That said; I have always known that structure is where I struggle. I love writing dialogue; often I can do that until the cows come home. I enjoy playing around with metaphor and motifs. I’m probably not as subtle as I imagine at times. But I still enjoy it- and I often think that if I enjoy, it comes through onto the page. But structure is what I am scared of the most! It is a major reason for me wanting to do the MA course; to get over my fear of the structure beast. Inability to develop my ideas structurally might be my fatal flaw! I had worried that my detachment from the script would show through, and the twenty-two pages that were performed would seem weak.
I think that my fears were unfounded. Generally I think that it was successful. The feedback I received was very positive and reassuring on the whole. The balance of dialogue seemed to work well,as too did the atmosphere and the imagery I used worked. I need to work on my female characters (I had already suspected this, and knew that their scenes were the weakest). On the whole I am pleased. The struggle against a different writing technique may have paid off. Hopefully now I will return to working on this project with renewed confidence.
So, in my quest to overcome my fatal flaw I have maybe just inadvertently won my first battle. My more structured approach (albeit still not 100%) had made a far more cohesive script. I’d imagine that there will be another bigger battle that I will have to fight later in this script…I will have to recall this first battle against Structure and his evil minions…only then will I slay the beast.
The next step for me will be to really pin down where and how the film will pan out. I know the outcomes, and know some of the ways they will get there, but my ideas are morphing all the time. I have introduced the characters and the themes, but I have set-up enough. It is time to work out one-hundred percent how it will all play out, before I write another word of script.
‘Mystery Pen Woe’, as I discovered yesterday is a very apt anagram of my name. I could have also called this blog post ‘Weeny Sperm Toy’…a more amusing anagram, but it’d be less appropriate for the situation at hand.
I think I have writers block. I maybe realized a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t know it was writers block. I just thought I was being lazy!
I recently struggled through writing the first quarter of the first draft of my first feature length film script. In the past I have written predominately theatre or short film, or comedy sketches. I wanted to give myself the challenge of writing for film. I love film, and I want that string on my bow.
So I moved on from thinking it was just laziness and started thinking about other factors. I have been quite down recently, and a bit stressed- caused by a multitude of factors. It got me thinking back to when I was last this depressed- in my late teens. I didn’t write plays or films back then, I hadn’t discovered it. I was however a guitarist and main songwriter in a string of very bad grunge bands. I wrote songs, quite prolifically, but thankfully never fully unleashed them on the world. Most of the time I wrote through being depressed and it was a positive channel for my emotions.(I was probably just a regularly slightly chemically imbalanced teen, nothing too severe- and my self deprecating would no doubt have been fuelled by my depressing choice in music!). So why now can I not write through a down spell? This confused me. Obviously depression can be a cause of writers block, but why can I not channel it into my writing somehow? Maybe its a different depression? Maybe I deal with emotions in a different way these days.
Talking to a friend of mine recently who is an artist, gave me a bit of an insight into the way I write. For him, painting is about process and isn’t so much about a final painting. I can relate to that. When he paints, he experiments on the canvas. He doesn’t sketch out a a detailed plan to follow or mix his paints to the perfect flawless texture or colour before applying them. The paint is mixed on the canvas. It’s about expression and experimentation. Normally I write for theatre, I am used to this. I find it quite a free medium to work for. The rules of theatre aren’t stringent. A theatre audience suspends its disbelief quite freely. I came to realize that often, when I write, I am slapping paint on a canvas and moving it around. It’s not uncommon for me to throw words at the page. Not literally of course. But I will quite often write based on a feeling or a theme, without necessarily assigning the dialogue to a character. Then, later I will go back and more analytically make dramatic sense of what I have written.
So where have I gone wrong now? Why does this project feel so hard for me? Why does it not feel like I am writing and getting the same release from writing as I would usually do? Why am I so disconnected and dissatisfied with what I have written? I am starting to think that my altered process has scuppered my creativity. Now that I am writing for film, I am feeling that I have to conform to more rigid rules in my writing. It’s a period piece. 1920s Sheffield, with a backdrop of gritty gang violence two cousins, raised as brothers become enemies, divided by fate. If I wrote that in the style that I would write a play, but expect it to be cinematic just because I have called it a film, it wouldn’t work. But then at the moment I feel detached from this more clinical approach. Trying to map it out in detail. Trying to stick to a dialogue style that I think might be more realistic. Avoiding soliloquies and remembering that there is generally a forth wall in cinema.
But then I think, maybe if I applied a freer writing style, then it would ultimately be a better script.
I guess the only way I can find out for sure is to experiment! I have another six months or so to work on it, it may well be a vastly different script by the end of the summer. Maybe I will try writinig each scene in two different styles, concurrently.
This weekend, my work in progress will be subjected to a directed read through by actors in front of a jury of my peers. It will no doubt be beneficial. It might underline my feelings about the script so far, or it could prove me wrong, and that I am just blowing hot air because I am just not used to writing this way, and maybe it is just as valid and interesting as my other writing.
Watch this space to see if my pen woe desists!
One of the really horrible things about keeping a blog is that you have a digital record of all the pointless, grandiose statements you make, but never achieve. An archive of empty words. Fortunately, I can look at the data relating to page views of all of these pointless, grandiose statements and see how many of you have actually read them. Yet more fortunate is the fact that no one has looked at last years New Year’s resolutions for months. Sadly, I suddenly feel the need to think of some new things to say I am going to do, but never will. How the hell can I self-deprecate if I don’t set a value at which to sell myself below?
So, just to review- here are 2011’s disposable resolutions (italicized are my excuses for not completing them!!!):
1. Find a set time to write, and write more!
I actually did write more than ever. I maybe didn’t stick to a rigid set time to write in, but in terms of pages per year, it was up there as one my top writing years.
2. Lose weight.
I thought about it. Lots. I tried the ‘thinking myself slim’ technique. It doesn’t work folks. It just makes you hungry.
3. Find a set time to rehearse the comedy more, and try and get a full length show together and perform it by the summer (I’d love to do Edinburgh again….I may have left it too late though for this year)
I did leave it too late. Sadly the comedy has taken a back burner to all of my other projects.
4. Lose weight (This is here twice because I have got podgy,I am struggling to see my laptop over the mountain of flab I have accumulated in the last few months of excess and neglect!)
I have overcome this problem by buying a much larger laptop- now my belly seems smaller! I think that makes that a result of sorts.
5. Read more!
I have forgotten how much I read last year
I have a few more days hanging out in Chrimbo-Limbo, eating chocolate for breakfast washed down with sherry and bitter; watching films I would never normally choose to watch, wondering how many soap characters can die in one week, and wondering if there is a cure for this constant stomach ache which doesn’t involve eating less junk. After my new years hangover subsides, I can then review my life through the haze and decide which things I want to think about not changing in the next year. I am sure that at some point, in the boredom of the dull early days of January, I will post them here, for the twelve of you to read.
Although, if I have any sense, I will be using that time to hammer home the treatment to my major project!
I am working on a number of projects currently. I thought I would post an update into the status of each project. Some are getting to the stage where I am looking to get involved with others to help make them a reality. If you are interested in getting involved, or would like to know more about them please feel free to drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org
I aim to post updates on the projects on a regular basis.
Three Miles to the Horizon– Stage Play
Three Miles to the Horizon tells the story of Donald Crowhurst in his failed attempt to be the first sailor to solo-circumnavigate the globe and his descent into madness.
Currently at the end of the first draft stage. I am looking to work with actors and a director to assist in experimentation for further developing future drafts of the script. I am also interested in working with a producer to bring this production to the stage.
Tom and Laura Get Engaged (working title) –Short Film
It is a perfect day for Tom and Laura, a romantic picnic on the beach proves a great opportunity for Tom to pop the question. Laura is bound to say ‘yes!’. Though, the contents of a seemingly innocent black bin bag proves to be the greatest test of their relationship.
Currently at third draft stage. I plan to self produce and direct this film and will be looking for the following cast and crew-
1 x actress (early 20’s)
1 x male actor (early 20’s)
1 x camera operator (in talks with one already!)
1 x sound engineer
1 x editor
1 x artistic director/ designer
I plan to shoot the film over one weekend, on location in South Wales spring/early summer 2012.
Sky Edge – Feature Film
Set in 1920s Sheffield, against a backdrop of illegal gambling and violence, Sky Edge tells the story of one man’s relationship with lady luck.
Currently at research/ pre-treatment stage. Currently looking to speak with anyone with any stories or information regarding the Sheffield gangs of the 1920s, or the Sky Edge Pitch and Toss Ring.