Sunday, September 5, 2010

Back on the screenplay treadmill

PCKNAEZ3C2ME Back in 2005 / 6 I had a feature project called ‘Shadows’, based on a screenplay I had written, almost ready to go. The potential financing package fell through and the producer at the time suggested looking at other means of getting the project into production.

By then, two things were happening in my life that prompted me to put the project, and filmmaking in general, on the back burner. First and foremost, my wife was pregnant with our first (and only) child. Added to this, we had become heirs to a dilapidated 400 year old farmhouse that we decided would become our home. The task was immense. It was clear that I couldn’t focus on a film project properly with these things happening in my life... and I certainly wasn’t going to pack my bags and disappear for a year playing movie-maker while leaving my wife with a new-born baby to contend with and the renovation of the farmhouse.

In the years that followed, my passion for writing and directing waned like it had ever waned in my life. A few aborted attempts to rekindle the flame showed how much I had strayed from the path I had known so well since I was around 12 years of age. Besides, I had found – or re-found – another love... photography. Being consumed by this discovery, and fulfilling my roles as a father, husband and role at the agency meant there was little time for anything else.

But through all this, ‘Shadows’ always remained in the back of my mind, almost naggingly reminding me of its existence like a small child constantly tugging at its parent’s shirt for attention.

A couple of months ago I decided to send the last version of the script to producing collaborators I had worked with extensively in Malta. The fact that they are also a couple of my best friends was a bonus and meant I could trust their responses. I asked then what they thought of me adapting this to a Malta-based scenario. The feedback was very positive indeed. Actually, if at all possible, they’d love to be involved in making it into a film.

A few weeks down the line and I have completed a new pass of the first act. The structure is much better now, I feel. The emphasis on certain themes is also much clearer, characters are stronger, drama is tighter. Maybe it’s just me and my new-found enthusiasm, but I feel that the time spent away from feature film writing has been of great benefit and I have come back more mature, more focused and leaner (not in person, just as a writer!). Maybe the break – and the changes to my life – have all had something to do with this.

A few tricks I use to help keep momentum:

  1. Have a ‘soundtrack’. I create a playlist of existing music that reflects the tonality of the project I am working on. It helps me get in the mood of the piece quickly, to dip back in when I need to, to brainstorm and picture a scene. The playlist must be unique to that project only. This is something I have done, pretty much automatically, for many years.
  2. In the past, I always found a new day to begin with a painful process of ‘getting going’. I now find that scribbled notes, a list of ideas for the coming scene(s) to really help. Prep the next day. Don’t start from cold.
  3. For me, starting early, around 4.30 or 5am is ideal. It is before the world wakes up and there is space in which to think. Find your ideal time. Some writers find it best staying up late and calling it a day when I am just getting up.
  4. If possible, turn of the internet (sometimes, online research is inevitable). The internet can be an evil distraction that will suck you in and, before you know it, precious hours can be wasted.
  5. (And this is a new one) Stop blogging! I will slow down... I am just trying to start this blog off with a bit of content!
The second act of the new draft beckons now and I already have some beats and tonal issues I know I want to address.

In the past I would think too far ahead. Will this create problems when shooting? How will we do this? How will this edit? How will we finance? Who could play his part?

Now I am more disciplined. I am concentrating on just one thing at the moment; getting the screenplay as right as I can. That is all that matters right now.

As I touched upon in my second ever blog, updates regarding this aspect of my work are going to be difficult because I cannot divulge too much information. I am worried such updates will become vague, pointless, boring or monotonous (maybe all of the aforementioned at once!)... I guess time will tell.


1 comment:

  1. nice start... look forward to the rest. curious to see how this is going to develop :) BRUNO