The last two weeks or so have made me feel like a writer.
Let’s examine that a bit further.
There’s often a feeling I get that makes me think that writing is just a thing I do in the small hours. It’s the inbuilt reaction in me that putting words down on the page and forming them into some kind of story for the consumption of an audience is a sideline at best. There is nothing to see here, move on quickly. During a meeting with my friends of Mostly Ghostly a couple of weeks ago in Dumfries I started talking about Order For Burning and a couple of other bits I have lined up to move onto once the witches are done with. As I spoke I felt myself believing more in the stories, considering them something to work on and to craft. Essentially, they stopped being silly thoughts and turned into something more.
Coming back that evening I rewrote about five scenes of Burning, the next night another three and the night after that another two. Not long sessions by any means but small chips into the block of the project. Shaping the script up, to become the first feature film I’ll pitch to any great degree and keeping away from just sitting doing nothing constructive on it each night.
I spend a lot of time each day semi automated. My work has a set list of procedures that can apply to pretty much any situation. If Customer A has trouble with B then C may work if not try D. Writing isn’t automated though, at least it shouldn’t be. Over the last few years it’s been a case of trying to drop the automated bit when I get home.
I’m not athletic, I can’t really do anything practical, I’m probably too laid back to succeed in much, I suck at a lot of stuff but writing is the one thing I’m good at.
You want a story?
I’ll give you a story.
So I talked about writing and I discussed my ideas and this set me alight. I’ve done more in the last two weeks that the last three months combined. I’m aiming for Order For Burning to be in a readable state to the outside world by April 30th. Then I’ll pitch it and see what the response is whilst moving onward to the next thing on the list.
I opened the mess that is Order For Burning again today, a good couple of weeks since I finished it. I had my notes to one side, written in my moleskin notebook with gel glide pen.
For some reason the font looked terrible. Letters appeared on the screen as if my monitor was running out of ink (if it used ink, hang with me here). They were scratchy, incomplete. Then Celtx decided to throw an update message at me. I had to sign in to do this, it rejected my first email address and then my second.
I did not need this today.
Anxious to get on I downloaded another free piece of script writing software. This actually had some advantages over Celtx such as a full screen, no distraction mode. Sadly, the font problem remained here also so it’s obviously something up with Vista (I know, I’m running the worst operating system).
Not wanting to start the whole thing again I go back to Celtx and grin and bear it. Not before I’ve got in touch with them on Twitter to do the very British thing of passively moaning about it in the hope somebody notices. Thankfully they did but they’ve yet to offer a solution at time of writing.
I’ve ripped apart the opening scene and it’s now completely different. Even with this small amount of pages redone so far it feels much better.
The painful writing of the first draft is nearly done. My son was ill today and therefore off school. He awoke at his usual time in the morning, went to the bathroom but then went back to bed. I moved through to his room and asked what was up.
“I feel hot and dizzy” he said from under the duvet. My eventual coaxing got him downstairs for breakfast. Upon pouring his usual Choco Shreddies cereal he lay his head down on the table and uttered “I don’t think I can manage chocolate today Dad”.
Sound the alarm, Houston we have a problem.
He went back to bed. I still have many memories of my Mother doping my Sister and I up on Calpol in these situations and just waiting for the phone call saying we’d thrown up during maths (this makes her sound awful, it was not the case at all). I didn’t fancy dragging a lethargic 8 year old up the road for 9am only to inevitably return for him an hour later. He slept until 10am before taking up camp in our living room, on the couch, under a duvet, watching cartoons and eating peanut butter on toast before falling asleep again.
A planned shopping trip with my Mother was postponed until Monday which is probably for the best as Scotland is currently being battered by 100mph winds and belting rain. We’ll give the weather gods the weekend to calm it down.
The silver lining in all of this is it gave me an excuse to not leave the house and write like a demon. I’m approaching the end of this terrible, shaky, taped together draft with its odd combination of history and story flung against the wall to see which sticks. Nearly done for the initial process of taking it from up here to some pages.
The new draft of The Salesman’s Gamble went across to Holland a few nights ago. It’s reading much better, more rounded, better reasoned which means the ending is a genuine confrontation and not just a chance conversation. By making Ian a complete bastard who is willing to steal anything for money it’s given him more reason to go through with the coin toss at the end. Ian thinks in his arrogance that it’s easy picking, that he’s dealing with the ramblings of a old eccentric whom he’ll rob anyway. It ends up being nothing quite like that. We’ll see what they think of it especially as I have received no word back from Option 1 after the last email saying they had ideas for the story but wanted to know if anybody else was reading it before they continued. Despite sending one back saying ‘Okay, let’s go’ there’s been not a word uttered for a month.
Whilst this is being considered my mind goes to other projects, including one which might still only be in the very early planning stages but is gaining pace. You might remember me blogging a short while ago about the Dumfries Ghost Walk with Mostly Ghostly. The conclusion of the tour takes place by the banks of the River Nith, detailing the 1659 Witch Trials of Dumfries in which nine women were killed due to being accused of practising witchcraft. Although the evidence for this was fairly non-existent the people were encouraged by the Church to bring these people to their attention regardless. There were actually people trained to use instruments of torture to extract confessions from those the Church suspected, it was taken that seriously. I thought to myself, whilst I listen to the team describe this event in all the gory detail, that it would make a good film if it was done right.
A couple of years pass and the group put out a tweet a couple of months ago to commemorate the anniversary. I reply by reiterating that it would indeed make a good film if somebody was to write it. It would be a hard sell however as historical movies I thought more about it at the time and came to the conclusion that perhaps that somebody should be me. Historical movies are a hard sell to begin with, even more so with a historical event which very few people know about and I was on the verge of thinking it wasn’t going to be a great idea. Then I started thinking it could be a good story and does represent something of a challenge in that I’ve never tackled real life events at all, only ever making stories from scratch. I’m also scratching my head about how to tackle the dialogue itself. It’s painfully problematic to fall into the ‘lo’ and ‘art thou?’ samples of speech so it’s something that I’ll need to research a heck of a lot to get right.
These are all good problems to have though and it’s the solving of these that makes me enjoy writing scripts so much (as much as I might sometimes be chewing walls trying to find an answer sometimes). The first thing I require however is an ‘in point’ and somewhere to start the story from. Having nine main characters would be a slight case of storyline suicide so it may well be a case or narrowing it down slightly. In order to find this entrance to the story I shall enlist the help of my good friends at Mostly Ghostly, another coffee order at Barbours of Dumfries is very probably on the way.
Still no word from Option 1, it’s now been around two weeks. It’s reaching the cut off stage now especially since I have a new draft ready to go. I’m unsure about sending it off if there will be no progress. Maybe another couple of days and then we’ll cut to the chase.
As I type, Robotics will be screening somewhere in Cannes which is something that makes me really proud. I’m trying not to be a horrendous idiot by shouting from the rooftops about it, instead just being content to smile to myself and look like a loon in the queue for the local bakery. The whole thing seems to have passed quietly. I live in the sort of place where people starting Facebook groups gets column inches in the local press, I’m thankful that I’ve avoided that as I can only imagine the horrible photo of me gripping a clapperboard in a grim fashion.
Because that’s the only photo anybody related to film gets isn’t it?
Not shocking news, of that I am aware and if it were an easy process then we’d all be doing it. To put a further point on it though I’m finding it hard to write in the vacuum. Whilst I’m finding rewrites easy with feedback from the producers and directors I’ve spoken with thus far it’s the other ideas that are failing to gain a foothold. The rapid evolution of The Salesman’s Gamble from simple writing exercise to full blown developing script being read by those outside is testament to the former, the glacial pace of The Last Alive is the latter.
I am often overwhelmed with the thought that this is a waste of time and that I’m ploughing the effort in for very little return which, even then, will be years away yet. Opposite to this is that I often get a nagging voice in my head when I’m trying to sit and read or play video games saying that I haven’t done enough to get a script writing gig yet. Whilst I’m glad I’ve got a few different things at various stages of development I’m still concerned that this is a scattergun approach with absolutely no structure to it at all. As a result of this is often hard to concentrate on writing anything because it involves shutting real life out for a while.
There are ideas there, it’s just finding them between the static.
I am 33 years old and quite often I feel I’m spending my life waiting for other people to say ‘Yes’.
Word comes back from Option 3 for The Salesman’s Gamble. The idea is sound but the tension is ruined because the audience will be well aware that Ian will lose out in the end. In effect, the build is rendered pointless because the only way the story can go is with Ian losing the coin toss and swapping places with the Old Man. In the current version Ian is down on his luck and just trying to get by in order to get some money together for his family. I’ve shown him completely messing up a first house call and then going to the house of an Old Man who offers him a coin toss in a winner take all situation. Whilst we never see Ian lose directly, the Old Man does manage to walk unaided down the path towards Ian’s car and drive away. Having thought about it it’s amazingly downbeat. Ian seems like an honest guy trying to make a living and I’m locking him in a house forever.
Rather than attempt to stack the odds evenly and make it seem like Ian could win and thought gripped me. What if Ian was a complete bastard? What if he was a man who saw nothing wrong with ripping people off by conning them out of every penny they had? What if we saw him not fail with the first house he goes to, instead taking them for everything almost without them knowing? Rather than an act of desperation the coin toss at the end would represent an incident of extreme overconfidence for him. It’s basically him getting what’s been a long time coming.
They say always write characters that the audience can relate to and they sympathise with. In this project though I might just have to down the darker route for a while.