The first five minutes are down on paper (well, on computer file because I’m all modern like that). It’s a terrible read, the dialogue is clunky and my main witchfinder might as well have a handlebar moustache he twiddles considering how evil I’ve made him. Obviously if you’re going to be tieing up people to massive sticks in the ground before setting them alight then you might be of bad intent but it’s bordering on panto at the moment. I now need to get a scene by scene together with details of every segment and why it’s there. After that the process is fairly straight forward.
The only other piece of news yesterday came in the shape of Alphabet Pictures rejecting ‘The Salesman’s Gamble’. Sadly, after a couple of rewrites they cannot see a way of making it into something they would want to direct. I send a reply thanking them for the time they’ve spent on it already. I’ve worked with these people before. they got me to Cannes and they know what they’re doing so I’m not about to argue the bit with them. It’s certainly a knock but hardly a serious one. I move on.
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’.
Sometimes the quiet moments are the worst. My email to Option 1 stating that I was ready to go with rewrites has remained unanswered after a few days. I’m not hitting the switch on it just yet but the current hanging in stasis is annoying. I mailed Option 2 back to let her know about the situation, hoping not to waste her time on a project I’ve already taken up with somebody else. I received a very apologetic one back saying she was really busy lately. I did tell her a small detail of another script I’ll be working on soon (details will follow in this blog in the near future) and she wanted to be kept posted.
So I sit in the difficult position of having more of a response from the person NOT making my film. Perhaps this will change in the next few days but I pressed ahead today with another rewrite, making Ian a stealing bastard yet family man. It involves a one sided phone conversation which I’ve tried to keep short and sweet as I’m never very sure of that kind of thing on screen. It makes more sense this way as Ian takes on the coin toss because he’s arrogant not because he’s desperate. It reads far better.
I’m hanging onto this rewrite just now to see if Option 1 gets back in touch. If not then we go to Plan B.
I never quite got around to sending that email to Holland.
Having more than one option open to you to take a script forward is a very strange situation to be in as a writer. Usually I feel grateful that one person is reading something I’ve written and considering it worthwhile of their attention but to have three people in the running for The Salesman’s Gamble has left me in the rather strange set of circumstances of choosing one and rejecting the other two.
I receive an email from Option 1 the other night basically saying that he wants to take it further, has some ideas that he wants to suggest, wants to still retain my vision of the story but feels he needs a commitment from me to move it forward. I can see his side of the deal perfectly and how this represents the make or break time. I’ve stalled him enough but I had a good reason. Option 3 on the list was Alphabet Pictures based in Holland, the company who made ‘Robotics’. Obviously this felt like a natural fit as I’ve worked with them before with fantastic results but the last email I had from them contained feedback about the script and a link to a short film made with a similar story. It didn’t feel like they were for taking this one on and, as I said before, I have another young director wanting to take the project on but needing an answer either way very soon.
Option 2 was another first time director who had to be prompted to ask if she had read the first version of the script. The reply mention she had been busy but,upon waiting for two weeks after the second version was sent, I have yet to hear anything else from her. Whilst it may well be the case that she is busy it’s still an annoyance to have a sudden cut in communication. If it truly is the case that she doesn’t like it and doesn’t want to make it then a simple email back stating as such would work wonders. I’ve sent her a message thanking her for her time so far.
With all this taken into consideration I’ve gone with Option 1 because he was the only one with a concrete idea on moving forward. It’s a vex to have to write back to Alphabet and wish them well, especially with Cannes just round the corner. The gut feeling I have though is that I need to expand my horizons as a writer by working with different people and gaining different perspectives. It’s taken many years to actually get to the point when I can show my writing to producers and directors with some level of confidence, now it’s time to concentrate on working with these people to improve.
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.