Sunday, 27 August 2006

Great Ideas Are Ten A Penny

Not to sound jaded, but I can but agree with Edwin. A good idea is nothing until it is turned into some kind of document. Only at outline, treatment or script stage, have you created something that other people (with money) can look at.

Before that point, it is all locked in your mind where it's shiny and brilliant. The lighting, editing, performances, locations, dialogue and music are perfect. Note that only one of these elements - dialogue - will actually be in your script.

If you see the film unfolding in your mind, with all the above elements working together in perfect unison, you may in fact, be a potential director rather than a writer.

I remember saying in a room full of screenwriters, that it is the writer's job to create a blueprint for the film. This idea was not exactly greeted with applause or joy. I believe if you want to control all the elements, then you'd better get hyphenated and add "-director" to your title.

Because no matter how excellent your idea is in your head, no matter how great you get it looking on the page, it still has to make it to the screen intact. All those aesthetic and technical elements have to be working together in order for your great idea to survive.

In fact, if you are an unhyphenated screenwriter like myself, the second most difficult to task after getting it from the back of the mind and onto the page is keeping enthusiastic about the idea.

To have an idea that thrills you and then keep working on it year in and year out - that takes some concentration. Sprinters don't make good screenwriters - it's a marathon event.

P.S. The above photo is a knitted clown doll called "Melancholoy Sid". Every screenwriter needs a talisman of some kind, this is mine. Suss out 'The Artist's Way" or the works of Joseph Campbell. It's probably in there somewhere.

Wednesday, 23 August 2006

I've got a really good idea for a film (part 2)

I run a filmmaker's website and most of the queries I get about screenwriting (or even filmmaking) amount to roughly the same thing . . . "I have a really good idea for a screenplay". It's not what I want to hear because I know myself, in the early days, I said exactly the same thing - and often. I now know that basically - it's meaningless warm air.

I dread the day someone tells me their idea and it's a good one and I go away and write it down - legally claiming all copyright to an idea they may have had in their family for generations. That's right. Your idea is only legally an idea if it is written. Of course, I wouldn't take someone's idea like that - not without telling them. But legally, I would be well within my rights. After all, I have reams and reams of evidence to say that I write screenplays. And for every screenwriter, life is research. Conversations are the best research.

The "I have a really great idea for a film" statement requires greater scrutiny. It's a statement not without merit. Indeed (but highly doubtfully) it may even be true. It's probably driven by a burning need to do something. Or at least, the need to be seen by others to do be doing something. And there's something in that. Sometimes it is good to be seen to be doing something - even if you're not doing anything. Especially by the right people; investors, clients, society in general. People feel accepted when they are seen to be doing something. It does something for the confidence.

The actual process of writing is long and arduous and often boring. By the time you've written a screenplay 15 or so times (like we have) you're a little bit over the "I've got a really good idea for a film". Getting someone to read your 100+ page manuscript is a Kafka-esque trial in itself.

I've just uploaded the website for The Last Train to Freo. The crew and cast are all panicking and I can feel their excitement as we approach September 14th (release date). And somehow I feel a part of that - because I'm their web guy. They don't know that I'm also a writer / filmmaker. As the web guy, I get to talk and deal with all the distributors and all the important film people. Directors, investors etc.

I feel like a guy who has a really great idea and just has to let it out - probably to the most inappropriate person in the chain of command. Like I've got a scrunched up piece of tissue-paper in my back pocket with a script idea on it and I've got butterflies in my pocket because I'm about to do an impromptu pitch. How great would it be if I gave my pitch right over the phone during a file upload? To the new marketing girl - or even the secretary at Dendy Films.

That would be wrong, readers. Very very wrong.

Don't perform your idea, write it.

Pitching is the thing you do after the film is written. Indeed, some kids these days go straight into production on the computers in their own bedrooms. But there's a lot to be said about that and I don't have the time here.

I have to go. I feel anxious.

I'm about to do something towards my next screenplay . . .

Right now, it's just a really great idea.

Tuesday, 15 August 2006

Finding Time to Write Your Screenplay


I looked at my diary. I've recently started recording my time spent doing stuff (and not doing stuff) and I've always been under the impression that my day job (as a web designer/tutor) has always been at loggerheads with my passion (filmmaking). I don't think I'm the first creative person to have anxiety over this.

However, according to time, it seemed that the opposite was the case.

Out of 5 work days last week, I spent;
  • 2.5 days working on my screenplay with Phil
  • 1 day collating the information necessary for a SPAAmart application
  • 1 full day doing websites and
  • 0.5 days tutoring (or as I like see it - sharing knowledge acquired from above)
I was an almost perfect balance.

Try doing it. Record your hours for a week (or minutes if you're a lawyer) and see what the passion Vs. day job ratio is.