02 October 2007

finding the film in my head

NOTE: Sometimes my best writing method is to ramble for a bit, so if I do that here, apologies in advance.

With gravida creatively in the rear-view mirror (although, there are still DVDs to sell and festivals to enter and screenings to organize), and indications that my immune system is getting back to normal[1], I'm starting to focus more on the next project, which looks more and more like it'll be the long-delayed coffee stains, an interesting project because it's existed for so long and keeps changing. Several years ago, I had a version of it I liked, and actually filmed probably 1/3 of it before schedules and everything else forced it to fall apart. In retrospect that was a blessing, as the script really wasn't all that good and the end result would have been far below what I would have been happy with. But parts of it were quite good and last year, when I picked the script back up, I decided to keep the storylines intact, but essentially scrap the entire thing and start over.

What ended up happening as a result was that the story, originally constructed as an ensemble dramedy, became more of a drama focused around a sub-set of the characters. I found that as I had gotten older, I was more interested in the relationship storylines than the other ones, and those naturally moved to the forefront. I finished version 2.0, polished it a little, and then set it aside to work on gravida. A couple of weeks ago, I picked it back up.

It needs more work than I thought (or, perhaps my standard are going up). A couple of days ago, I cut roughly 15 pages of the 105 and realized that several connecting threads were missing, storylines didn't flow, and the dramatic build wasn't what it could be. I'm guessing it's going to need another 20 pages of new stuff to work, including a new beginning. Part of the problem is that my writing process isn't linear. That is, I don't write from beginning to end. I'll maybe write the last scene and the first scene, then fill in the middle, in no particular order. I need to teach myself a better method, as this makes for some disjointed moments.

Anyway, I need a new opening, something that'll grab people right off, and the ideas just aren't coming. I feel like that piano player from Sesame Street at the moment.

One of the things I cut the other day was a subplot, so the overall film is much leaner than it was before, and overall I'm happier than I was, but it's nowhere near being ready to film. Not even close. Thing is, the previous version, I saw it in my head, and pretty clearly. But it wasn't great. This version, I don't see it, but I know it's there. I just have to get it out.

I just re-read what I wrote and realized it's a shitty blog post. Whatever. A big part of the artistic process is the struggle where you feel completely lost.

[1] The lead-up to the gravida premiere found me so stressed out that my immune system pretty much shut down and I got really sick. Since then, I've been scaling stuff way back in hopes of getting somewhat healthy.


levi said...

in the few writings that i have done to amuse myself, i find that i begin abruptly almost every time, dumping the reader into a complex situation without explaining much. The rest of the story is then partially driven by explaining what the heck happend for the initial situation to have taken place.

that just how i usually do it.

lucas mcnelly said...

i find when i try that method, i end up confusing myself

Mike Peter Reed said...

I'm spending the winter months getting a feature out of my head and onto the page using Viki King's tried and tested "How to write a movie in 21 days". So far (and I haven't got far) I have an amazing introspective on my story and characters thanks to Viki. She knows her shit, I'll say that much - the rest, of course, is up to me.

lucas mcnelly said...


I'm not familiar with this method. Roughly, what is it?

pacheco said...


Just wanted to mention that I enjoy posts like this. By that, I mean posts that show more of your process as a filmmaker, as a writer, whatever. I like your reviews and thoughts on films, but I get REALLY interested when I read about other people writing and making movies. I also like specifics, like mentioning you took out so-and-so pages because of this and that, blah blah blah. I like to find out how other people do this stuff. It feels very personal.

Anywho, just letting you know that, while you may feel like you're rambling or whatever, these are the posts I really enjoy.

lucas mcnelly said...

thanks, pacheco

i try to keep my methods open for public scrutiny, if only because it keeps me accountable