Friday, April 13, 2007

Chronicles 43 - Don't Chase - Create!

Yes, even chasing is a form of procrastination. You know something's wrong when you're either too eager to check your emails or too disappointed/frustrated when no big news comes in. You're in waiting/chasing mode when you should be in creating mode. It's a trap - and, as they say - 'good news comes to you, you have to chase the bad news'.

It creeps up on you this stuff, especially when you are setting up, (we hope), different projects. You work on one and then chase the other. You feel you've earned the right to do some chasing almost as a reward for all the sweat and tears pounding the keys. The trouble is, it ain't Zen, dude. There's too much 'attachment to the fruits of your actions' going on.

It's a balance. You have to keep on top of things but I can sense when my attention goes too much in one direction, too much expectation (and thus frustration) and it's time to - oh no, here it comes, I'm going to get all '12 step' on your ass - 'let go and let God' - he says in a calm, maybe slightly condescending, reassuring, hand-on-hand, all knowing tone. ;-)

Tony Robbins talks about 6 human needs and one of them is certainty. He says we need a certain amount of certainty in our lives, we need the security that we can eat tomorrow, support our families, that our partner isn't going to run off with the milkman, that the sun will rise etc BUT he says that we also need uncertainty.

You need life to be a surprise otherwise if you could predict everything that would happen to you and had complete certainty in your life then you would be bored, so, God has arranged this interesting mix of certainty and uncertainty for us.

I think it's the same with writing - we enjoy the uncertainty of it all, the surprise element, it keep us interested. Will I be able to pull this off? Will I get a good response? Will it sell? etc etc, although, as a writer the scales seem to be tipped more towards the uncertainty side of things more often than not. Therein lies the key - writing and the marketing/promotion of your writing will always be uncertain - that's reality and the trick, I believe, is to enjoy the uncertainty but not obsess about it.

You know somewhere in the back of your mind that something could happen i.e. that actress/director could attach themselves, that prod. co. could buy your script, that agent/manager could take you on but you also know it could never, ever happen so enjoy the expectation but don't obsess/get frustrated about it. Easier said than done of course otherwise why would I be writing about it?

So how do we get certainty as writers? I believe we get certainty by improving our craft, and writing on a regular basis, until we reach that point where we know, internally, that whatever the challenge may be, our command of the craft is such that we know, inside, we can deliver the goods, that we can fuse talent with ideas with craft and structure and execute a professional piece of work.

Once that certainty clicks in, that sense of, "I can do this", then the rest, the marketing aspect, is, on the whole, out of our control. Sure we can get the script to the right people but you can't force people to love your script. Once they sit down with your script the only certainty you should have is that the script is pretty much the best that it can be - it usually isn't of course ;-) - but you get the point.

So, if we acept the certainty/uncertainty paradigm then the happy writer is the one who - in more New Age therapist tones - 'embraces' uncertainty, so he/she can focus on what he/she can become certain of - the craft, the writing.

I had a classic uncertainty moment last night. I got back from the restaraunt and there was an email from my US casting director who had just come off the phone with a big female star's Hollywood agent. My casting director had sent him the script and it seems that he forwarded it to the star and the response back from the agent was more regarding availability (or lack of it) rather than an email saying she had passed which led her to think there was a possibility the star was interested.

The casting director called the agent to say that we were willing to wait until the female star was available. Hollywood closed down because of Jewish passover and Easter and she finally touched base with the agent last night, but, instead of filling me in on the details i.e. Did she read it? Is she interested? I just got an email saying that she'd spoken to the agent and that she would like to have a conversation with me about it. So I called her and foud out that she had gone home for the weekend and her assistant said that she might call me on the wekend, if not, I'll have to wait until Monday evening my time. Arghhhh!!

So, my head's reeling with (mostly negative of course) projections - Why does she need a conversation? Why didn't she say, 'She's interested but we need to discuss details'? The mind boggles... oh well, a case of embrace the uncertainty. Enjoy it! It's certainly not boring!

In the meantime I delivered my first completed paid assignment script along with pitch and character biographies to the producer and he has sent it out to a UK director so more uncertainty there. Will the director like it? Will the film get made and so on... The one thing that is certain so far is that the producer is happy with my work, happy enough to offer me another assignment.

The new project involves a rather dark character, a real-life historical figure in medieval Britain. It's juicy, Gothic stuff and I'm working with a consultant who has spent years studying this character and is writing a biography about him. So, for the next few weeks I will be delving into research.

The short film is still in post-production and being graded at the moment (I hope) in order to be screened at a private beach party at Cannes that our co-producers have organised. We'll also be distributing DVD's to financiers, sales agents etc. In the meantime we're still getting excellent feedback on the short from people who've seen the footage so that bodes well.

Apart from that I'm in the middle of writing a treatment for the feature that the short will promote and will start developing a stage play next week. Along with preparing the email campaign for Cannes 2007 I have enough on my plate to ensure a nice mix between certainty and uncertainty. :-)

Ciao for now.