Saturday, December 29, 2007

Chronicles 58 - Do I Have Good Taste?


I often here of writers who just love the act of writing and, I imagine, wake up every day with such raging enthusiasm to hit the keys that even a herd of wild horses wouldn't drag them away from the keyboard.

In reality, I think, for many of us, this enthusiasm varies according to what particular task lies ahead of us. If you've already written your piece and are really happy with your wonderful snappy dialogue, the well drawn characters that seem so real you can reach out and touch them and your enthralling page-turning narrative then there's nothing more exciting than going through the draft tweaking a word here or line there with that, 'Am I really this good?' feeling.

HOWEVER, when you wake up in the morning and have to type FADE IN that's another story, for me at least. This prospect usually triggers an almighty inner groan.

There is another factor tied into this as well - EXPECTATION. Due to developments over the last year where I'm now actually getting paid to write (in certain cases) it raises the spectre of high expectation (of me, the writer, by producers, directors etc) on the one hand AND on the other hand it enhances the fear of failure. I now see that the lethal combination of these two factors can result in severe procrastination and inertia.

So what's the answer? Well, I had an interesting experience over the last five days or so. I'm adapting my full length play into a film script. I already have a producer for this who loves the play. Since it will be an independent film cast will be attracted by the quality of the script rather than pay or play offers. So the mantra is, "Write a great script and we'll get the talent". The producer also has complete faith in me, thought the underlying play was 'amazing', although I personally think it is flawed and overwritten, still, funnily enough, having someone who has a lot of faith in your ability kinda puts the pressure on rather than take it away.

So I woke up everyday intending to write my script, pondering on the enormity of all it all, feeling even depressed and demotivated sometimes and did almost everything and used almost any excuse to avoid sitting down to write it. I actually could feel that there was kind of negative force preventing me from writing the script.

Anyway, the other producer contacted me regarding the historical drama assignment which I have had to push back due to overwork but I knew that he would want me to get off (or rather on) my butt pretty soon. All bets were off, I had a window of opportunity, some downtime before the big global corporate machine that I work for would awake from its slumber and before I had to go back to the drama assignment. I knew that I had to sit down and write that damn script.

I thought the script would take me weeks but when I sat down to write it, because it required very little research and I knew the characters from the play it just flowed and because another story line within the script existed as a short film it was just a question of tying it all together. Funny thing is, after all that procrastination and inertia I REALLY got into it and was vey happy with what came out of it. I finished the script in 5 days and sent it off to the producer, head of production and the director.

I believe the answer to procrastination and inertia is what one screenwriter describes as "sheer force of will", no waiting around for the muse - you basically have to get going without her and hope she turns up for the party.

Delivering the script of course kicks off another process where I start imagining the negative feedback I will get and that my perception regarding the quality of the script will turn out to be grossly overinflated and will not be met with the universal, unreserved, and unconditional praise that I had imagined.

I think the script really rocks but what if it doesn't? David Mamet wrote something interesting in his book, On Directing Film. After you've gone through certain criteria to establish whether your text works (structure, scene dynamic, pace etc) you are left with one criteria - how the hell are you able to judge whether the work is good? Mamet then says you have to ask yourself the question: Do you have good taste? Interesting question, huh? Now I think I have good taste but does the guy who likes American Dreamz or American Sweethearts or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (all TERRIBLE films in my estimation) think he has good taste?

On that note...

Ciao for now and all the best for 2008!
SWU

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