An vast stormy ocean, the sweltering Sahara, the gaping grand canyon, the black silence of outer space...
Starting a screenplay is like standing at the edge of one of these incomprehensibly large spaces and then deciding to cross it. You don't know what you'll find, or who you'll meet, or where your next meal is going to come from. The number of possibilities is incalculable - besides I've never been good at math.
The advantage with a screenplay, I guess, is that as long as you can imagine it, it can happen. Not quite like being in the Sahara and wishing an icy cold bottle of water would appear. But it's scary nonetheless.
I'm at that stage now. I've got the basic idea down. I pretty much know where point A is: let's call it the western edge of the Sahara. I know where I'd like to end up: somewhere east of Cairo, on the Red Sea. But how will I get there? And where will I stop along the way?
Come to think of it, I'm pretty good at travel planning, so why is it so hard to commit to a certain route for my characters?
Today I've started filling in some of the blanks. I've put Sharpie to notecard and pinned a few ideas to my board. There's a long way to go, but at least I'm not staring terrified into a black hole any more.
Slacker excuses: I think I sprained my toe playing ultimate. I've become addicted to Veronica Mars.
Yesterday, while procrastinating quite wholeheartedly, I was reading John August's blog and came across a mention of Jane Espenson's blog. I had no idea Espenson had a blog, and I'm thrilled about finding it.
She's my absolute favorite TV writer whose name doesn't begin with Aaron Sorkin. In fact, it's those two who can shoulder the blame for my decision to write screenplays.
Espenson's blog is a definite must-read. Even if you're totally loyal to movies you should read it just to find out what she's had for lunch each day. Jane, if you're reading this, you need to eat more!
In honour of her What's for Lunch segment, I've decided to add my own sign-off segment...
Slacker excuses: I've got two equally good ones this month. 1) A steady stream of house-guests since Dec 26. It's tough to make yourself write when your visitors are begging to be taken to the 101 for some Black Eye Shakes. 2) Real paying work. I'm a freelance, so when it comes along, and it's this lucrative, and I'm staring at a pile of bills from the 101, I've just got to say yes.
So far my fabulous new strategy this year has amounted to a whole lot of not writing. In fact, besides the few paid writing assignments I've had (alas, just dull factual material), this blog is all I've written since the the clocked ticked over to 007, year of the Bond.
I have done a lot of thinking though. And in screenwriting, thinking things through at the beginning will ultimately save you lots of time and heartache down the line.
During these last two weeks of mulling, ruminating, and brooding, I've come to the conclusion that the 'practice' idea I was working on had run its course. The characters were weak, the idea flimsy, and the theme... just dumb. Why waste my time and energy on a movie that doesn't thrill me?
So today marks the day I stumble off the bunny slopes and start on the black diamond trail of writing a real screenplay - one that I'll want to share with anyone who will listen. I love the characters, I love the story, and I love the theme. That's a pretty good place to start I guess. Wish me luck.