A few of my nearest and dearest know that I’ve been working on a short (12-15 minute) screenplay. The working title is WEATHERMAN. (It’s already changed a dozen times, so don’t hold me to that.)
The root concept can be traced all the way back to a poem i wrote as part of a creative writing course while studying English Lit in Edinburgh, some time around 1999. I think I eventually called it ‘Alien’, forming part of a fairly slapdash body of work submitted to a suitably indifferent reception. I still have it on a disc somewhere, formatted for the Apple Mackintosh Classic I was using at the time (see below) – if I manage to resurrect it maybe I’ll try and get a copy up on here, for posterity alone.
‘Alien’ came back to mind about a year ago when I was out with Ems, wheeling Lola around Downs Park. I was trying to explain what Second Life was, how it worked, what mind-bending possibilities existed beyond it’s immediate limitations.
I started playing around with the script during a week in France earlier this year. We had a blanket week-long ban on blackberries, mobiles, laptops, but on the first day we went down to the local village and I bought a typewriter in a bric-a-brac market for 10 euros. It was pretty cranky, but it basically worked ok.
The great thing about writing on a typewriter is that you don’t tend to get bogged down the way you do when you word process. With a typewriter, you maintain a certain amount of forward momentum, rather than endlessly chewing over your work until the spirit and spontaneity of what made you sit down and start writing in the first place is no longer recognisable.
I came back from France with a first draft, if you could call it that. I stole the occasional moment to type it up a little, but for the most part it stood still. I picked it up again in Thailand, made some real progress thinning down the dialogue, and developed a stronger sense of how it might be structured. Of course, one step forward is so often ten steps back, and I came back from Thailand knowing that there was still a hell of a lot of work to do.
The reason I’m posting about it now is that Kelly O, a friend of mine from LA who does some work with Fox, met me for breakfast at the Broadway Deli in Santa Monica on Saturday, walked me up to Barnes & Noble, and found me a copy of Syd Field’s ‘SCREENPLAY: The Foundations of Screenwriting’. I started reading it on the flight back and it’s already clear to me what a cruel and necessary and illuminating process it will be finding out exactly how much I have to take on board.
There was one quote that hit me square in the face the first time I read it, right at the end of the introduction: “Talent’s is God’s gift; either you’ve got it or you don’t. But writing is a personal responsibility; either you do it or you don’t.” I like that. When I go too long without making the time to write, I feel like I’m neglecting a responsibility. I hope I go on feeling that way.