Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Digging In

Yesterday, I began fleshing out some scenes in Google Docs.  I think I have a basic sense of how to tighten up the third act, after a day of freaking out.  

I'm really enjoying the process of removing things that aren't structurally necessary.  The story I started with was like a giant lump of clay, and mostly I've been carving chunks away from it.  Occasionally, something big gets pulled off, and the whole thing won't stand anymore so I have to slap on a new wad.  I feel like training as a painter may have helped me acclimate to this process, since most of what they teach you has to do with not letting any part of a work get precious.  

This editing of the structure can get really tough sometimes, because a lot of my fantasies about this film were connected to specific moments: the unfolding of a space battle or the way a certain piece of music would heighten the emotion of a particular moment.  That kind of stuff seems to get cut first, because it only distracts from the key movement of things.  You just have to have faith that even cooler stuff will grow back in its place.

I'm still reading Story.  Much of it seems to address a younger screenwriter who sees himself as an artist -- as someone who wants to rebel against the "Hollywood" system.  The first few chapters are a defense of classical story structure, peppered with attacks on the European "art film" movement.  I guess because I haven't been a part of this apparently-polarizing film discourse, I don't feel a strong need to choose sides.  Melinda and Matt both felt like it was good that I was doing this in Seattle, and the more I think about it, the more I agree.  I'm probably pretty fragile right now.  It could really throw me off my little journey to have people telling me what I'm doing is shallow or commercial.

And maybe it is those things!  The thing that brought me to the idea of making a film was a love of world-making.  I like to escape to places that don't exist.  That's probably why I totally dig Moebius' Airtight Garage, despite the completely self-indulgent lack of a real story.  I can just delight in the scenery.  

What I'm discovering, though, is that even though I came to this through a desire to make my own universe with its own rules, I'm getting increasingly excited about characters.  Particularly the challenge of asking the characters to respond in a truthful way to situations that are completely unusual.  

I mean, okay.  Take as a given that a girl is going to face a duplicated version of her dead lover, as projected within the mind of a multi-billion-year-old sentient space probe, and that because that duplicate was created before she met the boy, he'll have no direct memory of her.   An unusual situation.  Now, how does an actual human handle that?  Does she cry?  Does she get angry?  Does she reject the authenticity of the duplicate?  Does she try to kiss it?  Does she feel insulted or manipulated?  Does she try to see past the duplicate to the immense consciousness beyond?  And what about the duplicate?  Assuming his consciousness is unmodified, is he likely to fall in love with her a second time (that's sorf of a Charlie Kaufman-esque question)?   Is he partially-merged within the vast mind that contains him?  Does he have access to ancient knowledge/wisdom, or is he cordoned off somehow?

This is a fun game!


  1. (I know I'm really late to some of your blog posts.)

    "Assuming his consciousness is unmodified, is he likely to fall in love with her a second time (that's sorf of a Charlie Kaufman-esque question)?"

    I enjoyed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind's treatment of this question.

  2. The creation of a good story is one thing...crafting realistic characters for people to follow and care about is a true challenge.