Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Rough Patch

Since I received my first round of critiques, I've been doing my best to upgrade the screenplay in piecemeal fashion. About a week ago, I started to bog down. The revisions were improving the script, but I could see that no matter how hard I worked, I'd only be able to gain half a letter grade, at best. Maybe from C- to a straight C. This was a tough pill to swallow, given the time I've sunk into this project. So I've spent the last few days moping.

I bottomed out on Sunday. After having a long talk with Jiyoung, I decided to shelve the project. It was an emotional afternoon -- I was angry that I'd flushed such a big chunk of our personal savings down the toilet. I also felt embarrassed to have failed in the eyes of my friends and family.

The turbulence subsided a little the next day, and I wasn't as sure about tossing Stareater. I saw that I had three options:
  1. Try to salvage Stareater.
  2. Take what I've learned and start a new project.
  3. Get a real job.
Fixing the existing screenplay will require a complete rewrite. I've been reading The Art of Dramatic Writing, by Lajos Egri, and it has highlighted fundamental flaws in my story. To paraphrase Egri, I started building my house from the roof down. I fixated on incidents and setpieces, and my characters were never more than action figures whom I forced to participate in a series of pointless, disconnected events.

According to Egri, I should have started with a premise. This sounds kind of Hollywood-hacky, but having written an entire screenplay that lacked a premise, I feel well-suited to attest to its importance. Simply, my screenplay should have said something. Part of what made last week so lame was that the shallowness of my script pointed to a shallowness of mind. As cheesy as it sounds, this process of writing about space people has precipitated the most penetrating phase of introspection of my life.

In the end, you can't write well unless you  really believe something, deep down. And after a week of stock-taking, I'm not sure if I'm a person with convictions, or (and this is creepy) if I even want convictions.

If I don't have those things, can the process of writing cause them to grow spontaneously? Preferably in the next few months, before I run out of money?

I'm not going to quit yet. At the very least, I can spend the next few days standing around, waiting to be stricken by a bolt of inspiration.

4 comments:

  1. Nate what you need is pancakes for the soul. Stop by sometime for lunchies!

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  2. Nate, don't give up! This critical reflection of your story is the most positive thing that can happen for your writing! If you need to scrap it, scrap it. Fuck it! It should never be too precious to throw away. Start over and learn from your mistakes.

    My personal opinion is that setting adds seasoning and context to your story, but ultimately it's about the relationships of the characters and simple story archetypes. Look at BSG as one within countless examples. That same story could be told with the French Revolution as the backdrop with some tweaking.

    Feel free to slap me around the next time you see me but I'm going to give you a reminder of Christopher Vogler's - Hero's Journey path based on his studies with Joseph Campbell. I don't want to overstep my bounds or promote any negative feelings in where you are with this process. My hope is that I can be encouraging to you on whichever path you choose to take:

    1. Heroes are introduced in the ORDINARY WORLD, where
    2. they receive the CALL TO ADVENTURE.
    3. They are RELUCTANT at first or REFUSE THE CALL, but
    4. are encouraged by a MENTOR to
    5. CROSS THE FIRST THRESHOLD and enter the Special World, where
    6. they encounter TESTS, ALLIES, AND ENEMIES.
    7. They APPROACH THE INMOST CAVE, crossing a second threshold
    8. where they endure the ORDEAL.
    9. They take possession of their REWARD and
    10. are pursued on THE ROAD BACK to the Ordinary World.
    11. They cross the third threshold, experience a RESURRECTION, and are transformed by the experience.
    12. They RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR, a boon or treasure to benefit the Ordinary World.

    Almost all films take this course and it works. Actually, I cannot think of a film that doesn't follow this arc, from Dr. Zhivago to Booty Call - it's the most fundamentally human form of storytelling and it hits us at our core. The trick is how do you have your voice heard within that structure?

    Start over with an outline, pour your foundation first. Hang the drapes last:) -Ray

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  3. Also... just out of curiosity... Please forgive my ignorance feel free to smack me twice now when you see me again...

    I'm actually a bit perplexed... why are you choosing film as your format when you could produce your own comic and gain a much wider immediate audience? I bet Image would publish your stuff in a heartbeat...

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  4. "Also... just out of curiosity... Please forgive my ignorance feel free to smack me twice now when you see me again...

    I'm actually a bit perplexed... why are you choosing film as your format when you could produce your own comic and gain a much wider immediate audience? I bet Image would publish your stuff in a heartbeat... "

    best advice evar!!!

    ReplyDelete