A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end… but not necessarily in that order.
– Jean-Luc Godard
Well, thats one way of looking at it, but before the story there is the idea, and a beginning.
The Doll and The Mad Dog, 52 films/52 weeks, Aug 2011
We all know how difficult it is to get things done, we can have the best laid plans, but the executing of them separates the dreamers from the doers, although, I do think the best artists are an interesting mixture of both.
Getting from “I’ve got a great idea for a movie,” to sending out invitations for your premiere can be a long, long road. But you have to start somewhere.
So for the beginning of a new year, lets go back to the beginning of making a film.
My number one rule for starting the creating process is, drum role please…
Write it down.
That means any of it, or all of it. Even if it’s just the very clever title you thought up during a holiday season of debauchery, you can always tweak it later, but if you think it’s brilliant then it will at least inspire you to continue. Even if it embarrasses your friends, appalls your family and could potential loose you your job…it’s all good…
If you don’t write it down, and if you are anything like me, it will evaporate from your mind like split ice cream on an LA sidewalk. Very sad.
I actually have a pad and pen by my bed for those blindingly brilliant, middle of the night epiphanies, and there are many I can tell you. Just because they are all about as life changing as an epic poem written after too many bottles of wine, they are still worth turning on the light and getting out from beneath your lovely warm covers for, even if they do make you blush a bit in the morning.
You never know where and when an idea will strike, and getting familiar with the voice recording app on your phone is well worth the effort too. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought of something brilliant, or at least something I thought was brilliant, not written it down, and completely forgotten it within the hour. Very frustrating and very probably a sign of early Altzheimers, but thats something for another conversation…
I once read about some famous rock band, who’s name escapes me, probably because I didnt write it down at the time, and because of the Altzheimers thing, who kept a file full of lines of lyrics, random words and phrases, and often referred to them when writing songs. It may not seem as romantic as ‘imagine’ written on a napkin in as long as it takes to sing it, but it’s a lot more reliable than napkins and keeping a database of your momentary lapses into brilliance can be a valuable resource when stuck on a scene.
So I write everything down.
Lines of dialogue, clever things I occasionally say, very occasionally. Character names, job titles, even titles of films I have no clear plot idea for yet. Its all worth putting somewhere and checking that resource out from time to time.
I also keep track of actors I like, as I find that helps me when I’m imagining characters, or writing dialogue, especially the handsome ones. “If I can see the characters, it helps me form their personalities,” I reassure my husband. I also make connections in my mind while writing characters with people I actually know, not usually as handsome, but I do find that using real people as characters in your story can be a brilliant way of keeping them real. Just don’t ever tell your sister in law that she makes a perfect serial killer, it might make thanksgiving a little awkward…trust me.
The biggest plus about writing down your ideas is that it’s an actual beginning, and beginning can be the hardest part of all.
Once you have begun, then comes the second hardest part of all of course, which is keeping on going…
I have a million excuses, a trillion other things I have to do and a gazillion distraction every day to keep me from writing, or what I laughingly refer to as ‘my job.’ Actually, it’s not just me that laughs at that reference…
But in the end the only reason you are not working at your story/script/rewrite etc is you.
You are your worst enemy, sorry about that, no one else to conveniently blame.
I now completely understand, after working at this for a few years, why some very lucky writers isolate themselves for months on end to work.
I often wish I had a place somewhere, a boring office, with no one to talk to, no water cooler to hang about by, no internet even, so I could actually work undistracted.
But that is very much a pipe dream I’m afraid, because however well hidden you think you are, the outside world will always find you, and you, more importantly, will always find you, with creative and ingenious ways to prevent yourself from doing what you are supposed to be doing, which is working on your brilliant idea.
So you just have to develop some self discipline, again, my apologies.
Believe me it hurts me just as much as it hurts you.
You have to create space for yourself basically. It can be an actual space, a work area, room, corner of a room away from anyone else in your immediate vicinity. I have several, none of which I end up using very much, as they all seem be be too close to something, TV, front door, fridge. I usually end up working in bed, as it’s the least visited area of the house, no pun intended – thanks.
But wherever your ‘place’ is, you must also have time to work.
We are all busy, with jobs and family and life in general, but if you truly want to get this idea any further than your head, you must allocate some serious time to it.
I am horrible at this, I am always working in my head and can never seem to find time to get things out of there, to somewhere more useful, like my computer, or even someone else’s head. Although there always seems to be time for food, laundry, washing up and running kids around.
But I have made a New Years resolution to be better at my work. No, really I have!
I have set up my favourite work area, for the umpteenth time, cleared it and re-cleared and, and yet again, re-cleared it, in preparation for my great new work ethic.
I purchased pens and containers and a new file cabinet, mostly to facilitate the clearing process. I have rearranged the room, installed much needed replacement ink cartridges in the printer and removed and re-removed extraneous objects from my desk. I have even selected a new cushion for my chair, since whining about how uncomfortable my chair is does not, oddly enough, contribute to my work flow…
And as I sit here working, on my couch with my legs up on the coffee table, possibly causing further injury to my lower back, I feel a great sense of accomplishment.
Now for just five minutes of solitaire….
But seriously folks, find your best time of day.
Mine is usually the morning, which is odd because I have never been a morning person. But lately, as I’ve grown ridiculously older, I have discovered that I an no longer sleep till noon on the holidays, the dogs bark, the cats play and the chicken chatter. And my mind is a buzz with ideas and film plots and calls to return. But I feel drawn more and more to the writing, thankfully.
Perhaps it’s the not so sudden realisation that my time is fleeting and that everyone can really, sort of, take care of themselves, at least for a while, so that my only real obstacle to my feature screenplay is my rapidly increasing, and well rounded self.
I think we all run out of excuses in the end, even me perhaps, who is the queen of excuses, according to popular opinion. Although that opinion is not so popular with me of course.
I’ll make you a deal then.
If I get on with it, then so will you!
Together, and with a bit of self discipline, we can knock out our dream film scripts, short or long, in record time, have a few workshops with friends and get to casting before we can say,
“All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.”
― Jean-Luc Godard
Although my caveat to the above quote would be “and a cup of tea and and couple of nice Garibaldi’s.”
But what ever gets your juices flowing!