Monday, April 30, 2007

Confession of the Day

I get embarrassed reading through some of my posts. Something about this format and my love of an audience brings out the all-knowing pro in me. It's time I fessed up. I have a script that's been kicking my ass for three years. I've tried every tool I can think of -- working with synopsis, writing out backstories, thinking with visuals, characterization, etc. etc. etc. After all this effort, I have probably 300 pages of embarrassing dialogue and untamable plot details.

I'm not giving up for a couple reasons. The premise almost always elicits a "wow". It intersects a lot of important subjects for 2007 in a very classically dramatic way (or it should). Beyond that, the main character is me when I was 16. I was deeply unhappy then. I was desperately private. Desperately, privately Christian. Very screwed up about my sexuality. I spent most of my energy figuring out how people could even register my presence. My inner world was far more real to me than the world around me. That kid's still inside me somewhere, and it's time he came out. No pun intended.

Today, three years in, I suddenly got the midpoint of the script. I had EVERY ELEMENT. The helicopters. The creepy messianic figure. The innocent's lie. The smart retort. The dimension-traveling aliens. But for some reason this disjointed mess waited until today to open up into a six-lane superhighway of drama and emotion. I felt like an idiot for not seeing it sooner. Ever been there?

I'm finally getting somewhere with the script now, and in a way I've resisted for a long time. I'm writing it as prose. Why did I resist? Because I think the visual medium changes and shapes a story. I think prose is better as words, and movies better as movies. Beyond that, I wrote prose for years before turning to scripts. Writing prose is intense. It's very private. No escape. No comps and premiere parties. Lots of staring at the wall and snapping at your boyfriend and forgetting to eat.

Why is prose working for me now? I think I need the backstory in my action lines, in a way. I need to know what the character is all about before I can construct a strong role for an actor. I'm going to get it all down, in my notebook, where no one can see it. I'm going to keep writing until I have the story coherent, organic and strong. And when it's time to write the script, I'll worry about telling it visually. I'm probably also adding the need for another draft of two to simplify and pull out unnecessary detail. But at least the project is teaching me, feeding my art, and keeping me off the streets.

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