Strange Culture played the San Francisco International Film Festival last night. It was great fun! Writers lead quiet lives of lonely desperation. Screenwriters at least get to go out and get comped a movie ticket and a cocktail every once in a while.
Fun aside, there's nothing like a film festival to really bring home what you're trying to do. There's an audience, and they're gonna laugh or not laugh at your jokes. When you meet them, you get to remember just how special and powerful writing can be.
There's the film crew... and you remember how you're just one cog in the wheel. You talk to the sound operator, or the post production supervisor, the actors, the director. Everyone is linked by the fact that they've ALL been working in their own field to tell the same story. You remember how screenwriting is more about getting all those people working toward a single goal, and not about a clever line of dialogue.
In this case, I remembered how many shifts, changes, and warping screw ups this film went through. It's a narrative/documentary hybrid (some would say mongrel). It was conceived as such. Then they ran out of money and time, and tried to piece together a narrative. That didn't work. Then they got some more money and time. Then the facts of the case changed. Then it got cut and recut numerous times, both for artistic and legal reasons. What you see is the product of a lot of people working very hard. It could have failed at any number of points.
Writers, myself included, place huge value in their words. It's natural. As a new screenwriter, I never understood what a script has to stand up against in the production process. I'd worry about a line here or there, or fight to the death to defend a paragraph of backstory that means nothing to the people who'll use the script to make a film.
Going to film festivals reminds me of how strong your base idea has to be, and how simply and carefully you have to communicate it.