Last night I had a Queer Movie-a-thon. I watched several, two that were actually LGBT films and one that was an Australian “romantic comedy” that frankly made me long for the days when Australian films were actually worth watching.
All three films suffered from the same thing. None of them were properly developed. All of them had a good central premise but none of them capitalised on the idea.
The Australian film and an American Gay Romantic Comedy both suffered from under-developed central stories, and two many sub plots that attempted to make them layered, and instead distracted from the viewers enjoyment of the film.
In the Australian film there was a painful “drug dealer” story line, that culminated in one of the supporting characters spending a good 10 minutes of film time with his hand up a rams butt extracting condoms filled with cocaine. In the 1st of the American films I watched last night we lost a good 30 or so minutes on an under developed story line involving the lead characters mother trying to make her way across country only to find herself in some backwater hick town, hanging out with a drag queen playing the slot machines.
The 3rd film had a different problem. The main storyline was alright, but the supporting characters were cardboard cut outs, no development at all. Set in an exclusive get away in Palm Springs, the other guests at the resort were seen once or twice, yet one of the guests was given the key role of explaining to the audience – and one of the stars – why the other star was in love with him and he needed to give the relationship a go.
That was another problem. There was a lot of “telling” and very little “showing” in anyone of the films. My screenwriting teacher Tim used to say in every class “show don’t tell. If you have tell the audience you’ve not done your job as a screenwriter. Telling is lazy writing.”
I finally understand what he meant.
Another of the characters – the resort owner – had so many possibilities and instead was relegated to “walking in on the couple” at inappropriate moments and trying to get the two main actors to wear pants in the pool.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to my own writing is fearing I wouldn’t be able to develop a decent script out of one of my ideas. I tend to get lost in the details. Wanting everything to be perfect when all I really need to do is get the bloody thing on paper so I can polish it into something meaningful.
I don’t know if the fact that I just happened onto 3 films that could have been great but were instead below average was accidental on the part of the universe or if it was actually my guides way of saying “Dude, just write, otherwise you’ll be 60 and still trying to figure out the why of why you haven’t started yet. Everything takes a leap of faith, just jump already, we’ll catch you.”
Part of me recognised last night the strength in the creative teams behind the films that I watched. Their courage – I guess to a point there was definitely some blind faith going on there – but at least they had the courage to try.
I couldn’t help remembering back nearly 10 years ago when I did a short film making course at Metro Screen in Sydney. In the class was a guy who wrote short films, had acted in commercials and soapies etc. He asked me to read a short script he was thinking of making and give him my honest feedback.
I did give him my honest feedback and learnt there and then that mostly when people ask for honest feedback they want you to tell them they are absolutely awesome and fabulous and nothing needs to change. When I told him what I thought – and I can’t remember what I said beyond telling him where I thought it needed to be improved – he stopped speaking to me.
I’ve done the same thing. Asked for feedback, not when I wanted it but when I needed to be validated. To be told I was good. When the feedback came in with suggestions to change things and change the way the script headed I chucked it in a drawer and never went back to it.
All 3 of those films last night needed work and could have been so much better if the main theme had been set in stone.
I remember last year doing my short scriptwriting course and having Tim say “what is the main theme” over and over again. Not just to me but to everyone. To know the main theme of the film before you put finger to keyboard. In a short sentence, what is the film about.
I picked up a lot of tips from Tim. I really did. I wrote another short straight after leaving the class. I was trying to figure out what the central theme for each of the movies I watched yesterday was. I really couldn’t. The best I could come up with was;
- Film 1 – Don’t leave a bag of cocaine on the bathroom floor or a sheep will eat it
- Film 2 – Love is painful and annoying but ultimately you’ll get married if you just belief in it enough
- Film 3 – We’ve all got baggage and at some point we just need to deal with it
I don’t know if those theme’s were the theme’s the writers had in mind or not, but they’re the gist of what I took away from each of the films I watched last night.
I guess the point to this post is that knowing where you’re going isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to writing. I tend to want to jump in, start writing and write like it’s a thrill sport, like parachute free sky diving or cage free Great White Shark wrestling.
I have to let go of the fear of being behind the eight-ball and that time is running out. It may well be, but if I never do it I’ll only create a self-fulfilling prophesy of always being a dreamer, not a creator.
I have an idea. It’s not a new idea. It’s one that has been around in my mind for a while. I believe it’s time to create another project for Project 2013. It’s time to announce the writing portion of Project2013, at least one of the ideas at any rate.
Today is February 17th 2013. 6 weeks of this year already gone, and not a word written. Last night I realised it was time. Today I commit to it. As I said, I have an idea. One of been to shy to write. I’m dedicating myself and my time to writing my movie. Whether it’s ever made or not is irrelevant.
I miss writing more than I can say. Now is the time to fix that and to start again. I’ll keep you in the loop about how I go. After all that’s what Writing in Shadows was created for.