This is progress, right?
Sure I wrote fiction in my head, but not on paper or screen. With novels I tend to get the characters and the plot inside my head and then they live there, their lives carrying on once they are installed in my brain. It’s a bit like some parasitic tapeworm that infects in your mind, subtlely feeding off your thoughts and your experiences, interweaving their life with your own. Their story begins to tell itself once they exist there. It is practically a preoccupation, or obsession. I cannot NOT do it. It’s like breathing to me.
But screenwriting, that seems like an altogether more organised affair. so precise, so technical, so economical of words and scenes and plot and dialog. With novels you just let the characters get in, spark and then get on with it. You don’t need economics. Plot is thrashed about in an evolution that is primarily subconscious, happening in moments when I’m not concentrating, like this morning when I was sweeping the stairs with a handbrush. Of course the character was doing the same thing in this same place, but she was doing it in a different time and a different space, and boy did the task feel different to her!
Her life, her story goes on even when i am sleeping. Her adventures are at their most riotous in my dreams.
But all this planning is foreign to me. Writing for me is very slightly organised daydreaming. It’s not organised in any conscious way, it just happens. If some element of plot or character in a novel doesn’t fit it gets instantly obliterated, forgotten before it was ever remembered. If a character doesn’t find their place they fade into the background like a type of narrative natural selection. But if something burns through with the bright fire of interest on each subtle subsequent mental retelling, reworking of the story then that thing BECOMES the story.
If it turns out not to be as interesting as first thought it becomes just a minor happening in the story, a page filler. Most novels could be boiled down into very few pages if it wasn’t for the page fillers. These minor happenings are the meat and potatoes of filling pages for the hungry novel reader. In this way, novels are made from minor happenings. Films are not.
When minor things happen in that precious two hour film story they happen for an important plot reason or for some symbolic or thematic reason. They do not happen for no other reason than because it was interesting to the author when they wrote the first draft and whatever the minor happening was it was not too glaringly out of place to be lost in the edit. A film is a succinct parable, not vicarious daydreaming, a mind adventure for the reader. It is the most nutritious and efficient meal the viewer’s brain can have. If it’s well written and well produced it tastes good – but like nouvelle cuisine, you never got too much of it. It’s always the smallest portion you fit on a plate. Whereas with novels sometimes you end up feeing nauseous from too many dishes that are far too full. And we often forgive this overindulging from our favourite authors because the characters exist inside their heads and their heads alone. But it takes many heads to make a film. And it seems the screenwriter is only the first head rather than the main head.
So it seems I am on a screenwriting course primarily because I don’t get on with the novel, but funnily enough the novel is growing on me now. I’m coming back to it. Overall this is good. This is progress, right?
But not for my course.
So what do I need to do for my course? What goes into a twenty minute short film? What is the structure of a short film? IS THERE a structure for a short film or are they all different because of the time constraint? Of this, I have no clue.
All of the stories here seem so big. Can I find a small story? I don’t know.
All I can think is that I need to approach this from what I know. Find the story in my own way rather than approaching it from the path of film structure. That is still too foreign to me, for the moment at least. The technicality of it seems backwards, like trying to see the end before you’ve conceived of a beginning.
I need to let a character creep in I think.
Maybe while I am asleep.
Hey, that might work!
Nos da! (Goodnight!)
(I am watching the sunset behind the Wicklow mountains of Ireland as I send this off into the ether. Beautiful. Inspiring. Peaceful. I wish I could post a photo but it will have to wait until I am home with broadband.)