Thursday, 12 February 2009

Captain's Blog 12.02.09

Writing for fun and others...

With Part One of War of the Worlds coming out this Friday (all being well), I am driven to think about how we approach writing for others, as opposed to ourselves.

For writing my own scripts, I tend to go very very light on the stage directions, mainly because a) I'm a lazy sod and can't be bothered to write it down :P, b) I find it distracting from the flow of the story and dialogue and c) unnecessary.

Ignoring A) as a personal failing (:P), let's look at B). For me, the story, characters and plot are the most important things. I'll occasionally have a blast of inspiration and visualise a scene I want to try and shoot, but that tends to get jotted in CeltX's scratchpad or on a scrap of paper or Word doc rather than entered into the script.


Because I find the worst thing to be interruption of the story flow. I've lost count of the number of times I've completely banjaxed my efforts for the evening by suddenly breaking the flow of my muse and jotting down some pretty much irrelevant technical guff halfway through a scene, then got stuck when I've turned back to it to complete it.

So, I don't do it any more. Purely because, when I shoot, I follow the flow of the dialogue and use whatever scene I feel fits the particular mood of the scene (which is the reason for C)).

Now, of course, writing for others is different. I try, wherever possible, just to concentrate on the story and allow the director to get on and visualise the writing as they desire. I have to admit, though, when doing WotW, I got pretty stubborn with Chris on a couple of points, mainly because it's one of my favourite sci-fi classics, a great book in it's own right and I had particular ideas about how I wanted certain scenes to look (wherever possible). Of course, there comes a point when you have to "put the gun down and back away", so to speak; too much interference from the writer gets in the way of the director's creative process, so I've had to force myself to let him get on with it HIS way... it is, after all, HIS movie, not mine! :)

That said, adaption of the original novel and album was a hard slog in places, and it's not over yet. Wherever possible, I've tried to stay true to the "spirit" of the story, even though it's ended up being updated and given a more "international" feel than the original.

In order to comply with the "brief", I had to split the "narration" up between the original journalist character and the new character of Max Forrester (points if you know where the name of this guy came from :P), which wasn't too hard. I tried to keep in the "familiar" and famous scenes wherever possible, but have had to tweak them a bit here and there to follow the revised narrative (and the limitations of what is possible with the software we had available).

Other than the first 10 mins of rough footage, I've not seen the completed film yet (length-wise, Part One has had to be split into 2 pieces, purely because (as usual :P), the dialogue has needed to be given room to work. Other than some observations and requests on this, I've had little input into the finished work; much as I have chafed at the bit to do so, I've tried to stay "hands off" as much as I can... as said above, it's Chris' movie, and it has to be HIS interpretation of the script that comes to the screen if he's to have enjoyed making it.

Hopefully, the finished product will be well received, and I have fingers crossed that it will come out well.


sisch said...

I can sympathise very much with your statements - I have never yet written a script for someone else, but imagine it to be difficult. For one thing, whilst writing, I "see" the images in my mind - so I have a very clear vision of how the movie will look in the end. Somebody else though may see very different images... and I cannot really imagine how that would make me feel...
Maybe I should try it some day - though I always have such a hard time "birthing" my scripts, I don't know if I could give one away. :)

I'm looking very much forward to War of the Worlds - the snippets I have seen (trailer) looked fantastic!

Dulci said...

My scripts tend to be fairly bare bones on stage direction - I can see how it would be a completely different situation if I was writing a script to entrust someone else to direct.

Killian said...

Writing can be a deeply personal thing for many people, and I know a lot of folk don't like to "give away a piece of themselves" by writing for others (also, coupled with that horrid enemy of the writer... themselves. That little horned fellow on your shoulder who says "this is a pile of crap, you DO know that, don't you?"

It's very hard as a first-time writer to knock that fellow off your shoulder, square them and do it anyway, but it's a step I think every writer comes to at some point and has to conquer (or else they won't get very far!).

I'm fairly confident of my writing ability, but I still get a "second (and sometimes even third) opinion" on my scripts, just to check that what I think is a good scene or line of dialogue actually WORKS. We can get terribly parochial about our own work, and although cutting out that line we may have sweated over forever may very well be painful, often the script improves because of it.

I tend to finish a script, put it to one side for a day or two while I work on the next or do some shooting, then come back to it. Often, the "bad writing" parts leap off the page at me, and can be corrected pretty quickly. Even so, I always get an honest opinion on what I've written once I get the "initial editing pass" done (as I'm sure you're aware, we're often too protective of particular things we've written in a script, and a second pair of eyes, unfettered by personal investment, can spot things we don't (or don't WANT to) see).

Dulci; I'm glad I'm not the only lazy self-writer out there :P As you both mention, we usually have a pretty firm idea of what the scene is going to look like without having to write it down, but handling "briefs" from someone else can be awkward. If I can, I'll leave the director to do the "donkey work" and get the scenes how they want it, using their own imagination. I feel it's cramping the director's style too much if I write every twitch and tweak of the technical stuff down... I may as well be on Skype while they're shooting it, telling them exactly what scene and angle to use to make it work!

Ken said...

I guess, having written professionally, I lost that "possessiveness" about my writing in the soul-taking world of the marketplace. Ya write it, ya put it out there, somebody buys it. Or doesn't. Or they'll buy it with some changes. First sale, to an "adult" magazine, where the fiction was sandwiched between photo spreads of second class naked ladies - editor said she'd buy the piece if I put in a woman/woman scene (or another woman/woman scene...whatever) I could have stood on my artistic soapbox and said "No." But I didn't. Wrote the scene, sent the revised version back to her, and got a check for $250 a couple of weeks later (this being a while back, $250 was pretty good money).

So I'm not very possessive of my writing. I write for pleasure (even prose, which I plan to eventually sell), take pleasure from the writing, the crafting of the story, the dialogue, the characters. With machinima, I go ahead and make the film because I find the creation tolerable, and I like working with the actors. But the peak of satisfaction ends when I finish the final draft of the script.

I've written four scripts for Uber - two 2-parters because I like exploring characters, perhaps a bit too much. He's been very considerate, asking me how I feel about changes he's making, or different things he wants to do the with script. It's almost aggravating, because I feel that once I'm done with the script, I'm done. It's his movie. Whatever he does with it is his deal, not mine. That said, when I watch the film and see the changes, or notice the cut scene, or whatever, I feel a little twinge. Because, obviously, I thought that scene should have been in there, or that thing he changed should have been the way I did it - hell, I wrote it that way because I thought that way. But it doesn't make me want to get involved with the next one. I just figure he made the wrong choice, and I move on...LOL

And as all who have commented have seen my scripts, I don't have to tell you that I don't put a lot of extraneous crap in them - action, dialogue, scene description only when it's something like a flyover that I describe in barebones terms. If I'm going to make the movie, I can already visualize how I'm going to shoot every scene as I'm writing it - if I'm writing for somebody else, I want to give them what they asked for - characters, story - and leave the money shots to them.

Cool blog, Killian :)