Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Getting Comfortable

July 9th, 2011

Yesterday was my birthday. Meh. Forty-one and precious little to show for it. The older I get, the less this stuff means to me. Maybe next year I'll manage to get myself a little something useful for my birthday: a screenplay sale for my current project. Another goal to strive for.

After being away for a few days visiting my Mom (which is always nice), I've come home to more heat n' humidity and am finding it impossible to get anything done, I had the suspicion that getting out of the apartment to get some work done might be a good idea. And in that instant, I had a flash: a complete vision, which included all the particulars of where and under what conditions. I felt that I needed to get my notebook -- and a Diet Coke and chocolate chip cookie for the proper caffeine and sugar regimen -- then travel down to this great Park off of Beacon Street, lay down in the grass on said hill and just let the creative spirit take me where it would.

I'd never really done that before, in terms of trying to write, and have typically felt a little awkward whenever I try to relax or "lay out" like "regular people." It's like, sometimes I see people just relaxing and enjoying the day, throwing their Frisbees back and forth and cavorting with their gorgeous friends and significant others, and sometimes I feel sort of uptight, in a way. Exposed or vulnerable or something, as if I were going to be attacked or made fun of for some odd reason. As if the Wolves walking by would see me as the Weak Sheep in the herd and therefore sum me up as an easy target.

Part of it comes from being a local resident working in retail; in that where ever you go, you typically end up seeing someone you know or have regular dealings with when all you really want is some space. Sometimes it's someone you like, someone you enjoy seeing and talking with... but sometimes it's the Douchebag Kid That Comes From Money who, for whatever reason, tried to shoplift from your store and now wants to screw with you to look like a big-shot in front of his friends. Or the Angry Drunk you had to kick out for being a public nuisance who you still see around town giving you the evil eye as if to say, "Someday it'll be your turn, buddy." It's also partially something I (dis)affectionately refer to as Fat Guy Syndrome. Comes from being made fun of a lot as a kid. If you grew up popular or well-adjusted, you probably wouldn't understand. (No worries, though. I came around, eventually.)

Most of the time I can let these feelings go. Between the heat of the previous few days, the feeling that I'd been squandering my vacation time and the hyper-personal nature of the story I'm working on, though, I was surprised that this vision of this particular where-and-when-to-write came to me in the way that it did. So, wanting to be creative no matter what, I got my things together (that is, my supplies and my head), packed my stuff and headed out there.

Turned out, the Park was a great idea. Two Dudes were in the spot on the hill that I wanted to be in, so I found a nearby bench. Not too comfortable, though. After about a half hour the Two Dudes left and I grabbed my things, went over to my originally preferred space and found what seemed like my Optimum Creation Zone. Stretching out on my stomach and facing the field, baseball diamond and tennis courts beneath, I went to work. It went perfectly. I cranked out about six pages of all-new material for the backstory, right on the fly; things I needed to really make the crime plot work. Nothing Earth-shattering in the screenwriting world sense but very valuable to me, personally, and my story structure. Between moments of brainstorming, I smiled as puppies played in the nearby grass. I watched those Frisbees flying between those gorgeous friends and significant others and all those things that gave me pause earlier that day became wondrous and beautiful.

I started to realize just how negative thoughts can kill one's creativity. I almost didn't go out there at all, I almost didn't do anything that day. But once I did and once I decided to let those concerns of mine go, and once the words started flowing, I was able to relax and make progress.

I'd forgotten how good that could feel.

July 14, 2011

My week's vacation ended a few days ago. "Back to the daily grind" means "less time to create." But then again, that makes the time that much more valuable. Today was a day off. Not wanting to waste it all, I decided to get more backstory done and set up how it progresses into the current timeline narrative. Couldn't go back to the park today, though, due to rain. I know now that it's much easier for me to work on the project away from my room. Far too many distractions here amongst the DVDs, vinyl LPs, books, Atari games and Internets. I figured I'd try the local (and air-conditioned!) Library instead, grabbed my notebook and umbrella and headed over.

I'd never looked for the best spot for writing in there before. I made a few laps around the halls, desks and hidden corners. Looking for the perfect combination of relative silence, lighting, solitude and a window view of the outdoors, I settled into a quiet corner near a soothingly-ticking grandfather clock and started in. After about an hour and a half, I'd gotten close to four more pages of the main outline completed. Next will be the real work. The narrative proper. I should get my notes together and Xerox them for easier travel. Might need them in the coming sessions.

Theatrical Reviews
Taxi Driver (1975, 2011 restoration) ****
Down By Law (1986) ****
The African Queen (1951, 2010 restoration) ***1/2
Page One: Inside The New York Times ****1/2
Hobo with a Shotgun **1/2
Jaws 3D (1983) **

DVD/Home Video
Coma (1978) ***
Firefox (1982) ***
Big Rig (Documentary) ***
The Gauntlet (1977) **1/2

Monday, July 04, 2011

Back To Business: Gaining Clarity and Focus and Keeping It

Some time ago, I was fairly creative.
Starting in 1984 until about 2001, I'd been involved with or dabbled in everything from cartooning, photography, high school newspaper journalism and film criticism, local cable access news and entertainment, film school, screenwriting in both personal study and formal classes and video production and linear video editing. I managed to cobble together two full-length scripts -- one, a silly Hollywood action-comedy; the other, a smaller independent crime comedy -- which gathered some kind words but failed to earn me local literary representation. Stepping up to the plate and prepping for something big, I penned a short forty-pager for a video-film that I'd written and planned to direct and perform in.
Sadly, the project failed to get off the ground due to the usual bad luck, poor planning and misunderstandings. Following that and the lamentation of my lack of personal wealth, I concentrated on the writing aspect of film making which made sense as it just doesn't get any cheaper than pens and paper. Then life got in the way, as it often does, and a combination of unpleasant life experiences, emotional depression, lack of personal belief -- and even general laziness -- kept me from creating anything more than than an occasional blog posting for the subsequent few years. But not completely...
About four years ago something clicked and I had the inklings of a new storyline. Something very... no, extremely... personal. It was far from fully-formed, and is still in fact taking shape. Over these recent years, I had to put a few things to bed, so to speak. Feelings, worries, misgivings... Call them what you will. But finally, one thing has led to another and it's pretty much all there in what could finally be considered a workable form. As of this moment, it exists only as fragments. Pieces of notebook paper, storyboard drawings and torn corners of napkins are tacked to a bulletin board above this laptop. MP3s of appropriate pieces of music, effects, photos and memories from my childhood and young adult past pepper my room, my hard drive and my mind. Just recently, a specific piece of information that I was given provided the true necessary spark to get moving again. And now it's time to take it to the next level.
Growth and maturity rarely come easily. And as no less than screenwriting guru William Goldman has said, "The easiest thing on Earth to do is not write." So, this note will hopefully serve as a method of keeping track of myself and the New Project. The goal is to finish at least a first draft by the 2011 holiday season. And they say that if a writer fears that they might not keep focused, they should tell others of their progress in an effort to keep a sort of goal; that the more people who know about it, the more likely the writer is to continue with it. Starting here and now, I'm doing just that. I thank you in-advance for your interest and any encouragements offered.
I'll try not to let any of us down.
Concepts, theories, investigations and emotional preparations. Studying: in theory and practice, through reading and viewing the lives and works of those who have come to be spiritual and professional influences. These influences on the current project include, but are not limited to...
Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, Richard Siodmak, William Shakespeare, Humphrey Bogart, David Mamet, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann, Kenny Rogers, Haruki Murakami, Kevin Weeks, Jack Kerouac, Andrew Vachss, Elmore Leonard, Carol Reed, Henry Rollins, Toshiro Mifune, Tom Waits, Ernest Hemingway... and my Nephew, Father and Mother.
July 4th, 2011:
Hammered out most of the main backstory at last, which is necessary to continue any further. The narrative is a crime mystery and a large element of the narrative lies in the past. Feels good to see how all these things that have just been concepts for so very long are flowing together in what appears, at least for now, to seem like a natural, organic and believable flow. The idea is to take a genre story and give it an emotional depth usually only seen in our most deep and personal everyday lives. Getting down the protagonists' pre-story lives is crucial and key. Laying the foundations. No fireworks tonight. There's work to be done.