You Do Not Have to Write That Screenplay By Yourself

Picture by Tony Hall

Picture by Tony Hall

As I might have mentioned in earlier posts, I hate typing. I love storytelling but I find the act of typing in front of my screen extremely tiresome. Yes, every sentence I write in a screenplay (or in this post) will inevitably provide me with some ‘pain’ (If not while writing the pain will be felt during the reading). This is far from ideal when you aspire to be an audiovisual storyteller. Whether we like it or not, a screenplay is needed (or should we be attempting to get rid of such tyranny?) I found comfort in realising that most people do not like reading scripts and that many filmmakers refer to the screenwriting process as a necessary evil. When you hear J.J. Abrams say: “Directing is my favorite because it means that the writing is done” you start to feel less ‘guilty’ about your feelings towards the writing phase.

In the BAFTA Guru interview above, Abrams briefly mentions his involvement on Star Trek: “I wasn’t technically a writer on those films. I got to collaborate with people that had wonderful great big ideas.” This brings me to the point of this post: writing/storytelling collaborations. I have learned to realise that it is much easier for me to collaborate on a script than it is to do it by myself. I am not arguing this will be the case for everybody, but it is for me. If it were not for my co-writer (or should I say for the writer I am guiding and co-writing with) I would either have abandoned the project during one of those moments where doubts and insecurity seem to take over the mental process or I would have finished a much shallower 1st draft, just to ‘get it out of the way’, and would be facing a much tougher re-draft.

To me, this collaboration has brought the following advantages:  complementation, creativity, dedication and fun.

Complementation: the other writer and myself are quite different people but with enough similarities. We are not clones that tend to agree on everything but we have enough in common to avoid clashing all the time and to be interested in similar aspects of life. We bring different perspectives to the projects. The same themes are explored in different manners and in a way that bring us closer to our ‘truth’.

Creativity: there is a lot that can be done to encourage and foster creativity. I am quite fond of a simple ‘game’ called Shiritori, presented at TEDxTokyo by toy designer Shimpei Takahashi.

The concept is quite simple. You are encouraged to start from a word (for example: Cat) and take the last letter of that word to start another word (for example: Thunder) and so on (Roof, Fog,…) Once you have a short list of words, the idea is to apply these words to the concept you are currently working on (a toy for Takahashi or a movie for us) There is something about the unexpected association of seemingly unrelated words or ideas that indeed seems to stimulate my creativity. In the context of co-writing, the extra creativity I feel empowered with emerges from my reactions to unexpected elements introduced by the other writer. If I respect the rules of improvisation, I will not instantly shut the new idea off ( as many like to do  when it does not seem to match a preconceived set of ideas as to what the film should or should not be) and instead embrace it and start to add to it, playing the game. Sometimes this process will lead us somewhere valuable, sometimes it will not. But, it will always bring you somewhere new and provide that much needed breath of fresh air along that 90-120 pages journey.

Dedication: When I collaborate with someone, I hate to disappoint. (I do not seem to mind disappointing myself as much… pride and losing face must have something to do with it). This makes me more dedicated towards respecting the deadlines I have setup myself. When someone is waiting for an outline, a scene or some descriptions it is rude, inconsiderate and  unprofessional to promise them for the material on a specific date only to procrastinate for days before extending the deadline. Deadlines are your friends and it is much easier to respect them when someone else is also aware of their existence.

Fun: Last but not least, having someone to write with has made the whole process a lot more fun. Would you rather be alone in a cubicle for months, or have the opportunity to bounce ideas off, crack jokes every now and then and let some steam off in those moments when it is really needed? I am a social animal (not always the most social, but social nonetheless) and there is a degree of satisfaction that the added social interaction has added to the process.

I remember when I first started this script… It was a very different beast. However, the heart is still the same. I look forward to not being alone during the re-drafting process, as we search for the non-relevant, the stale, the weak, the foreign, the superfluous and the plain boring to excise it from our script. But, that is another post.

2 responses to “You Do Not Have to Write That Screenplay By Yourself

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