Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Filmmaking in Onion Field, Ontario - Das Prossess - Too Many Chefs in the ThinkTank

For the past two months I have been a part of a very exciting and interesting group called The Windsor Film Club. We're a gaggle of film buffs, novice filmmakers, interested in writing and producing our own movie within the next three or four months.

As a fiction writer, whose workday involves copious hours alone at the keyboard, silently brainstorming in my thinktank-for-one, you may not be surprised to learn that I'm not much of a "joiner." Creating art by committee conflicts on every level with my inner control freak. Also, experience dictates that it's no easy thing to do under the best of circumstances. And that's exactly the reason I joined this group -- to shake up my inner control freak. However, Jason, the leader of the Film Club has brought together a dynamic group of people. We have our quirks, our disputes, sometimes think one another is crazy, but I have never felt so comfortable among a group of strangers (though they aren't any longer). The first evening we met, Jason had us get up in twos to do some improv exercises before the group. This normally would have had me diving out of the nearest window. Since 9th grade French class, I have been unable to stand before a group of people feeling anything but the most abject, unhinged anxiety. Yet among these folks, I weirdly felt all right. Enjoyed myself, actually.

So, we've spent the last month brainstorming story ideas, and finally narrowed down to one. Protocol prohibits me from talking about the story, but I assure all Gentle Readers of this blog that it's absolutely nothing earthshattering. Actually, it's quite pedestrian. Which is fine. That's one of the central reasons why I do not write science fiction or fantasy -- there is just too much great material to be gleaned from daily life. Nothing thrills me more than reworking the mundane details of daily life into fiction people want to read.

For as much as I've enjoyed the film club, my inner control freak tackled me on the 5-yard line yesterday evening. We've sort of over brainstormed the story for our first movie, and though I had every intention of volunteering to be one of the writers of the screenplay, yesterday's meeting and the disjointed, pedestrian ideas that were bandied about, stopped me cold. It's my problem; it's my thing to wrestle with. Were I a responsible, mature adult I would simply air my feelings, my misgivings about where I think our story is going awry, but I'm at a point where my public diplomacy has grown thin and unreliable. While working in smaller discussion groups I've noticed a trend among my peers to pull any ideas that are quirky or unique back into the middle of the road. To coin an awkward word, a tendency to ordinarify ideas.

You see, in order for me to sit down and write a story, I have to feel passionate about it. I'm sure this is not startling news. But more than that, I have to jam my hands right into the soil of the idea and unearth as much non-pedestrian, extraordinary details as possible. In order to spend any time with an idea, I have to be entertained by it. From my extensive reading on writing and the creative process, this is pretty much the norm for writers, filmmakers, and all other artists. Short of engaging in flat-out arguments over artistic vision in the film group, I have done what I can to steer the movie plot into some interesting areas, but the vocal minority have continually rebuffed this.

To a certain extent, that's cool. I believe that the majority rules. Although the film group opted to go with a premise I thought flawed and not worthwhile, I trusted the group and moved forward, still wanting to work on the screenplay. But after witnessing the hamstringing of any interesting ideas last night, I balked. When we went around the group near the meeting's end, specifying what roles we wanted to play in the making of his film, I said, "Camera, lighting, and sound." No harm intended, but the people pulling for the pedestrian ideas and plot-points have no idea what the task of writing a 100-120 page screenplay entails. The combative control freak in me wanted to challenge them to churn even ten pages of their own with their gauzy ideas. But I made no such challenge. Instead, I remained silent, conflicted, and consumed by the old self-doubt that has me continually questioning my sanity.

You know, I don't to come off as Mr. Gobshite-Thinks-He's-William-Faulkner, but at the same time I've been a professional writer for the past eight years. The home in which I live, the car I drive has all been funded by the words I write. The task at hand seemed as daunting as explaining color to a blind person. Where do you begin?

No comments: