Friday, August 01, 2008

The Collaboration: Mexican Writing Standoff

A little while back Cake Man, Zombie, and I decided that we wanted to come together and collaborate on an idea. There are a lot of successful writing partnerships out there, and for me personally, the ability to work well with other writers is something I very much want to develop. You have to start somewhere, so what better place than a bar?

Sixty beers later I think we were all agreeing for the tenth time that we’d like to write something together. Eventually we decided to start a collaboration thread on gmail. I found this very helpful and if our collaboration trio continues down the road, I imagine that the gmail thread will be a mainstay. It’s just good to be able to click over to a record of all your ideas and see some of their little evolutions or de-evolutions, see what’s hitting chords and what isn’t. The thread also keeps things organized and it’s easily accessible for everyone involved. Flash forward another sixty beers.

We’re in a bar again, sober. We’re all supposed to have brought a page with a logline for each of our 14 possible collaboration ideas. Zombie didn’t bring his, I left mine on my printer, but thankfully Cake Man remembered. Good thing too, because that was a great meeting that probably wouldn’t have happened without the sheet. Anyway, with the ideas in front of us we talked it through, basically testing their potential as movie ideas as well as collaborative pieces. We narrowed the 14 ideas down to 3. It just so happened that we were left with an idea from each of us: my Historical Dark Comedy, Zombie’s Historical Horror/Suspense, and Cake Man’s Comedy. Thus began the Mexican writing standoff. Cue Ennio Morricone music.

We finally had our nominees. Two had to die (for now); only one would prevail. We were all open to each, but I was definitely standing by mine, and Cake Man was standing by his. I had thought that Zombie would be standing by his, making the elimination as interesting as the finale in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. But it turns out that Zombie was leaning towards Cake Man’s. If you’ll allow me to further characterize our script ideas as gunmen, the shootout played out something like this in my head.

High noon. We’re in the middle of the hottest fuckin desert, in the middle of the ghostiest fuckin town. Tumbleweed rolls by, gets snagged on a steer skull. Cake Man, Zombie, and me, triangle formation, hands inching to our peacemakers. No peace here. I’m looking to arrange a meeting with Cake Man and his maker, and he’s looking to send me to hell. Zombie is already buddy buddy with Cake Man, so I reckon he’s got his eyes set on me. I’m going to have to be faster than a whore’s prayer. That’s when the vulture flying over our heads lets out its call and we draw. Goddamn…that was quick. Cake Man has shot me the through the heart. I fall into my own grave. Zombie’s still trying to shoot at my corpse, but he discovers that his iron was never loaded. He looks to Cake Man, but finds a smoking barrel instead. Zombie gets his face shot in. Cake Man wins, walks off into the sunset.

But it’s nobody’s loss when you think about it. We’re all excited to be working together and with a good idea. But nobody really knows what to expect aside from more beer. This is our first collaboration, and we’ll keep you posted regardless of whether we’re cruising or sinking. Anybody have some advice for the collaboration rookies? DOA?


Zombie said...

Sixty beers? I think you're underestimating Cake-o's drinking ability.

DOA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DOA said...

First, I think that it's great you guys are cowriting. Best of luck and I really look forward to see what you guys create.

That said, the times when I cowrote with someone were also the times when I drank the heaviest. Not in bars too. But both time I was collaborating with filmmakers, so there were fundamental viewpoint differences to start with.

I think the Ken Levin post about how to find a good writing partner very true. While I think we've learned how to take constructive but harsh comments pretty well in school, it's another level when someone doesn't like your idea, AND think their idea is better, AND have the same level of power to change your script as you. Just try to take a GIANT FLYING LEAP back and think things though w/o emotional attachment to your idea, and allow cooling time after arguments. Because there will most definitely be arguments.

And don't sleep with each other.

Joe said...

yeah. 60 beers? You mean in one sitting, right?

Zombie said...

Well, Jen, I can't speak for Onyx and Cake, but I just don't swing that way...

Janet said...

Wow, 14 initial ideas... I'm collaborating with a co-worker to write a paper and I only came up with 5 ideas. One of which is "Best Activities for Control Room Operators During Down Time", I don't think that'll get selected.

I know you didn't as for my opinion, but I think you guys should choose a lead. Just so someone will be there to hold everything together when things get busy.