Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 282 - Back in the Saddle

Surprising as it might seem, the fact that I've not been writing blog updates doesn't actually mean that I haven't been writing. In fact, I finally began diving into a new project, which has been both fun and paint-drying slow, as new projects often are at first. League member Onyx (Jon) has for a while now encouraged me to take a time out from writing action scripts to work on something of a different genre. His idea, which I fully subscribe to, is that working on alternative material will clear the dust off of other writing tools and muscles. Sci-fi and action specs don't always have room for deep character cathartic moments or heartbreaking losses or reversals, so making time to write something that does can be invaluable - not that they are definitively devoid of them as a rule, either; many great sci-fi or action screenplays have truly tender and touching moments.

When I was new to writing and, a little later, new to NYU, I loved character-driven material. Plays, screenplays - I didn't care. I was in love with the idea of exploring characters through their reactions to heightened emotional circumstances. I wanted to root for the underdog and relate to people trapped in one of life's ruts and find a way to explain and explore love and the great emotions of the human experience. Most of my early work dealt with the "average" person in recognizable, day to day situations. Then, I wrote  a post-Apocalyptic spec that landed me an agent, manager, lawyer, and two producers, and the game changed. I was encouraged to develop multiple specs per year of a similar genre. Though no sale resulted from my new-found connections, I was brought on to write the sci-fi spec I've been working on for going on two years now. Still, the result has been a deep saturation in the sci-fi and action genres, with few outlets for any other type of emotional expression.

Not long ago, I had an idea for a film about two teenagers falling in love. The theme of young love is by no means new or unexplored - if anything, we're almost drowning in it on an indie level. But the concept I had threw it into an unconventional setting, which (to me at least) elevated the situation and themes I would explore. Still, I had a nagging sense that, no matter what I did with the film, I wouldn't be able to flex my dialogue muscles the way I did when I used to write plays in school. Taking Jon's suggestion, I decided to table development of additional action ideas I have, and instead to focus on the teen love idea, but as a play. Different muscles indeed. Progress has been slow and limited to date, but I have a working document that grows a bit each day I sit down in front of the computer, and I'm excited to be able to unburden myself of an experience certain emotions vicariously through the characters in the play.

In a similar vein, I also began a new venture - thanks to Austin Trunick, aka Zombie, aka the Cinema Editor at Under The Radar magazine - that of movie reviewer. So far, I've had the opportunity to review two films, Mr. Nobody and Casting By. While the cinephile in me loves having access to movies ahead of time and the platform to weigh in on their strengths and weaknesses, the writer in me loves the challenge of a succinct assignment. Tasked with delivering no more than a few hundred words, I find my creative delivery muscles being flexed - how do I say what I want to convey in a captivating, yet short-lipped (typed) way? Every word becomes an element necessitating evaluation. Does I need this "that" there? Can I consolidate these two sentences? Can I cut this train of thought? We're taught as screenwriters to keep action and description brief and moving; writing short articles is a great way to beef up those skills while also developing deeper analytical tools to bolster my own writing.