Monday, November 06, 2006

When good ideas go Breasts Vertical

As mentioned a few posts back, I mentioned problems I'd been having on two key projects. The first was the feature I proposed to write for my script development workshop at college. In a stroke of genius I tried to turn a drama into a rom-com and screwed the pooch in the process. I'm still deciding whether to resurrect the original idea as a drama - it's definitely got legs, so I think I probably will. The second Breasts Vertical Incident involved the concept I'd been developing as a returning drama series for the mentoring project. I still like the central conceit, but the more work I put into it, the less comfortable I became with where it was headed.

My problem was a combination of clashing tone and mixed genres. The original idea was a high concept, outrageous slice of spy-fi - so far, so good. Light of tone, certain of genre. But in trying to invest this with depth and gravitas and characterisation, I starteds slowly twisting the project into something else. I had a light, fluffy souffle and I was trying to construct a skyscraper on top of it. It got to a point where I wanted to abandon my initial conceit and write a straight drama, but couldn't bring myself to admit it. The foundations weren't strong enough to sustain the story I wanted to tell.

Perhaps the problems started at the beginning of the mentoring project. All three of the mentees brought along a fistful of ideas, from which we each chose one to develop further. I honestly didn't know which one I wanted to write from my selection. Ultimately, I plumped for my high concept idea as it seemed to excite the most interest. But all my attempts to mind-map the central characters and find the essence of my story created more problems than they solved. I got lost in the process, couldn't remember what it was I wanted to achieve.

So, time to restate my objectives: by the end of the mentoring project I want to have a pilot script for a new returning drama series, along with some paragraphs describing how it could be developed. Crucially, I want a pilot script that demonstrates my voice, the best qualities of my writing, that acts as a calling card for my abilities as a writer. Doing things like radio drama labs and an MA in screenwriting have showed me that I write best when I write without worrying about trying to second guess what other people want. Don't overthink it, trust to instinct and whatever natural talent for storytelling I have.

One of my favourite films of all time is Ron Shelton's Bull Durham. Maybe you haven't seen it [hell, maybe you haven't heard of it], but don't let the fact the movie is sent in the world of minor league baseball put you off. The film isn't about sport and it isn't about baseball, minor league or otherwise. Bull Durham is about life, about being an adult, about falling in love, about sex and about so many other things. It's also chock full of great lines and observations. I recall lines from Bull Durham every week, as they fit so many situations. One such example applies here: 'Don't think - you'll only hurt the ball club.'

Anyways, I came to the conclusion that I was developing the wrong story for my mentoring project. I called my mentor and we talked about why it wasn't working for me, and what I wanted to do instead. I'd already made my decision, my choice, but it was good to have my mentor support that decision. So, I've gone right back to square one and am starting again. I should be dejected at having wasted three months to get this far, but sometimes you have to kiss a few toads to meet a princess, right?

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