Monday, 4 August 2008

Pattern Recognition...

First off, I finally added some links to the page! Have probably forgotten loads of people but will update it as I go. For now, be sure to check out my brother's Congo Review page and my dad's Poundland page - both very entertaining.

Anyway, I’ve noticed that whenever I have a week not doing anything I then suddenly find myself really busy the following week. Actually, that’s just logic, not a huge revelation, but it did feel like a revelation this weekend. So as usual everything’s kicked off again just as I was starting to watch films and work on my own spec scripts for a change. Actually, the workload hasn’t changed, I’ve just suddenly realised that as I’m on holiday for most of September I’ve only got until the end of this month to finish everything off. At present, ‘everything’ is one full feature and two rewrites. 

Thing is I have lost a bit of enthusiasm recently. Not for writing, quite the opposite, but I have really started to miss developing my own ideas. It’s been a very long time since I wrote a script that wasn’t based on someone else’s outline. Also, I was starting to think about podcasts and planning that out and I suddenly realised if I had free time to do that maybe I should use it to do some actual writing instead (that's not to say I've scrapped the podcast idea completely).

So I’ve got this script, at the moment unimaginatively titled The Dark Room, that I’ve been working on for years. The Hollywood pitch would be Roadhouse meets Hellraiser. Basically, I took all the best elements of my old scripts – characters I really liked, cool ideas, odd scenes – and mashed them into one story. The result of that has been three main characters that I can fit pretty much any of my ideas around. So anytime I’ve had a crazy idea for a scene or a story that doesn’t fit into what I’m writing at that moment, I write it into my ideas for this script. Currently the longest document containing these ideas is 15 pages long. That’s 15 pages full of 1 or 2 line ideas. And there is more than one document.

For a long time the whole thing was too big to write as a film script. On the one hand it would need a huge budget, and at the same time there was simply too much going on for one film. I tried writing it as a novel, but my skills as a prose writer have long since eroded and to be honest they were never that great anyway. When I was writing Night Warrior, the online comic, I thought about doing it as a comic. The difficulty there was you had to find an artist ready to commit to it and the artwork is ten times more effort than the writing of the comic. Also, everyone on Night Warrior had their own ideas for future titles and some were much more dedicated to the cause than I was so I never put mine forward. Unfortunately Night Warrior did not become the revolutionary cult hit we desperately wanted it to be so that ceased to be an option. The other option was TV, but there was no way it would be made in the UK, I’ve never written a TV script, and I don’t watch much TV anyway. That left film.

It’s become my George Lucas-style trilogy – a sprawling mess of characters and storylines that I’m hoping one day someone will make enough sense of to make into a film. Actually, at the moment it’s not about it getting made. I need something to show to people when they ask, and at the moment the most recent script I have that’s all of my own is a few years old and badly in need of a rewrite. Yes, it would be faster and easier to rewrite that one, but even that was trying to fit into a current trend (well, less current now as it was a few years ago). This script is all me. 

That’s the other reason to do it – I need to do something that’s completely mine, that says if I had an unlimited budget to make any film I wanted this is the one I would do. Final reason to do it – I’m loving every minute of it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy everything else I’ve written this year, because I really have, but this is different. It’s also taking up a lot more time than the others, and though I am tempted to scrap everything else and push this one to the front of the queue I’m not sure that’s practical. Still, I managed 10 pages the first time I got bored of writing for other people, and I wrote another 10 the weekend just gone. I will get there in the end.

Two other reasons that made me pick it up again. I listened to an interview with Luc Besson where he talked about writing Subway. He said he was struggling to fit the characters into a story, which is the same problem I was having with mine, so he decided to scrap the story and write a film where you get to spend time with these crazy characters. Sounds like a plan to me - I love Subway!

The other reason was seeing Dark Knight. I honestly haven’t had that excitement about seeing a film for a long time. I’ve seen great films on DVD, I see at least one I add to my favourites list every month, but seeing something that big that I actually thought was daring and challenging and very well produced was a huge inspiration. And Ledger’s Joker really made me think about characters in contemporary films – it’s like he says in the film ‘This town deserves a better class of criminal’. After that I think cinema needs a better class of villain – I don’t think it can be bettered, but there hasn’t been a character that good on the screens for ages. So much of it was in the performance, but the dialogue and the story elements of that character were amazing too and it made me think that I’d really like to push a character to that level.

Speaking of Dark Knight I just want to state for the record that in the wake of mixed reviews that followed my early praise, I’m sticking by my opinion. I still think it’s the best comic book film ever made, with the exception of The Crow. For years comic fans and most of all general film fans have been asking for a film like this – a big fat Hollywood film that doesn’t compromise on it’s story, themes and characters. Now we’ve got it and most critics are complaining. ‘It’s too violent for the kids!’ they cry. How long have comic fans been telling people that the majority of comics are not for kids? Now finally there is a film that references the source material in full and people are realising that this might actually be true. Another one is, ‘It’s too long!’ I’ve used that criticism before talking about Lord of the Rings. ‘Oh no,’ said the fans, ‘You can’t say that. They had to be long to fit all the stuff from the books in’. So The Dark Knight crams 60+ years of comics into two-and-a-half hours and manages to sum up the complexities of characters like the Joker and Harvey Dent, but in doing so is too long.  Yes, you could shave 30 minutes off the beginning and it would still probably still be just as great, what annoys me is when it's one rule for some films another rule for others. This is why I should never listen to film critics. They make me angry.

Sorry, that’s been bugging me. You are allowed an opinion of course. You don’t have to like it just because I do and went to the effort of posting my opinion here. I guess I'm just mad because normally everyone loves the big hyped up films and I’m the one who hates them. I just don’t like it being the other way around. Maybe I should learn something from that and move on with my life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First of all, thanks for the link. Second of all, I agree The Crow was the best adapted comic-hero film and that Ledger was great as the Joker. Note: two films where the best performances were played by actors who died before the films release.