Monday, August 26, 2013

Is the story fresh or rancid?

Getting the ball rolling on my next script has been close to impossible since my big move. I had it my head that I'd cruise down here, eventually find some work, and continue writing diligently in my spare time. No such luck.

So far I've been able to land some PA gigs working for free, which is good experience and nice for meeting people, but, well, lets save the job rant for another time... *screams internally*

It's funny how motivating a screenwriting professor is when they threaten to fail you if you don't crank out a stack of pages each week. Now that those days have come and gone I'm watching my self-discipline melt away. Yeah, part of the blame goes to video games, movies, and procrastination. I'll admit that. A huge part of it is also getting frustrated that most of my ideas have gone nowhere.

Around the same time Pacific Rim was in post-production I was developing my own treatment for a giant mech extravaganza. It'll be fine, I thought. Just a coincidence and mine doesn't have aliens or any of the other junk they packed in. I should just keep going with it because it's what I want to write. Then a few months fly by and as I'm sifting through production listings I see Robotech is in fucking preproduction with Toby Maguire and possibly DiCaprio... I wasn't necessarily writing Robotech, but the whole franchise and the 80s anime milieu just made me feel like whatever spin I would have put on my similar mech story at this point would be shadowed in some way by those films. It just felt less and less original as more of the same was stirred into the pot. I could say who cares, if it's good it's good and will be recognized as such, but it just feels really lame to be writing something a lot like whatever trend is popping up at the time. I had to give it some breathing room.

I also keep stumbling into this weird thing where I start writing a movie that already exists without realizing it. My next stab at an idea turned out to be a Metropolis rehash and then the following week it was that weird Spielberg android Pinocchio A.I. thing. I haven't even seen A.I., but I started writing that exact kind of story. You might say movies are never wholly original and can always be described by a mixture of two movies that have come before them. I'm not disagreeing with that, but I just can't get excited about something if it feels like it's already been done. So if it doesn't get me excited, well then I'm just not going to write it. And that's basically what's happened with all of my story ideas so far. I was just hesitant to write anything because for one reason or another I wasn't excited about them and kept shutting myself down with excuses.

So now I'm not only learning to bounce my ideas off people to make sure I haven't accidentally rewritten a movie, but also I'm figuring out how to filter the stories I absorb everyday and take aspects I like to make them my own without totally ripping them off. There's a fine balance between borrowing elements from stories and ignoring other work to just write what comes naturally.

Today I think I nailed down a new story idea that I'm genuinely exited about. Now the challenge is to prevent it from spoiling. How can I make it mine and keep it mine? The only answer I can think of is to just say fuck it and write no matter what. Nothing's perfect right away, so the most productive thing to do is develop something that feels fresh and hope it improves. Either way it's a learning experience. It's easy to throw bad ideas out, but to be able to differentiate the great ones from the rest is a skill I'm still getting the hang of.