A new idea for a short (and kind of a tough post to write)

I think this’ll make a dynamite short, and I could shoot it myself….but it would still be hard.

Because it’s about me. There’s no getting around it. Oh sure, I’ll change the names to protect the innocent (and the guilty), but it’s about me.

I’ve known I was gay ever since the age of about 12. Before that, I never really thought about who or what I wanted to get hot and sweaty with at all (I’m always kinda taken aback by people who say they knew they were gay when they were 4 or something…..how does anyone know anything about the subject that early on?). The town I grew up in (and the house I grew up in — but that’s another story), that kind of thing wasn’t exactly accepted. So I hid. I dated a few guys while I was in high school, even had sex with a couple of them (no gold star for me), but I never felt like that was me. I came out while I was at university and while it cost me a lot, I can’t imagine my life having taken any different turn.

Some people like to say they’re so opposed to labels, and don’t try to label everything, and don’t put yourself in a box, and this that and the other. But the thing about putting yourself in a box is once you’re in one, at least you know where you are. Being a lesbian was one of the cornerstones of my identity (and to the 90% of you out there — yeah, being straight is a cornerstone of your identity. The fact that you don’t hold parades about it doesn’t change that). I’ve been with 10-15 other girls since I came out (is it weird that I can’t remember exactly, when it’s not exactly an astronomical number?). I was pretty comfortable with who I was.

And then I met Brady.

I met him at the gym (the little cafe in the gym, to be precise). Place was getting a little crowded, so he asked if he could split the table with me. I said sure, whatever. We didn’t say much for a few minutes, and then, we started talking more and really hit it off. I don’t know, I just felt drawn to him. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before — at least not towards someone with a Y chromosome.

That’s been about a month ago. We’ve gone out quite a few times since then (the first few, I must admit, I really didn’t realise they were ‘dates’ at first, but they sure were). And I like him like crazy. I could see myself even saying that other four-letter word that begins with L about him, but let’s not go crazy after a month. It’s not just “I like him as a friend” either (though I do). We’ve advanced to kissing, and, well….the me of six months ago would throw up at the sound of this, but I could see myself getting intimate with him. I’ve even done a little ‘research’ 😉

I think I’m gonna be able to be happy being happy with this man, but I’m just not certain. I feel like a part of my identity has been lost. Maybe it’s been replaced with something new (am I bisexual? Is that what this means? Just another box), but maybe it hasn’t. In case you didn’t figure it out before, I’ve never been one of the “don’t label it” people. I like knowing who I am. And I’m not sure I do these days. Maybe I’ll get past it, maybe I won’t. Maybe it’ll matter, maybe it won’t. I don’t know yet. Brady knows all about me, but there’s some friends that I haven’t yet told about him. And I feel like me dating a guy might make us less close as friends. Before you go there — no, it wouldn’t make them petty bitches if so. You have someone down alongside you fighting in the trenches, and now they’re not anymore? That’s gonna sting a little.

When I stop to examine this whirlwind, I can’t help but feel like there’s a story here. A story I can write, and a story I can shoot. It would be even simpler to shoot than The House Call, which I’ve long said was the first movie I’ll ever make. This one would need multiple locations, but while The House Call will require, oh, about a half-dozen (very very simple) visual effects shots, this one is pure dialogue. Pure talking of heads. It’s as character-driven as you could ever imagine. That’s also why it would be a short. You can have threads that thin stitch something together for 15 minutes. For 90, you need more. And there isn’t any more to it.

The only working title I can think of is Erasure. It evokes the notion of bisexual erasure from queer studies, but that’s not really the point. It’s more about losing a long-held identity, like I mentioned above.

I just don’t know if I’d have the courage to make this one. In case you somehow don’t already know, I really don’t do happy endings in my stories, and this one would be no different. I’m kinda thinking of it as the way things might go with me and Brady — but I hope they don’t.

There’s something of me in nearly every protagonist I write. But this feels different somehow. I guess maybe it shouldn’t, but it does. Like a lot right now, I’m conflicted as to whether this truly has the emotional power I think it does. Or whether that power is broad enough. But first is to decide whether this is an avenue I want to pursue at all.

Advertisements

New idea to get down on ‘paper’

Jesus shit, September? I thought sure I’d posted more recently than five months ago. Amazing how time flies. Although I’m making no indication that I’ll post any more frequently than that, I’d sure like to. We’ll see how it goes.

Anyway. Had another of my trademark fucked-up dreams (it had been a while), and got it down to paper. I’m pretty excited about this one. Working title is The Device, though as you’ll read, that’s not gonna end up being the title.

Not-too-distant future. Something like 2065. It’s our world, but with one small but major difference (sort of Philip K. Dick-ian in that way). Hung juries are a thing of the past thanks to a device capable of scanning the accused’s mind and seeing if memories of committing the crime are present. It’s extremely expensive to operate and has side effects in the subject, so it can’t just be used anytime anyone’s suspected. Other than this one option at trial, an option of which jurors are specifically discouraged, the police and the courts work exactly as they do in our world.

In a drunken haze, Our Hero wound up being involved in a murder. He doesn’t think he actually committed it, but the memories of that night are too foggy for him to sort out (this is specifically not a problem for the device). Conventional evidence puts OH at the scene and the weapon in his hand, but it’s not conclusive. The jury deadlocks at 8-4, and then votes to use the device.

The device reveals memories of OH committing the murder. He is sent to prison. Case closed.

Ha, no. Not case closed, full stop. More like case closed, dot dot question mark. Hero’s Lawyer is deeply convinced of his client’s innocence, and is certainly worried about his quality of life in prison after the device has been used on him. Both OH and HL think the device may have been rigged, to secure a conviction. HL butts heads with antags in law enforcement and the justice system, who think plain and simply that the case is indeed closed.

In a rarity, this all kind of crystallised for me into a viable third act. I usually don’t get those from my dreams. My dream is one vivid scene, usually from Act 2. It’s not hard for me to figure out how we get to that point, but where we go from there is usually not as clear as it was in this case.

The resolution is that OH is indeed innocent of actually committing the murder, though he’s guilty of a lesser offence, one which the conventional evidence also supports. But the device wasn’t rigged, nor did it malfunction. The thesis of the story is the frailty of human memory. Memory sucks, people. OH heard himself be called a murderer so many times that he, even in just his subconscious, started to believe it and started to remember the hazy drunken night that way.

The only thing I’m worried about is having this come across as a luddite wet-dream, a “DOWN WITH TECHNOLOGY~!” piece. Because it’s not actually about the device at all. It’s about memory. Realistically, the only way the story ends is with the device being used in the judiciary substantially less than before. I’m not sure how to make it clear that it’s not because it’s a big bad evil machine, but rather because the machine’s purpose is inherently flawed in the first place.

But on the whole, I’m looking forward to fleshing this one out. Thoughts?

New theory

I am not a filmmaker. Nor even a writer. I am a storyteller.

Allow me to explain — I see stories in goddamn everything. And right now I’m treading the fine line between that being unbelievably awesome and it driving me totally insane.

Here was the latest instance. Not perhaps the greatest, but certainly the latest. I was riding the bus home from the market, and across from me sat this lovely young couple (mid-20’s) and their son.

This lovely young couple with matching brown hair and brown eyes. And their blond-haired, blue-eyed son.

The kid was maybe 4 or 5 (old enough to walk and talk, but still pretty high-maintenance). And he was absolutely adorable. Together, the three of them made an almost disgustingly adorable family, but something about the sight of them just screamed at me.

There’s so many stories there. Am I just going all A Beautiful Mind on this shit and seeing things that aren’t there? Because it’s clear as day to me. Let’s see if I can even come close to listing them all…..

* Is he raising his own kid?

* Did he ever doubt it?

* Did he ask her about it?

* Does he know for a fact the kid is someone else’s?

* Does he know that someone else?

* Say he was there and supportive throughout the pregnancy — what drama may have occurred when the kid ended up looking like neither of them?

* Assuming he is the biological dad, what distant relatives for the two of them give them the recessive genes they passed along for their kid?

* Is it a Blue Valentine situation where knows perfectly well he’s not the biological dad, while the kid doesn’t (yet), and he’s totally fine with that?

* How long have the two of them even known each other? (they weren’t married)

* Is it even possible that the kid might be aware of any of this?

I’m not saying I could write a half-dozen features on this, nor even one, but damn if these aren’t potentially really great stories. Whizbang shoot-’em-ups and space alien battles have their time and their place, but the stories that really get to you and stay with you are the ones that come from real life, or what could be real life.

And I see stories like that all the freaking time.

Here’s another example. I frequently get mail for my next door neighbour put in my mailbox. Here we go again.

* How does a mail carrier make this mistake not just more than once, but WAY more than once? Does he have some kind of reading/learning disability? Should he be behind the wheel of a vehicle?

* Sometimes the mail that’s dropped in my box by mistake appears pretty important (bills and such), but I generally don’t get much mail myself and so I only check my box maybe twice a week. Did the neighbour ever miss a payment on something important and get into trouble for it?

* Have I mentioned that the neighbour is smoking hot? Yeah, there’s some stories there.

* Usually I take the mail over to the neighbour myself (see: last bullet point) rather than just putting it in their box like it belongs. What effect, if any, does that little ‘human touch’ have on her day?

* Isn’t she a little upset about this by now, too?

It’s ripples in the pond, really. Or the tip of the iceberg. One tiny little thing that causes so much, or has so much underneath it. Or maybe I’m just off my nut. That’s absolutely possible.

Interpretations

Yeah, I hope nobody’s been reading this and dying for me to post, because it’s not gonna be much more frequent than it’s been, sorry to say.

But it also won’t be never again. I just haven’t had the time to write (non-volleyball) lately, much less write about writing. But I’ve got a topic I’m burning about right now.

That topic, as is the title, is interpretations. Here’s one my very favourite songs in the whole wide world:

Classic. According to Wikipedia, songwriter Roland Orzabal said that he’d heard people say that they thought the song was about primal scream theory, but that it’s actually about political protest.

Hang on, hold the phone.

Who is Orzabal to decide what the song is and is not about?

This may come across controversial, I don’t know. But I don’t think artists get to decide the one and only “correct” meaning for their works. Art, in all forms, means different things to different people. How is one any more correct than another? Orzabal can say political protest is his intended meaning for the song, and the way he himself would interpret it, but the simple fact that he wrote the song doesn’t in my mind give him licence to say what a right and wrong interpretation are. How can there be a wrong interpretation? That’s kinda what ‘interpretation’ means, figuring something out. And that ‘something’ will always be specific to the person doing the figuring.

Another band I like is Seether (vastly different genre). On the interview for their One Cold Night acoustic concert DVD, interviewer Pierre Robert asked Seether’s principal (only?) songwriter Shaun Morgan about this, and I love Shaun’s answer. He says he hates to reveal what his songs are “really” about (he even seemed to give the verbal scare quotes when saying those words), because, yes, they mean different things to different people.

But he also had a secondary reason that just blew my mind.

“What if my answer sucks?”

Man, that takes some humility, to admit that’s even possible. He doesn’t want to risk ruining a song that could have great meaning to someone by telling them that he really wrote it about nothing, or something mundane or even disgusting.

My philosophy is that a song, a movie, a play, a painting, a poem, a book….they’re all things that exist. Someone acted as a conduit to be able to bring them to the masses (maybe this sounds incredibly snooty, but I often feel like I’m “discovering” my stories rather than actively creating them), but that doesn’t mean they know anything more about them than anyone else.

I’m aware there’s a flip side to this. The first movie I’m ever going to shoot, a short called The House Call, potentially lends itself to a virulently misandrist (anti-men) interpretation. And that’s not what I’m going for at all. But I think that’s a risk I have to take when putting it out there. Somebody might see the short and hate it, thinking I hate men. They’re wrong about me hating men and I’d be disappointed if that’s what they took from the short, but it can’t really go much further than that. It would be what the film meant to that person. And maybe I’d lose somebody. But hopefully it would never be more than a minority opinion.

So I hope authors, singers, playwrights, poets, screenwriters, painters, sculptors, etc everywhere create wonderful thought-provoking art. And then don’t ruin it by telling everyone what it’s “really” about.

New dumb idea!

I haven’t distilled this one to a logline yet, so the description will have to be a little longer.

The working title is Revisions. We start in a high-stakes, life-and-death situation. Think bank robbery, but hopefully something less cliche than that. Our hero heroically saves the day, until – – freeze frame, voiceover.

It’s revealed that the characters in the life-and-death situation are themselves characters in a screenplay, being written by two new characters (played by two of the same actors as in the life-and-death situation). One objects to the resolution being too pat, and a small squabble ensues. It’s clear these two don’t like each other — so why are they working together?

The writing session ends. We follow them home, through a routine rest of their day. They return the next day and suddenly are much nicer to each other and agree with a handshake to return to their writing. Except — freeze frame, voiceover.

They are also characters in a screenplay being written by someone else!

The same two actors play the writers in another room, and one feels this resolution to be too pat.

From this point on, the idea is you’re not sure which scenes take place where. Kinda like Inception. It won’t all be in the writers’ rooms, since that would make it much too simple to tell. And the key will be having scenes and conflicts that could advance either plot.

If anyone out there is reading, tell me — is this clever, or cheesy? I quite like it so far.

Anyone looking for a writing partner?

Because guess who is?

I’m pretty sure this is something I need, and I know it’s something I want. It’s so hard to work alone, so I want to stop doing that. Most successful (and, shit, unsuccessful) writers I know of have buddied up, at least for a time. So I’d like to try to find someone to work with.

I don’t necessarily mean work together on the same scripts, though I’d be open to the possibility. Someone to trade work with, give constructive critique. It’s nice to get that from people who know what they’re talking about (“I like it, keep going” is only useful to a point), and while I have joined a peer review website (Trigger Street), they only accept finished drafts. I’d like to be able to get feedback before then. Reciprocity, of course.

Ideally, it’d be someone who writes in the same genres I do, though I find I’m branching out. I’ve got psychological thriller, sports movie, family drama, erotica, crime drama, romance, supernatural drama, drama drama drama drama drrrrrrrraaaaaa yeah I still don’t write comedy. Just not in my bones. So if that’s your thing, terrific. Make your movie and I’ll buy a cheap-ass ticket at my broke-ass local theater and laugh my soul silly when it comes out. But we’re not gonna help each other before then.

So that’s the grist of it — I want a writing partner. Best way to contact me is probably through TNS — contact@thenetset.org or @thenetset on twitter. Once contacted there, I’ll arrange for other methods.

Hope this finds somebody 🙂

Inclusivity in screenwriting and filmmaking

Hot damn, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here.

The topic du jour is inclusivity. Firefox doesn’t seem to think that’s a word, but fuck it, it’s what I’m going with (Do you like ‘inclusiveness’ better Firefox? Yes you do. You’re weird).

Some Cinco de Mayo demonstrations today got me thinking along these lines. How as writers do we make our work more inclusive? It should be obvious why this is a goal — persons of every race, colour, creed, gender, and so on, they all buy movie tickets. And they all want to have the same experiences. And since they by definition can’t, we’re kind of fucked, but we can take steps to make the gap to be bridged as small as possible.

Think about Hollywood’s great black actors. Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Will Smith, Sam Jackson, Eddie Murphy, Laurence Fishburne, Forest Whitaker. Maybe I’m just out of touch (that is VERY possible, don’t get me wrong), but this list demonstrates problem #1 — these men are not getting any younger. Sorry to ruin your childhood, but Will Smith turns 45 this year, and he’s the youngest man named in this paragraph.

Now think of their careers — how often have they played roles that weren’t required to be played by a black actor?

You’ll find a few examples, mostly with Smith. Robert Neville in I Am Legend comes to mind (as does the deplorable decision to recut and reshoot the ending of that film, but that’s another story). Smith’s role in Independence Day (the name of the character eludes me, and I can’t be arsed to google it) also comes to mind. Washington’s well-received turn in Flight wasn’t a black-specific character. And in a bit of irony, perhaps Freeman’s most beloved role was specifically written to be white in the original source — Ellis ‘Red’ Redding in The Shawshank Redemption.

But for the most part, all of them get by by playing ‘the black guy.’

And that’s okay, generally speaking. There’s no reason to never have characters that are specifically written to be of a certain race. At least not on its face (you can certainly go wrong with it). But I find that we as writers generally don’t assign a particular face to our characters. Or if we do, it’s merely for the sake of convenience, and not some grand and glorious vision. The grand and glorious vision comes later.

So if I have a character, who could realistically be of any race, and I name him Joseph Wallace, have I just assigned him a race by default? I hope not, but it seems pretty likely. Certainly, if I name a character Ciaran O’Flaherty or Juan Francisco Montoya, I have an idea of what he looks like. And of course it’s harder with Hispanics than blacks, because persons of Hispanic backgrounds rarely (not never, but rarely) have names like Joseph Wallace. I don’t think I’ve ever actually written a Hispanic character, and I feel sort of bad about that.

It’s different for prose writers. They do need to describe what their characters looks like — we, beyond what’s necessary for actor to get into characterisation, generally don’t. I want to leave the door open. I don’t want to have to start naming characters Deion just be to inclusive. That won’t come off as inclusivity — it’ll come off as tokenism.

So this is a social change I’m very much looking for. It seems like it’s coming, and not a moment too soon.

I try as well to write in a way that’s inclusive of ‘invisible’ minorities, though for obvious reasons that’s not as easy or meaningful. I think the romance genre, and even just romantic subplots of otherwise not entirely romantic films, would do well to include the occasional gay or lesbian romance. Nothing explicit or salacious, and with stories that could conceivably work with straight characters. I have two active projects along those lines, a feature and a short. I’m sure if either are ever to get made, it’ll be with me as producer. To claim that every character, outside of niche genres, pornography, or drawn-from-stock supporting roles, is straight is ludicrous. And yet that’s what mainstream cinema does. Anyone who would walk out on a movie for this reason is someone I don’t want buying a ticket anyway. I feel no need to be inclusive to them, not least because most of my works will be anyway without me trying.

There’s no easy answers. This is something we’ve got to keep working on. The payoff will be worth it, though.