Currently working on ‘Monsters and Angels’, a screenplay I conceived nearly 10 years ago, and is still not complete. There are many reasons for this, so many I guess, that I could likely dedicate one single blog article to that alone. Why did you not go to the beach when you fancied it earlier? How come you did not apply for that job? You were going to have beans on toast for dinner, but in the end you popped out for fish and chips. Oh if you had asked that girl out when you had the chance, she could be engaged to you now and not that tall glass of water.
Shortly after I started developing ‘Monsters and Angels’ as a movie script, and then months, years or so later, I became pre-occupied with other stuff. It is called life usually. That year I am referring to is 2006 and I was actually hit full-on by two other strong ideas for movies I also had to pursue (‘Ruby Fischer’ and ‘Love Belle’)). All three scripts are in the same boat progress-wise to this very day. Not complete. I was also between jobs at that time, and it can often feel you are busier looking for work than you are when you are actually in work. I had my fair share of complicated or time-devouring relationships or brief encounters with girls.
It was a time when social media was so very, very new. I mean, is there anyone out there whose time was not sucked by the vacuum of internet conversing? And this was not always simply hanging out with people via chat or networks, this was about listening to and discovering new music. It was about making new friends and attempting to reconcile with, or find, old ones. Downloading music and movies and television shows. Listening to music for hours. Never missing your new favourite TV show. Watching movies online. Listening to radio. Going to the movies. Going to the pub for lunch, after work, while out of work, to watch the game, to celebrate or commiserate after the game. All day drinking? Let’s not forget there was World Cup that summer. Ah, it’s all coming back now.
Often, too, as part of my research for a new screenplay I have a habit of going deep, deep into research mode. I am talking reading, writing, searching, talking to people, watching stuff, finding the right music, imagining my cast, researching the location, and the people that live there. Writing the screenplay is about fifteen percent of the process. Did you even know that? Did you think that an idea comes to you and then three hours later it is Hey Presto, there is a movie script. Nope, no, absolutely not. I would hazard an educated guess and say, taking away family time and the job, obviously you have to eat and sleep, but you are looking at months of hard work.
One particular screenplay I wrote back in 2005 was at a time when my creative juices were flowing beyond my control. I had no ties, no romance, no job, not an especially urgent social life. Don’t feel sorry for me, I was fine with the creative life transitional period. I would work on this movie every day, pretty uninterrupted. Mostly I would wake up earlier and work. And as far as I remember I was up well beyond midnight, working. Research, research, research. The character biographies, writing them up, alone took me something like eight straight days. I am not talking eight hour shifts, I am talking morning, afternoon, night, and heading close to the following morning. Until they were done. The whole process, of that one movie, was something like three months. The writing part, the actual execution of the screenplay, was probably three weeks. Loved it.
If you do the time, put in the blood, sweat and tears (usually just a lot of the latter honestly), and work hard, the actually writing part becomes all the more easier. And far more enjoyable and rewarding. One of the best and worst sensations of screenwriting come at around the same time. When you finish writing it, save it, and sit back, and it starts to sink in what you have just created. It is one of the best feelings because that buzz of completion and achievement is so personal, and comes from such a long journey, the pride and elation you feel can not often be expressed through words. Which is ironic. It is one of the worst feelings because you have to put your pen down and step away. That’s it. The creative juices have settled. There’s no more to be written (don’t get me started on re-drafts). But for now, your work is done. What will I do tomorrow?
I am not sure I have been that efficient in the whole process, start to finish, since then. And that is because life happens. Screenplay related, and those three movie ideas from 2006, they all required so much background reading for starters. I mean ‘Monsters and Angels’ needed me to have a far greater knowledge of women who enlist in the army and go to war, and all the shit that happens that nowhere near enough people talk about. I chose to set ‘Ruby Fischer’ partly in Seattle, Washington and East Anglia, England. And for this I was also determined to get a good feel for the child abandonment laws in the U.S. as well as the corresponding child services here in the UK. For ‘Love Belle’ I chose to network heavily and befriend some Texans living in Abilene – a couple of those are still my friends to this day having not met them in the flesh. I am tipping the iceberg here.
Away from screenwriting, life finds a thousand ways to distract you. By 2008 I met my now wife online and spent the majority of the first two years growing that relationship via Skype. We have married since then, and have a daughter. That was not a distraction, no, my life since they came into it has been better than I ever dared ask for. Love, that is why we live. Right? So screenwriting takes a back seat to living your life. I would not change that for any success in the world. Believe me, I would love to quit my day job and write for a living.
I don’t need to list to you why those three screenplays are not complete, but I do feel the urge to tell you that they will be finished. Soon. And I will seek out the success I crave on a different path. Sure, I am a little disappointed in myself for not writing more when I could have. But I started this blog as a kind of stepping stone, to give myself identity in his big bad world. Not to mention I just love talking and writing about movies. The art of screenwriting is my big passion. I have a huge body of work behind me, and an array of future scripts I am yet to conceive. Let’s finish what I have started. I am getting there. Don’t give up on me.