Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Flying hours: nil

Over on his blog Danny Stack references an interview with Kate Harwood (BBC Controller of Series and Serials) where she talks about there being no substitute for a writer seeing their work on screen: Flying hours.

Except that's a catch 22 in a professional sense, unless you do it yourself which Danny has (as well as his paid-for work), as have others in the scribosphere (like Lucy for example), and as I have now, with the scenes from Monsters.

I knew I needed to write something about this but I couldn't get a handle on what to write - until Danny's blog gave me some context. Though you have to bear in mind that we have no finished product as yet - though it will be ready for the Cheltenham Screenwriters Festival.

First things first: I did not direct, I just wrote it. I did not make last minute changes, the script is essentially the one I used for the Red Planet competition last year. I did not question or comment on any of the decisions the Director made, except when asked, either before or during the shoot. In fact I wasn't present for much of it - I was there but not in the room.

Danny said the question he most gets asked is "how has it turned out as opposed to how you imagined (or wrote) it?" Well, I got that too. For which I have no answer. Putting aside the fact it's not finished, I don't expect it to be the same - how could it be? Director, actors, DoP and the rest all put in their bit, their creativity. It's going to be different to how I imagined it.

But if it communicates the right ideas I will be happy.

During the shoot one actor added a line, I asked the director to ensure that they didn't do that because it sounded wrong. If he hadn't I wouldn't have argued, I'd made my point. But he agreed, the actor didn't say it again.

Later an actor changed the words of a speech in such a way that a sequence of words were repeated three times in 5 lines of dialogue. I didn't like it. But it was a speech full of passion and if I'd asked for it to be corrected the actor would have been concentrating on the words instead of the passion which would be worse. Plus it had been shot seven times from different angles with the wrong words already. Never mind.

There was one line where the emphasis was on the wrong word. It needed to be on the right one otherwise the line was pointless. So I asked the Director to mention it, he did, the actor changed it. I was happy.

I'm not precious about my words.

When it came to my own 15 minutes of fame, the flow of the dialogue that I had written did not work. I said my first line (changing it slightly to make it more cutting), then the other actor cut in over the top preventing me from saying the next bit.

But that worked so much better in the context of the scene as set up by the Director. I had not been explicit with my directions on the page, and the location we were using dictated how the scene had to be played.

That whole scene ended up quite different to the way I had written it - but it communicated the same thing. And that is the point.

It was a good set of scenes from the first act of the story, which utilised a surprisingly wide range of locations: packed classroom, almost empty classroom, external industrial, in-car, school lockers, and back into the classroom. The emotional structure flows well too, I think. As well as comprising the main expositional sections (filled with character).

If those things are communicated I will be very happy indeed.

So, will this affect how I write? How could it not?

Other questions I've been asked: Who paid for it? Me. How much did it cost? Less than £500. Didn't you want to direct? No.

What's on the turntable? "A Coral Room" by Kate Bush from "Aerial" (on Spotify but I do own this)

1 comment:

Eleanor said...

Yeah. Getting to see how location, etc., change the script is something all writers should try to experience.
It's a big learning curve, actually filming the words.