Sunday, 17 May 2009
STATE OF THE SPHERE: Of Screenplays and Whatnot
Ring the changes, people.
Yes: one month into the Spursphere's relocation to its Tiny Sunbaked Island – trading carcinogenic London coughgasms for a more pleasant flirtation with melanoma – and the Big Frightening Screenplay I’ve been grappling with is finally finished.
Except, really, "finished” isn't the right word. “Finished” implies a project has been signed-off with a flourish; subjected to rigorous checks and endless redrafts; imbued at every level with the sort of creepy obsessive perfectionism that’d make an OCD sufferer mutter darkly about Crazy Weirdos. (Probably while retying his shoes with his tongue and punching staples into his ballbag at precisely-measured intervals, but each to their own).
What “finished” doesn’t really communicate is the reality of a project which has entered a dark world of resentment and loathing; which has taken the writer from the first flush of enthusiasm to a kind of hateful slog; whick has slunk in ever-dwindling increments towards the finish line. I could explain in some detail why this particular gig became the proverbial mouldy seabird round my salty wattles – a catalogue of distractions, false starts, demoralising reality-checks and the inescapable suspicion I’d bitten off more than I could chew – but it doesn’t change the score: my commitment faded faster than the Puffed-up-Pride of a New Father discovering his newborn has ginger hair. “Finished”, in this context, is the day the little sod finally buggers off to boarding school and you can forget he ever existed.
But only until the holidays.
Because the other reason “finished” is 100% the wrong word is that – really – it’s not something you’ll ever hear being said in relation to a movie (Christian Bale’s Professional Relationships notwithstanding). Even in the quantum nugget of nothingness that constitutes your script’s hopes of ever getting made, nothing is ever “done”. Even when the movie’s in the can, in theatres, being ruined by packs of cellphone-dialling tracksuit junkies who couldn’t eat popcorn with their mouths shut if their worthless little lives depended on it, there’s still someone somewhere buggering about with the Extended Edition, Director’s Cut, Redux, deleted wank, hilarious outtakes where the star makes a Freudian slip and says “chunnel me hard” in place of his lines, ahohoho, and so on. With that much festering driftage in the notion of “finished” at the back end of the whole shebang, the idea that a mere script could somehow be considered a Finished Article – before the camera monkies have even plucked off their lenscaps – is laughable.
Pro screenwriters will tell you a good script will go through five to twenty drafts before it’s even approaching makeability/saleability. And - if by some impossible cascade of miraculous fortunes said script actually goes into production - there's still the daily on-set "Pink Pages" our writer chum is obliged to knock out every morning; be it in response to a Directorial Edict, a coked-up star sulking because the script doesn’t allow them to show off the Fart-the-National-Anthem skill they’ve been honing all year; or worst of all the abrupt discovery of a plot hole wider than Britney’s labial chasm (which someone should really’ve spotted earlier). This sort of thing happens far more often than you’d think.
...And should you get that same screenwriter pissed – a couple of glasses of grappa should do it – they’ll slur conspiratorially that each of those five to twenty “official” drafts in fact constitutes five to twenty “secret drafts” in their own right, all conducted off-radar in the sweaty pits of paranoid perfection. And this isn’t just checking for typos and cramming-in more jokes, oh no: each new draft is an actual, major, pull-out-parts, jiggle-em-round, stuff-in-more, then start-from-fucking-scratch-anyway RE… WRITE.
As a screenwriter (which I’m not, entirely), one may briefly entertain notions of completion as one types the words "THE END". But give it a week or a month, give it a couple of feedback meetings and a fresh reread when your own bile has drained enough that you can hit “open document” without coughing blood, and you’ll quickly see: It. Ain’t. Done.
So, really, to call my first draft (or fifth draft, depending if I’m drunk or not) “finished” is the absolute height of idiocy, inaccuracy and arrogance. Nonetheless: I’ve finished the fucking thing. Nyer nyer nyer.
So what now? Comics continue to occupy about half of my time – little dribbles of spandex fun from those Nice People at Marvel among other things. I’ve recently assumed the proverbial position for deviant du jour, confirmed sexpest and all round Bloody Nice Bloke William Christensen, over at Avatar. He came highly recommended by comicky Kingmaker Warren Ellis, whose misanthropic futurey crimes against graphic literature have not only flourished at Avatar but been – well – a bit fucking brilliant, actually. If you haven’t been reading FREAKANGLES you are cordially invited to Stop Being A Big Nipple or evacuate the human race. IT’S FREE. Also: Good.
Anyway. Keep an eye peeled for announcements regarding my own sucklings at the swollen teat of Avatar Awesomeness. There are two projects in the works, each more fun than driving a clown to suicide, and each packed with all the sweary sleazy oddball weirdness you’d expect from the Spursphere.
But that’s not all. Because finally, at long last, calloh callay, fetch the champagne and throw another banker on the bonfire…
…I’m starting the New Novel. Crime shenanigans with a weird-fi hangover, with a plot more dense than a dimwitted diamond and actual glorious oh-god-I’ve-missed-them-so-bad ADJECTIVES. Oh prose, I have been away from you for far too long. Lie back, spread your paragraphs, and let me violate your grammar like the drunken old slapper you are.
There will be updates. There will be NOVELWATCH-style blackhearted bloggage, in the sincere hopes that the illusion of an audience will keep me motivated. And there will, in all likelihood, be another bilious grind towards that distant, disingenuous day when I sit back from my desk, peel the Plot Notes off the wall, put my underwear back on, and declare: “Finished!”
Which is a Big Load Of Bollocks, really, but it's nice to say all the same.