It’s been about six weeks since I wrote a blog post and it’s been about that long since I made any major progress with my screenplay. During that time my grandmother was unwell and passed away, I’ve had school holidays, concerns about my father's health and I managed to dislocate my shoulder for the fifth time. With everything that’s been going on my writing practice has fallen by the wayside. If I had of been maintaining a regular writing practice then I would probably have finished my screenplay by now but, hey there is no point in dwelling on what might of been, as the only thing I’m likely to find down that path is frustration and disappointment. It’s time I picked myself up dusted myself off and got on with it. Sounds easy but, feels hard so the other night I enrolled myself in two fifteen dollar Udemy courses a step by step screenwriting course by John Watts and Karel Seger’s insider program to get your script sold. I’m hoping that the structure of a short course will help me get back on track with my writing.
The importance of backing up should of course be obvious, however I had not foreseen the hard drive imploding in such a way that even my very technology minded IT husband would not be able to retrieve my screenplay. The only silver lining in all this was that I had printed out a hard copy of the play (minus the ending and an extra scene, which I planned to add later) the day before the hard drive packed it in. It had taken me about two months to get half way through the first draft and it was all gone. Last night I completed the painful task of re-typing everything out again, it wasn’t fun and it was certainly a setback practically and emotionally but, sometimes you’ve just gotta suck it up and keep going. I have come too far to let a setback like this defeat me. I have also had a lot of other stuff going which has taken away from writing time but, rather than getting frustrated or down about it I chose instead to keep positive and keep plugging away.
LI haven’t blogged in over a week, mainly because I have been working on my screenplay. I’ve written over thirty pages, not including the ending, which I wrote a few days ago and an extra scene which I will slot in later. When I’m not working on The Chosen Vessel I’ve had kids to keep an eye on (yay school holidays finished today) and a house to keep in order so it’s easy to let the blogging slip.
Last Thursday was Australia day and we drove to the Lavandula Lavender farm in Hepburne, which is one of my favorite places and I have chosen it as the setting for Mary and Stevo’s romantic day together as well as the site for their wedding. I had a bit of fun planning the wedding on Pinterest I can just see Mary in a simple wedding dress with a peter pan collar. I also found a lovely dress, which comes in two colors light purple and midnight blue, which would make the perfect bridesmaids dresses for Jess and Tina at ModCloth.
I spent some time last night and this morning mucking around with Picmonkey and Vistaprint designing envelopes and business cards with the hope of using them in the future when I reach out people in the Australian film industry and introduce myself and my screenplay and beg them for their help. It’s good to do something creative other than writing and I enjoy dabbling in graphic design.
I bought another book last week after watching this guy's YouTube channel lessons from the screenplay. The book is The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. I found the book to be way too scientific and mathematical for me. I can see that it would be useful if you wanted to spend time analyzing and dissecting a screenplay after the fact, but it’s not something that I would personally apply to the process of writing. When it comes to writing I’m all about art not science.
Today I got down to work and I have now finished twenty pages, I am pretty happy with how things are shaping up. I managed to find a copy of the Bubadook script and I have been reading through it. Now I’m even more in awe of Jennifer Kent, because it’s a great read.
The idea for turning The Chosen Vessel into a screen came to me after watching Wolf Creek. I was thinking about how John Jarratt’s character Mick had turned the image of the friendly, rough around the edges iconic Aussie out-back bloke into something sinister. In the The Chosen Vessel Barbara Baynton had done a similar thing by turning the iconic Aussie Sagman into a predatory villain. So when I first began it was with the intent of writing a horror movie. However has the plot has progressed the horror aspects have been pushed further into the background. The screenplays genre has changed from being a horror, to being a thriller to being more of a drama.
I pretty much finished reading the screenwriting book by Madeline DiMaggio that I bought last weekend and I didn't really get anything out of it. Most of the advice seemed to be general writing stuff, which I already knew. I had hoped to learn more about the specific mechanics of screenwriting and how to get my screenplay to the appropriate producer and this book didn’t help me with that. I came across a website called Fast Screenplay which has a free 10 day guide to developing screenplays. I decided to sign up and check it out. Like a good little cabbage, I did the first exercises, which came with a lot of hype about how it would help me achieve a finished screenplay. ( I did skip some steps. ) Here are my results .
STEP 1 Identify your reason for writing: I started writing The Chosen Vessel because I felt like I couldn’t move forward with my novel, but I didn’t want to stop writing. I needed to keep writing because I enjoy it, because it’s something that I have always wanted to do, because it’s something that I am good at (even if it’s hard at times and even if I doubt myself). Because it keeps my grief and depression at bay.
STEP 2 Turn that reason into a “must”: I must write because it gives my life more meaning. I can see the scenes in my head, I can hear the music from the sound track. The story feels bigger than me and I am Chosen Vessel through which this story and it’s characters need to be given life. I have faith in this story and I believe that it will be made into a movie.
STEP 3 Identify the consequences of quitting: I will have wasted $330 on AWG membership. The characters from the story will probably haunt me. If I stop writing then I will probably fall into a deep depression. I can’t imagine the consequences of quitting because I can't imagine not going forward.
STEP 4 Write down why those consequences are unacceptable: I can’t fall into a deep depression because it will effect my family.
STEP 6 Find the urgency in your reason: I need to keep moving forward so I don’t lose my momentum.
STEP 7 Make an external promise to push through all challenges: I have already shared my intentions with my family and friends, but the only person who can really push me to do it is myself.
STEP 8 Identify a clear path to completion: Finish finish first draft, get help with editing, send it to a script adviser, rework any changes, have it registered, send it to an agent.
Before I went to bed last night I was somewhat stuck with what I was going to write next. When my youngest son woke me up at around four o’clock, the next few scenes where all there and the songs from the soundtrack, that I have put together, where playing in my head. It was as if I had been watching the scenes play out as I had slept. I got up and wrote two more scenes.
I’ve noticed that the subplot concerning Mary and Suzy’s friendship has taken on an unexpected life of it’s own which is cool.
The level of mess in the house had reached critical mass so I spent the rest of the morning cleaning. I think it’s unfair that the creativity genie doesn’t appear and clean the house for me.
Yesterday I was reading an article on Australian screen writer and director Mark Pools website which happened to mention director Emma Freeman, turns out Emma directed my favorite Australian Tv series Puberty Blues as well as The Glitch I hadn’t known this, because I am a cabbage. But now I know so have another director besides Jennifer Kent who I would love to work with. Coincidentally I have been re-watching Puberty Blues over the last few days. Did I mention that Puberty Blues is my favorite Australian TV series? I have also been listening to the Puberty Blues play list, which I made early last year. Seriously I could just go on and on about how much I love this series, but I will spare you, at least for now.
A few days ago I had read somewhere that it is necessary to register your screenplay with The Australian Writers Guild, for copyright purposes. I wasn’t able to find any information about this on AWG’s website. Deciding that the thing to do was to ask a real person I rang the number on their website and did just that. Turns out that the registration process is only available to members. To become an associate member I had to fill in my details online and play $330 I know I get a get a lot of services for this money, but it still felt like a lot. I do believe that becoming a member of AWG is essential if I want to get anywhere with The Chosen Vessel so I took the plunge. The sensible thing to have done would have been to wait until I had finished the screenplay before becoming a member, so I don’t blow my $330. Clearly I’m over enthusiastic and not at all sensible, but it did feel good to commit to The Chosen Vessel in a financial way. Kind of like saying to someone you're in a relationship with, “look I’m not just saying I like you, I’m actually willing to put my money where my heart is so, here’s a ring, or a house key, or a beer and chicken Pama at the pub to prove it.”
It’s becoming obvious to me that getting The Chosen Vessel written isn’t actually going to be too much of problem for me. I feel as though I know the characters and I can see the scenes so clearly that it’s as though I have already watched the movie. I'ts practically writing itself in a way that is both magical and terrifying. Writing this screenplay has been so much easier than writing my novel because I have truly unleashed the power of writing what I know. I think I’m even starting to get the hang of screenplay formatting, which a mere five days ago seemed about as achievable as mastering the moonwalk, or juggling, or solving a Rubik's cube. But what do with it when I’m finished? My thinking at this stage is that I will send it somewhere and pay to have it professionally assessed. But where should I send it? I have no idea. I should probably make sure that the spelling and grammar are probably edited too. I spent most of today blogging about what I have been doing because since I am just as green as I am cabbage looking when it comes to screenwriting. I figure that documenting my experiences in this blog might help and inspire any other cabbages out there. I certainly could do with guide book on how to break into the Australian film industry and since I haven’t come across one, perhaps I'll need to write it myself.
PS . If anyone knows of a guide book on how to break into the Australian film industry then please tell me about it in the comments.
This morning the climate was perfect for snuggling up on the couch, with a cuppa and a book on screenwriting so I bought a copy of Screenwriting Insider Tips and Techniques to write for the silver screen by Madeline DiMaggio on my Kobo and got settled in. I didn’t get far when the urge to write took over so I sat down and completed seven pages and six scenes. I have been working with First Draft and was considering buying it, but after looking into it for me my hubby suggested that I try something free rather than spending a few hundred bucks on software. He installed a free program called Trilby. After a lot of grumping, I finally got the hang of it and it ended up being quite easy to use after all.
It was a lovely day for a dive in the country, the sun was hot, but the wind was cool giving it an autumnal feel. We had lunch at a hotel in Bacchus Marsh and arrived at the orchard just after two. Keeping an eye on the Nectarine pickers was a friendly bloke by the name of Pete. I chatted to him about fruit and the kids and then I got picking. I came close to chickening out and not talking to him about my screenplay, but I plucked up my courage and ended up having a good chat with him. He answered some of my questions and gave me quite a lot to think about. He mentioned that there was a pair of young girls working in the orchard at the moment that I might talk to. I plucked up my courage again and spoke to a women at the sales stand she was also very friendly and helpful and took my details to pass on to the owner. Talking to strangers like that was daunting and I had to push myself to overcome my shyness, but I was glad that I did and grateful for the experience. Going to the orchard definitely helped me to visualize one of the main settings much more clearly.
Something else crystallized for me today after talking to mum. She told me that she felt disappointed after reading my Synapses because it seemed like another story where the women is the victim. I completely understand her point and it is true in a sense of Barbara's story. However I certainly don’t want to write something which is that simplistic. Instead I want it to raise the question. If Australia in the 1800’s was no place for women, is it a better place for them today? Taking my inspiration from Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, I also want the subplot to illuminate the sometimes difficult and dark realities of motherhood. If this story takes a torch and shines it in the dark corners of Australian culture, if peeks under the rug at how women are treated our society, if it pulls the sheet off the mirror so that we are forced to look at ourselves and wonder, what is our role in this? Then I will feel satisfied that I have achieved my goal.
Today I spent some time reading articles and watching some youtube videos at screenplay. Com.au. I did a small amount of work on my screenplay and got distracted putting together a youtube playlist of Australian songs (It's awesome!) and watching bits of dogs of space (which I had my main character and her best friend reference in an early scene.) I did this because it’s something that as teenagers my friends and I frequently did. Will audiences understand the reference and find it relevant today? I don’t know, but it felt true to my teen age experience, so I threw it in. I don’t have a problem giving a shout out to a great Australian film that will always have a place in my memories and thus my heart. In writing this screenplay I’m drawing as much as possible from my own life. Write what you know, that’s the advice you come across time and time again in regards to being a better writer. To be honest with The Chosen Vessel this is the first time that I have truly put this nugget of wisdom into practice. I can slap my head and say ‘Eureka!’ I actually understand what all the fuss is about. Writing about what I know fills me with an empowering confidence that I haven’t felt about my writing or any other creative project before, it’s exhilarating! I just hope it lasts long enough to see this idea grow from a tiny seed into a film or a really big tree or something. I have also been thinking about women in the Australian film industry and while reading several articles on the topic leaned about Causeway Films, formed after the success of one of my all time favorite movies The Bubadook from my hero writer/director Jennifer Kent. I would give my first borne to have my screen play produced by Causeway Films, seriously, he's driving me crazy today, in fact they can take my second borne too.