Family planning…and why I have children all the time!
I haven’t posted in a while. I realise that starting with such an admission is a hybrid of a pointless and an arrogant statement. Pointless in the respect that nobody reading this really cares how long it has been since I last posted and arrogant in the respect that by writing it I am daring to assume that anybody does care. However, I opened with it because I was struggling to find another way to begin.
Hardly an encouraging sign for an apparent creative writer, is it?
Anyway, before I digress too much into self-doubt disguised as self-deprecation, let’s make our way to the point of the post. Film making.
One of the reasons I haven’t posted much, behind laziness, lack of inspiration and a general all-encompassing apathy- is that I have been busy working on my latest short film; ‘Climbing Trees’.
Well, I say my short film but, as the title of this article suggests, it is a debateable ownership.
Let me at this point say that I am not claiming to be an expert on the art of film making, nor am I professing to be an expert at writing, or indeed any of the creative talents that I may choose to muse over but what I am, is somebody who is learning the craft- at an albeit independent level- and so that gives me at least a little authority on the subject.
Not a lot, but maybe enough to at least sound like I know what I’m talking about.
I have come to realise that writing, specifically screenwriting, is a pleasure that begins to leave you the minute you begin. Let me rephrase, it is an art form that evolves the minute you begin. My first attempt at articulating what I mean sounded far too bleak for what I intended and the point of this ramble is not to be bleak, but to celebrate and wax lyrical about everything good that comes from giving up your work.
I think I can specify the process into 4 stages.
- Letting go
Now that I’ve set my stall out, let me try and expand on each point.
1. INCEPTION. This is maybe my favourite part. It’s like the start of a relationship, fresh-exciting-unpredictable and full of promise. You don’t know where it will end up but you lean toward imagining great things. This is where you play with ideas, you flirt with concepts, you write and erase and re-write and finish and start again and the whole time you are immersed in the pure pleasure of creating, of putting words on to a page for the first time. Inception could easily read conception and continuing with that analogy, a film – as is often mused- is like a writer’s baby. Writing it is like the sex that comes before. No pun intended!
2. SHARING. I guess if writing is like sex, then sharing is like…a self-distributed sex tape? Part of me is starting to see major flaws in my analogy, but out of curiosity if nothing else, I’m going to persevere and potentially embarrass myself and alienate myself from all my friends. Once you’ve written your masterpiece and got over the urge to edit and re-edit and second guess and tear up and start again, then the next step is to share your work. But not only share it with friends and peers, people from whom you can almost guarantee a gentle response from and one that is usually positive, but with strangers. With other creatives like actors, make-up artists, camera operators etc. etc. Basically, anybody and everybody that you need to be on board with your vision to turn your script into a film. In today’s world, it is so easy to share and maybe because of the ease in which we can find willing sycophants or critics, it is all too easy to believe your own hype or be put down by your own failings. It is very difficult to know what is genuine praise, constructive criticism or self-serving hyperbole but it is essential that you find a way to wade through all of this to find the people who you can trust enough to hold your baby. Or, to watch your sex tape, depending on which version of this loose analogy you prefer at this point. It is also very nerve-wracking to share your art as it is part of you and any comments or even genuine misunderstandings of the content and concepts, can hurt and make you doubt yourself. That’s why it is important to make sure you have spent as long a time as possible at stage 1. Have sex until celibacy appeals…it’s the only way you can be sure you’ve got it right.
3. REALISATION. Well, I guess this can either be referring to realising that you’re not as good as you thought or realising the fruits of stages 1 and 2. I prefer the latter. This is where all your doubt, confusion, excitement, work and struggles start to feel worth it. This- along with stage 1- is my favourite part. Being on set/location is like nothing else. Seeing your words evolve into actions and be torn apart and adapted and improved and changed simply by the collaboration between people is amazing. It is a truly organic evolution of art and is as inspiring as it is educational. You learn so much about yourself- your interactions with other people and what you enjoy, you learn about your art all over again- the true heart of it and what it really means and you learn about how much you really don’t know.
It is intimidating sometimes when you realise there is so much to grasp and learn and how little you can really do on your own, but it is also encouraging when you look around you and see a group of people all working together toward one goal. And I’m not ashamed to admit it, it is a boost to the ego to know that the one aim in question is the completion of your film, something that you wrote and created. It is humbling but beautiful and I have been lucky to have a great team with me every time so far, a team that has evolved and grown and a team that brings something to every production. As difficult as it can be, stage 2 is vital in ensuring stage 3 can be as good as it can. Watching your children grow must be immensely rewarding, knowing that they have become adults armed with the knowledge, wisdom and character that you, as a parent, have helped shape. Is it fair to compare the production of your film to the raising of a child? I don’t know, but it’s either that or comparing it to the undeserved celebrity that a sex tape can afford you. This time, I prefer the former comparison.
4. LETTING GO. When your baby grows up, it flies the nest…well, most of the time. I accept that there are probably some 40 year olds still at home enjoying free laundry and home cooked food day in- day out, but for the majority of the civilised world, we go. We branch out. We find our own world and we start the journey all over again. Once your film is done. The editing is complete and you can adjust and mess with the footage no more, it is time to send it out into the world and watch it take on a whole new life once more. It changes again. This thing that was once just your ideas loosely knitted together on a page, is now a (hopefully) coherent piece of live action, with living, breathing characters and emotion pouring out of every exchange and expertly captured and directed glance.
Now it is time to let it breathe on its own and become what you always hoped it would be. A film.
Just like stage 2, it is so easy nowadays to let your film out into the big bad world. Platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo combined with the plethora of social media that now exists mean that throwing your baby into the deep end is as easy as two clicks of a mouse, but with this ease of use comes- in my opinion- heightened responsibility. Completing a film for “likes” is like sharing pictures of your body on Instagram. It might be dressed up as some kind of liberating, proud, self-love- but it is in fact little more than just vanity. And we’re all guilty of it in some respect. If we weren’t even a little bit vain- why would we think we had stories worth telling in the first place- but vanity needs to be tempered with sincerity if art is to be genuine. Maybe it’s vanity to even think that my opinion on this is valid, but such is the constant battle with staying genuine, but you wouldn’t just let your child neglect their education for the pursuit of say- a high score on call of duty- so why let your art suffer by judging its success on how many times it is viewed on YouTube, or liked on Facebook.
Seek better. Seek the praise- and criticism- of peers and people who love the medium just as much as you do. Film festivals are places where (most) people go to expressly watch and critique films, so is it fair to argue that the feedback gained there is more appropriate and helpful than your friends comments on your Facebook wall? Admittedly, as with anything, even film festivals can be cynical money making exercises now (there seems to be 100’s of new ones each week!) so take your time in deciding where you want to enter your film, but enter it, that’s the main part. It is like sending your child of to a university rather than to the big brother house.
And so, I guess that’s it.
What the point of any of this was or is, is up for debate. Perhaps I’m a victim of my own vanity- something I seemingly try to resist but know I am as susceptible to just as much as the vacuous hoards on shows like Love Island, but maybe, just maybe, I am trying to learn as I go and share what I now know. Maybe it will help?
Next time you’re sitting down thinking about having children, take a glance at this article and think twice. Then do it.