Saturday, April 29, 2006

The art of mimicking

I never rode a motorbike, never even went to Seoul and have not been alive when the last of the three hundred Spartan died in Thermypolae. So how can I write about any of those subjects? Maybe fifty years ago, it would not have mattered to the mass. A movie about Spartan hoplites facing impossible odds at the Hot Gates would still be an interesting movie. Who knew or cared about their clothings and how they fought.

Does it matter now?

Yes, it does. The public is certainly more aware of those little details. We are living in a day and age where information is available at our finger tips. As I said, the premise and the execution of the idea are paramount but eventually, so will the details. It gives that little edge, that little ground so the viewer can say he can/sees this happening.

Then what about those fantasy, sci-fi or horror movies? What about those genres that suspend beliefs during the time a viewer watches the feature?

It is just that. It is the writer's job to make the viewer understand he is sitting in a new world. It is his duty to extend his world and reach to the viewer's own world.Certainly, teleportation, interactive holograms and grim reapers could be seen as complete fiction but they are somewhat explained or at the very least, shown as part of where the movie evolves. I want to be able to answer my readers and viewers how a character could fly in the air and break physics. I want to share a story and make it so that my audience can nod and at least think that whatever happens, can happen in my world. A bit of a new perspective maybe, but it had been there all along.

So how can I make everyone at least suspend their beliefs when they will see one of my features?

I don't try to explain. I try to show how it works. It's no easy feat to bring my world and stamp it into our actual surroundings. I don't write movies about the future. There are no aliens or space travel in my scripts (Maybe one day...Never say never), and most of my stories evolve in our time. I push myself to bring a clean and somewhat precise world. I know what my characters do, how they act, what they feel and think. Yet, I will still somewhat show Julian riding a bike with his feet as opposed to his head. Why not? Because I want my viewers to see my world is grounded into reality. There will be enough time when they will gasp at some horrifying moment or enthrall into a piece of a fast and furious action a la Matrix.

They MUST accept these events and acts happening in the duration of my script. I'm adamant about this and even if some might just throw it in the air. I don't. It's my style and I will stand by it.

How do I do it? How does screenwriters or any writers for that matter do it?

Remember when you were in high school or with friends playing Dungeons and Dragons? Remember when you had your dolls and when you spoke to them during your "tea time"? How did you do that? How did you enter that world?

In some cases, like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), you apply your imagination to a world structured by rules and books. An orc can not jump into space but he can be much stronger than an elf, huh? A dwarf cannot give a roundhouse kick to the head of a standing troll without some artifacts or spell, right? It has to be real. It has to be grounded into what others will understand. When I write a script, I spend a lot of time researching and thinking about what I want to show. I do take more time researching and putting myself into my characters' shoes. So, sue me, I do care about my characters and my stories. I do care because, ultimately, my stories should be accepted and enjoyed by an audience.

Pretty much a different case than just a bunch of friends who know the rules you're playing with hmmm? The audience watches and acknowledges ME by watching the feature. I'm at the base of it all.

It might be my concept, it will be my idea and down the line, I am that inspiration for the director to see my world. I relate my screenwriting and storytelling in the same world as roleplaying. I have to. I must. It's never easy and I take pride in each little steps I make to get where my story is at. I will never say that I know everything about drift racing or walking on the moon but I do say I know, at least, the basic of it. Writers are curious to begin with. I am. I look, read, talk to get information relevant to my stories and then some. It's the world of illusions, in a sense, and I want to be much more than just a standing novice. I want to reach a higher level, much like my ranger in D&D, because it will make me better at my craft. It's not a waste of time but an investment for future references.

Research is my first step after thinking of an idea. It's the first thing after forming a basic logline. Sure, it has nothing to do with structure but I believe it gives drama a certain weight. I found myself to be spending a lot of time in my research, much more than when I was writing short stories. It's maybe my attention to details stepping up a couple of notches. I know though, screenwriting shouldn't be about explaining too much. It's all visual and all show but hence the reason I need to make sure I am not making a fool of myself when I write my character's actions. I can get away, some people told me, with a bit of "white lies" and covering some facts I might not know. I understood them but I still feel the need to make sure I know something about a subject. If it interests me, I will research it some more, take the time to be throughout with the subject.

Writing is not easy. Screenwriting is even worse but I have to take the time to understand where and how I want to lead my characters to. It's my execution and time down the line I am playing with. It is primordial for me to be sure about what I make. Creative execs, agents, producers and managers must see my world and nod in understanding when I share a moment with them to explain my vision and story. They are the DMs in D&D, they are my scrutinizing friends listening to my jokes and ideas, they are the teachers and principals I had seen all my life. My spoken English may not be fluent but they must, like my audience, smile and shiver at the stories I bring to them because I want them to bring them into execution. They have that power and I have the ideas.

Funny, isn't it? I thought I could write a screenplay like my short stories. Sit down, think, write and pick around for a bit of research. Sure, it's the same path but the way to walk it down is much different. I don't rush anything, I want HW people like Christopher Lockheart and Le Femme, peers like Roscoe, DEUM, Sara, JP, Broughcut, ComicBent along with all the aspiring screenwriters along with professional wonders like Jeb Stuart, Shane Black, David S. Goyer to at least nod to me with a smile one day. It's all about recognition and respect. It starts with my screenplay, my spec, my time...I want to invest it well. After all, four to six months on a script is still a lot of time I could have spend dreaming about nothing else but thoughts and hopes.

I make them work for me. I don't push my luck simply because I believe in work and ethics...Heck, I could have wished for a roll of die here but I did grow away from it. Not too far, but enough so to know I am somewhere from that base.