Wednesday, 12 January 2011

So: to the script! Yes! I know!! Shocker!!!

So it's finally here; the day when I admit that all day really should be all day. My behaviour re script is no longer be in the manner of a stereotypical dieting woman - there will be no more pretending I've been better than I have.

Don't get me wrong; I have been doing research, in the past weeks I've found a lot of stuff that really is making it's way into the script and have developed proper plans for periphery stuff including artwork, mobile games, viral campaigns, script imitating art and back again, and much more, but nonetheless it doesn't take an idiot to realise that my arguments that all the surfing is useful is really just a way around admitting that all those ideas are NOT in script format. And we've also hit the point (like with Ant's previous script, The Method, where the number of ideas of narrative strands far exceed what should be included into two films let alone one feature, so it is a time to write the script in one go as is, and judge the narrative on it's merit. See if the most important strands, the reasons for the script being started in the first place, are actually any good.

For this reason, tomorrow will be the start of 'Just Fucking Writing It'. I now embrace that the first draft will be rough as fuck. There will be lots of parts that read like exactly what they are - guessing about how certain things work globally in reality, and to what extent can you broaden those margins in the name of a magical realism subtext and in the sensationalist satire vein without the bubble of suspended belief being popped without a second thought.

My other issue is offending people who are vulnerable. I'm stuck in a quandry, but it's a quandry that came to mind from the moment I thought of the idea; the whole thing is about seriously ill but functioning people having to face a lot of highly stressful, sensationalist, intense social persecution and escape the witchhunt against them in the face of many obstacles in their path, largely caused by the high maintenance health needs that perpetuated the witchhunt in the first place. My quandry was instantly recogniseable; some people, maybe many, will think the script exploits those already with undue stress, sadness or despair in their lives due to the seriousness of their health issues. Suffering from a serious, life shortening condition creates a social, to some extent natural, social exclusionary, separating effect - whether people would say it that way or not, there is for most a distinct awareness of the social distinguishing signals of alienation. For some people it may be that they feel completely different, transformed and naturally many people in their lives who have never experienced anything life changing cannot understand what they are going through, regardless of how much they try. Some people will be acutely aware that they feel like the same person, just with a massive problem, and they may find it alienating that the people around them who pretense in their interactions to be concerned with the 'dealing with how everything is so different/delicate/despairing', constantly stuck in the same behaviour of communation, constantly asking questions delicately or walking on eggshells, or whatever. Some people may want to be angry, or take each shift towards frustration, exasperation or irritation as it comes. They might find this mode of coping a healthy one, but might find many who think being positive is essential or it will be your undoing, despite those very people venting over anything that takes their fancy, whether boyfriend embarrassing them at a party, or packing on a lot of weight after ditching Speed as their recreational drug of choice. Some people might want to be positive, but realise that taking it to the level of hoping for the most positive in the face of even its inexistence, just as an obsession that the miracle cure will be in the headlines the next day will only lead to a heightened sense of hope crushed, needs dashed, and constant depression through discovering you are helpless in the face of some things in life, and then everyone from the woman who gets coffee in the office the same time as them through to the least favourite member of their running group rush to tell them their is only one doctor who can save them, who eagerly insist that a raw diet heavy with red and purple fruit and veg now cures X, or that they vaguely heard of a drug trial for people exactly like you and they demand you demand to be let in, only for you to learn you don't fit at all.

So the point. Being very sick, in one way or another, has an element of alienation to it. You are sick, you go through certain stuff, often, maybe everyday, and you have to try to find a way to resolve how you are still normal you with how you are now sick you, all at the same time. The other people in the world don't feel that way, and that is an undeniable fact.

Of course unlike the examples given above, I in no way think that always shows people at their worst. The difference can often be a beacon of light, a shining example of the good of humanity, in all the ways humanity can be good. For me the examples that pop in my head are 1) people who take the burden for you, who try to make your world good, fun, hilarious in fact, creating an environment as conducive to making you feel and taste and see positive as much as possible, while they hide how much they think about what there is to worry about. Ok, one person (Ant, come on, its always Ant). Then 2) people who follow your lead; people who try to discern how you want things to be and sincerely follow that. Some of my friends did this, and I feel very warm and fuzzy about that. Many of them I rarely saw, which isn't weird for me, sometimes I forget outside exists, but when I did they treated me like there was no question I was the same person they always knew. They didn't even think of objectifying me as the sick person. Sure you are, a big part of the day, but that's not always what your mind is. Ian, An't sisters, Seth n Viv, Jeff, Lee n Pen, definitely remain high on my list of alltime most awesome in the 2) catagory. And then you have 3). These are the people who have been really sick, who've almost died, who went through all or most of the same things as you, and now they're better.

They embody the very essence of the transitory nature of health vs sickness, better vs worse, despair vs hope; the transformative nature of both and the possibility to return to either. The latter comment is the very essence of the two, and also goes to the heart of the aforementioned alienation natural in society on these issues; for the healthy (or more specifically the healthy who are happy they are so, and happy they are alive at all), there is an alienation to the idea, prospect, of being very sick or being dead. You can imagine the prospect, you can contemplate the ramifications for you, your life, how it will affect the life you are trying to build or maintain, but you know you aren't truly thinking about or feeling as you would if it really was really with you every day. The transformative nature of life, the possibility of either returning to the other transciently can be scary, bothersome, worrying, for many that's the essence even if the emotions are pushed into something positive like living each day to the fullest. Health to sickness is a human concern rarely looked positively in popular opinion.

When you are sick though, suddenly that transformative possibility, returning from one to the other can be the apex of inspiring hope. Sometimes you meet those people, who don't remember what it was like to try to reconcile everyday the ways you are sick with the ways you are pre-sick you; they can't remember in a corporeal way, they know they once had all the same problems you did, but now they are so familiar with feeling physically good, or right, they can't identify with how you feel on the day you meet them. Instead of feeling irritated they no longer identify with you, it's refreshing, seeing right in front of you that a future can really exist where the power of feeling good will be so strong, you will truly no longer identify with yourself. You have an entire person of flesh and bone in front of you embody proof of what you may be worrying about; that you will always feel this shit. You may go from dealing with certain medical facts that are hard to manage, ever present and unequivocal to those medical issues not existing at all, simple as that. Before the evidence it can feel as unlikely as alchemy; the person stands before you as proof that that green splat of purest green can indeed be turned into a solid gold brooch.

Back to the point; alienation of experience and life expectation, expectation of quality of life between different social castes, inequality of lifestyle regarding dealing with the worst thing you can imagine being your life vs attempting to avoid anything on the spectrum of bad, from mildly dissappointing through to the worst thing you can imagine, goes to the heart of the script. The influences of certain philosophical writers and theorists regarding human nature, the dualities within us, can be clearly seen. Yet the way in which those issues are presented are, shall we say, less that moderate ways of pondering such things, and that combined with my choice of protagonists I'm sure will lead to some people claiming it's incredibly irresponsible, or even cruel, exploitative material to put in the world, likely to cause emotional distress, to take advantage of those vulnerable out there who are already mentally tasked by the difficulty of their lives without being shown a much worse scenario.

My conundrum comes from the different things to reconcile. First I was writing only about Dialysis patients, in part because I have never seen them shown in any film with the experience of dialysis presented any deeper than 'person gets hooked to machine, blood gets cleaned, hassle', but also precisely in order to at least do someone that people universally view as present and correct - to write from your own experience so there is no issues that you understand the exploited persons. But at the centre of the story is a medical procedure for which the products are made by a single company, and I didn't want there to be any fear or misunderstanding through the plausible presentation of the story that the company doesn't have certain 'safeguards' against some of the things that happen to the characters in the film. So, I wrote into the arc that it soon becomes apparent many different types of medical companies are affected the same way, in a way that is so fantastical, so obviously unlikely (just like say, zombies are inherently fantastically and unlikely) that it would be obvious to any viewer that this a fantastical version of the world, which is when I started to lean towards weaving in magical realism signals, as an additonal layer denoting that the central premise is not to be considered possible in reality. And that in itself led to another issue. As mentioned above, I was going to write about a complicated and largely unknown way of life, showing day to day facts that created a less 2 dimensional view of renal patients, a less sick objectified view, and I was planning to use many facts of my life to exploit the advantage of verity it gives me, but upon expanding the story to relate to people who are sick with all sorts of other stuff I will on a par with the average researching writer; a lot of research may give me a lot of day to day facts, a lot of insider information, but it's possible I may end up still not getting the sort of feel for the reality of a certain type of life and I might do a disservice to the sufferers of those conditions. But obviously on that point I must just move ahead and see if I do indeed fail miserably at well rounded representation.

Then we return to the big point; the exploiting, causing emotional distress, using certain characters in a way that exploits the undue inequality of quality of life that viewers of the film may be experiencing as they watch the film. The idea that delicate issues that people face as part of being human should always be treated, and presented, delicately. Solemnly, respectfully. I think many people would think it goes without saying that certain harsh life experiences should only be shown in a certain way. Moderately, as a drama, and the genre conventions of such stories treated as if it were canonic law on the issue. That, um, isn't what we're doing.

I don't want to do a film that is solemnly dramatic, arranged like a play, very sparse, all about the simple power of the experience and nothing more; more concerned with being dignified or about the lack of dignity forced upon dignified people, respectful or about the lack of respect shown in the narrative. I don't want to make a preachy fictional film that is only about one thing, that assumes that should be enough for an audience, and any audience that dares to want more than just a film drenched in the iconographic and intellectual signs that this is a story facing reality then they must be philistines. Sometimes the most powerful ideas and most inspiring stories come not from showing it as it really is in all its sobering glory, but by showing a multi faceted story ripe for intellectual consideration and philosophical interpretation, and much of the best works like that are not just sobering but downright extreme. Blindness, Camus, Nausea, Celine, Requiem For A Dream, Palahniuk, 120 Days of Sodom, 1984, Easton Ellis, it's not typically accepted as a view that the books would have been better if the writers had made them less extreme allegorically and less offensive so more people could like them. Not that I think I'm all that, but even when it comes to movies the same applies to so much - Irreversible, Dr Strangelove, Rules of Attraction, etc, many more. Sometimes there is even more longevity to it if you bury some of your more nuanced thoughts in amongst what is clearly a visual feeding frenzy of whatever type of visual and context appropriate for the genre, and our genre is satirical horror scifi, so a certain about of gratuitous violence and shocking arcs are in there.  In that sense I find it hard to think that being moderate would be anything other than cowardly pandering, ignoring what kind of film it unfolding itself as, and ignoring the clear market for films like this that already exist.

Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself. Not only might my thoughtful subtexts not work for the audience out there like me who like picking apart the philosophical point at the centre of the film, the whole thing might be shit. And until I write at least the basic draft, I won't know.

Soz about all that, that was mostly for my own benefit, getting it out of my head n all that. The real point was tomorrow (well, today now) we start writing the script and I'll be adding updates about what got done and how much. I'll still be secretive but progress reports definitely, to stop me faking it....

Now I go cos the cat wants to distract me by walking across the keyboard......


  1. Give the cat a stroke, some food and toss the bloody thing to one side, then sit down at the keyboard and start writing just as you've written above!

    I hate being told to write by anyone at any time (hence a ten year hiatus) but allow me to just share this with you: I was told by my teacher - a published poet and writer - when I studied at Coleg Harlech many years ago to just "sit and write, write and write somemore." regardless of excuse or distraction.

    And you know what? It does work - I'm now sat with 72 pages I've written over the last two weeks; I have a beginning and an end, the basic narrative, all characters introduced and relevant subtexts poking their heads up for air and this takes up about 12 pages. The rest of the 60 pages is a combination of banal dross and rhetorical slop!

  2. Good luck with the draft! Don't worry about offending people at this stage - write what you want to write and get it finished. All those questions and issues will probably come up time and time again in subsequent drafts and certainly if it goes into production so I wouldn't worry about it right now.


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