Saturday, 12 March 2011

Prison Break, Script and Throat infections. (if you haven't seen Prison Break and plan to, here be SPOILERS up to middle season 2)

So I have a cold. Big cold, and a sore throat quickly turned into an infection over the weekend. Since Tuesday I've stayed in the flat trying to shift it since infections are (Gasp! Hushed tone) so very serious. A cold can so easily turn into the flu, and the flu can so easily turn into pneumonia. Or so we're told. Anyway, during these incredibly boring days I've been watching a lot of Prison Break. I like to get the whole thing at the end of the run or sometime after and then get through it all in one go. I wasn't planning on prioritising PB since I couldn't really picture how you can string out a story about a prison break for 4 series without at least a lot of the twists and turns being pretty obvious in the universe of break-outs, recapture, break-outs again, chase, chase, chase, blah, blah, blah. But watching Drive Angry last week reminded me that that dude, The Accountant, is wicked, so it got bumped to the top.

There's Mr Accountant looking a little more scruffy. Mr Accountant turns up in the second series. Ok, he's called William Fichtner, and he turns up in the second series. Between the two seasons it's like an american actor buffet; so many of the great character guys you see pop up in everything are in there - Paul Adelstein, Rockmond Dunbar, Silas Weir Mitchell, Peter Stormare for god's sake! Over the past four days I've gotten into the late middle of series 2.

And herein, I feel like I've been punched in the crotch.

Earlier this week I was feeling good. About films plans we're fleshing out for no budget stuff in the coming months. About urban exploration. About my script. Sure I'm not feeling as good as I was when I first fleshed it out, before I started getting distracted by any old thing, but still on Monday I was back feeling optomistic, confident again. I was certain without question it'd end up being an action packed thrill ride and a thoughtful, provoking piece hopefully about certain social issues that people think are a drag but they might subconsciously think more on so that out of pure adrenaline entertainment might come more considered thoughts. And I was sure that it was a strong mix of moral and immoral behaviour, good and terrible acts embodied by the same characters, dark and light pushed together, a mix strong enough to transcend a simple analysis of 'this character is the protagonist, and this other character is the antagonist'. I knew in many ways it was a new mix of different things, and a homage to others.

And then I got to episode 18 series 2 of Prison Break, and now I literally have the word D'OH lodged in my head on a loop. Prison Break is all of that, and then some, just about totally different things...

It's not the same themes. There's no apocalypse, the big cover-up is most definitely political and nothing else, and it's about, well, a FUCKING PRISON BREAK! Lots of Prisoners. FBI agents. Running around America. Doctors, people in suits, don't drop the soap, coded messages, road and railway blockades. Submerging an iron in the water while someone is tied up and being drowned in it to get information out of em. The works, and I loved it.

It's awesome. I mean, the first series - so fantastically written, and the lead actors, awesome. And the second season too. Different, but awesome.

But then you start to notice the character development. The shades of moral grey pulled in as certain characters do good and bad things in equal measure, the turns at which you identify more or less with them, and then less or more and back again. And then, they bring in a storyline about a fucking CHILD WITH KIDNEY FAILURE and what one character will do in the name of making sure that child can continue getting treatment without evil people taking it away from her in the name of leverage. And it's involving, and engaging and then heartbreaking. I had an extra lump in my throat cos of it. NOTE: I haven't seen the end of the episode in question, so maybe I'll change my mind if it goes in a funny direction.

Anyhoo, the storyline itself is NOTHING like what I've laid out in my story. That wasn't the point. I just had that intense moment when you see someone else take exactly the same issues you've been writing, and they frame in an emotional context you know you would never think of, and it's awesome. And even though on one level you are happy cos you're watching something fantastic and that's always good. But there is that other bit of your head, the bit (for me at least) that was thinking I really know my subject matter and I think that in the universe of what's emotional about it, *this scene that I'm writing* has the most punch to it, that is the epitome of what is heartrenching about it. And then you see someone else do something about that subject matter that's totally different from what you were planning and it blows you away.

Kinda sucked, that did.

Disclaimer of course, is... Well, I guess I'll just have to think about whether I'm actually so impressed with Prison Break because I don't like some of the stuff I'm writing. I mean, they are totally different things, what I've preparing for months is nowhere near similar to Prison Break, yet my head refuses to let go of the subtle character development similarities and the fact they include a kidney failure character, and it's really good. So yeah, that's makes me think I'm not bummed cos people will actually think I copied Prison Break (and I didn't: all I knew before Monday was that my mother really fancies the lead actor and that the actor in question had an incredibly small part in Buffy years ago, and about Accountant guy from Drive Angry). In fact I'm glad I've only seen the series this week instead of the five years ago that I could have tried getting my hands on it. Truth is, when you get rid of your TV you stop knowing much about what is on television, and when everyone you see and work with know you don't have a TV and you mostly watch movies, they don't bother telling you stuff about it all. I have no idea how many people years ago might have been watching it but no one I knew told me. My ma only recently saw it last year as well, and she didn't tell me anything cos she doesn't like to spoilerise. This way I know that most of my ideas for the script have come from other environmental stuff, what's actually been happening with me, what films have highlighted the genre gap out there regarding approach etc. If I'd seen Prison Break when it first came out, then last year when I first started thinking about this script my brain would be telling me all my character ideas for duality was just cos of PB, and how well it mixes good and bad actions.

So maybe me being bummed is mostly cos Prison Break is so free, so able to meander with narrative and character concerns that it does a lot of stuff I'd probably not even allow my head to flesh out because I honestly did think it was necessary to stick to certain genre things unequivically. Ant will think that's funny cos he said from the very beginning that just because it's apocolyptic in the second half why can't we fuck with all the genre conventions anyway. I said if you'll be throwing a lot of stuff at the audience that is totally unfamiliar to most people in a really outlandish sort of story (affirmative on that) then you have to give them a factor they can identify with, and I thought it should be the generic conventions. Now I feel I might have been wrong...

Anyhoo. When I feel less sickly and I'm back feeling like anything is possible, I'm sure at some point a feeling or vigor at the idea of meeting the challenge of 'beating' Prison Break, at least attempting to, will take over and I'll be feeling excited about taking inspiration from this issue. And I'll convince myself that all the ways this fucking script is totally different from PB rationally creates such a huge gulf that they don't seem even slightly similar, not least being the formatting factor that developing and exploring huge arcs is obviously easier in over, what? about 50 hours of screentime than in a less than two hour movie so obviously my characters wil be less developed. But right now, when so much skin has come off my nose that I can't touch it without hitting that nerve that makes your eyes water, and I've got a hankering for chocolate icecream with grated muffin that no amount of icecream or muffin can sate, and I've just watched over twenty hours of one show in a few days, I just feel a bit rubbish and inept, and childish and silly.

Maybe I should stop watching more than a few hours of any show per day regardless of sickly boredom to avoid this sort of thing ever again?

1 comment:

  1. Hooray for not having a tv - in theory we are waiting for our aerial to be fixed but I think we're kind of stuck with it now. I'm fine at the moment but I might struggle during Strictly Season.

    I haven't sen Prison Break so I offer no intelligent comment on that. But be true to your ideas and with a bit of distance from PB, I'm pretty sure you'll be able to focus on the good stuff you have done too.


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