Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A&E, London Riots, and screenwriting.

This was my week:

Friday: Start fooling around with wordpress to figure out the basics and figure out what I want for the fundamentals of new blog, as per Custard's (of http://www.frontroomcinema.com/) recent helpful posts about blogging. Realise I really don't find it easy to navigate and decide to do the boring bit first - laboriously test out different options so I know how they work in practise and figuring out where things are in wordpress. I don't get much of use done. Ant feels really sick but in a strange transcient way, and has a less work focussed day.

Saturday: Get up, feel sluggish, in a bad mood, try to do more wordpress design stuff, go out to, get sick, come home and sleep, wake up at night. Go back onto laptop. By 4am feel really sick. Ant's kidney is starting to hurt. Get worried, try to sleep, wake up early.

Sunday: Feel strange and hurt more than I think is normal. Hospital tells me to go to A&E. Go, sit in cubicle for 5 hours, don't see anyone, don't do much. Get told I've just had an infection, nothing to worry about, no transplant rejection, take some meds to get over infection. Go home. Feel sicker, really painful, getting worse, meds not working.  End up back in A&E, again in the middle of the night, eventually I'm fine again. Get better advice about meds, go home and sleep.

Monday: Feel better, mind clearer, so Ant thinks it's a good time to update me on what's been going on starting with LONDON IS ON FIRE!

This makes me realise several things. Firstly I seem to have an almost preternatural habit of only getting sick at times of the day when seeing my smooth running, impressively efficient and familiar, knowledgable medical team are NOT working and when no buses are running. When I go by ambulance I'm a drain on resources and when I go by taxi it's a drain on our tight budget. I need to get a scooter or something.

Secondly I really need to start paying more attention to the news and keep some form of cloud communication with me at all times. I check the news every other day. So it is when you're as disconnected to normal schedules and a reliable system of contact with the wider world as I am, half the time it's medical or depression but a lot of the time it's just because on the surface the news seems to be about stuff that I don't care about or everyone can predict eons before it happens, like the financial cuts. But like everyone who reads this blog, I could have had friends in trouble in London! While I was worrying about a little medical problem that ended up being nothing at all, people have been ending up in London hospitals with real problems because of a huge event I didn't even know about. If I checked even twice a day I would have known about this before I went into hospital and if I have a phone, or always carried my laptop with a dongle I would have know about this earlier than YESTERDAY NIGHT!

Now on an emotional level, it's terrible. Regardless of whether you know people who might have been hurt. Yet I can empathise with those involved who are only taking advantage of the looting. I wouldn't do it myself, yet I understand, and for the sake of simplicity I won't go into why. Suffice to say I'm not amongst those who seem fond of shouting THEY SHOULD ALL BE SHOT! People who say such things really aren't thinking, if anything they are attention seeking and make me quite angry. As if any individual can know the needs and reasons why all those people are there. But I'm just as horrified as everyone else about the violence and mindless destruction of entire buildings going on regardless of whether there are people still in them or not. The people who go there thinking wrecking havoc and mugging any passerby is a bit of fun are a different breed. This in London and Birmingham et al is madness, fuelled by the insanity of poverty and it's periphery issues and unhinged by the hive mind of permissive shifts in norms within a lawless crowd. The paralyzing feelings of sadness, anger and helplessness can overwhelm you.

And then there's the thoughts that make me uncomfortable and want to get drunk to forget about it. On an intellectual level I find myself in a huge quandry. Once again, because of the script. And it's something that won't go away until I decide what to do.

I've not ever posted much about the story because, for one thing, it's the sort of thing that takes ten times longer to explain in conversational terms than it does to write in screenplay form. I planned on never explaining it properly until it was all in draft, and preferably copyrighted so it didn't matter if I knew the reader well or not, or how many people read it. What would be explainable in a few well chosen images complemented by a short expositional bit of dialogue takes a lot longer to explain why those images explain themselves and why certain tiny bits of body language and coincidence will all make sense 'at the end'. Yes, the story is a bit twisty, somethings' build up to the ending and that's just how it is. And for another thing as dramatic as it sounds, Ant and I have had issues with people stealing ideas. Luckily it never happened with an idea we ever really cared about but still we learned if your narrative is unique and not just a fresher look at an old concept like yet another zombie movie, never tell anyone enough of the story that if they try to do the same they are carbon copies and you end up in court.

So I never discussed the entire story. Script Factory had a very badly written 2 page synopsis referencing all of my subplots but mostly referencing what happens to the main characters, and there's about 3 individuals who have EVER heard the jist and the basic point of the story.

Point being: I have a story about a group of people in an adrenaline fuelled satirical horror. The needs of the characters are on the same lines as in a Zombie movie - the need to find safety, a nomadic approach becomes necessary, resources become the biggest issue and staying safe within the group whilst dealing with the tension of everyones different priorities and secrets, but not with zombies.

So that's the characters. The environment is during a riot that spreads across London and inferred to be sprouting up across Britain, Europe and then the world, mixed with the uprising of a twisted vigilante organisation that is sabotaged from within and becomes a poison contributing to the abandonment of social norms within the city.

And now I feel terrible, because on the one hand as I read all the horrible things people are saying, the shallow pointless attempts at pretending to care while actually not doing anything that really matters, just saying some vacuous comment, when I read all the jokes and smug media in jokes about Voldermort and Apes that people think shows they're so funny, and especially all the racist, bigoted hate speech from those who by and large have no idea what they are talking about I feel sick.

But on the other hand... I've written stuff like it in my script, and I find a part of my brain objectively analysing it, comparing how similar scenes were. And some are.... very similar. I meant a lot of the story as satire. Something that (once or if the film was ever made and out there for the world to see) would have people laughing or arguing about whether it was too ridiculous or maybe the opposite, too toned down compared to how people might really behave on twitter and youtube and fb, though I would forgo mentioning those in favour of some made up names so the film wouldn't age so fast. I was comfortable coming up with minor references to vigilante groups contacting each other digitally instead of through their town hall like in the olde days, and trying to come up with the most irrational and dangerous self serving calls for action and segregation because it was a mash up of all sorts of historical events, far enough back in our history or other countries to feel like a tentative commentary not a sore and nasty exploitation.

And then, on another fantom hand, I find myself bringing my own selfish concern into it - has my story been ruined now that everything I st out to include as fiction is out there really getting people killed. What I've been planning and writing about the public reaction, the perceived 'too extreme' comments on twitter and youtube and the news and radio and newspapers that people are now really saying, about mob psychology, the natural response to fear and need to establish boundaries for the familiar vs. the other, the instinct to protect oneself when boundaries are hidden, unfamiliar or unpredictable and the essence of human response when deprivation, low or non existent quality of life, exploitation  and fear come together all at once - can that still be what it is when it no longer looks like fiction but like you read the news and just left peoples' real names out.

I hate thinking that but it's true. Like any writer knows research is a big part of writing a story that feels authentic to it's audience. Of course during this period my brain couldn't help automatically realising that it's sickeningly uncanny that I need to research how rioting would be managed or mismanaged in London and instead of going to every public sector, every organisation, every civil service and asking them a bunch of hypothetical questions the news and every social networking site is flooding the world with that information. Yet I can't shake the opinion that no matter how long you're been working on such a story your brain should first be in shock, shouldn't kick into research mode straight away.

I find myself confused. Either way the important question is: Should you continue writing your story, one that was supposed to a broader comment of society, if something has triggered it in reality in the most troubling way? Or in fact, if your story is even larger and crazier than what your country is doing, is it all the more reason to finish it? How much should you keep the same because the similarities lend credibility, how much should you change so you aren't exploiting everyone involved?

And now we are right back to the beginning of the cycle with sadness and anger and shock at every new horrible thing that happens.

I'll leave it there, I'm going strange. Have any thoughts? Had the same experience in the middle of writing a script? As a film fan do you think it doesn't matter? Or do you think social commentary films aren't what audiences want and bound to fail? Or should you always abandon a bit of entertainment commentary hybrid once it starts to hit too close to home on principle without a second thought?

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