Monday, June 13, 2011

What are YOU waiting for?

What are YOU waiting for?

Self-confessed fast-talker Natasha Pincus (or Tash for short, as there's no time to waste) spoke about speeding through the process of screenwriting.

Her experience in a UCLA intense screenwriting course demanded two feature scripts in thirty weeks. Her time there gave her first hand experience of the American work ethic.

Tash tells us in order to keep up with world's best practice, we must live and breathe screenwriting. A week locked away in a room is the very least we must do to write the first draft, and most likely a bad one at that.

Before settling down to write, you must be able to answer "what is the film about?" Not the plot or what happens, but "what does it mean to you? Why does the world care about this script?" You need to know "this is what I think and this film is the metaphor for hiding that message."

Enlightening is Tash's stance that we must begin. No matter what short documents we have compiled to line our cave-like world, we must retreat to it to write the first draft. This is where the birth of the script happens. For unless there is a first draft how can the REWRITES begin? It's for the rewrites that we tap back into the catharsis that got us there, and line by line the craft is honed. All of that writing chips away at the minimum 10,000 hours we need to clock-up to reach even mediocre screenwriter status.

So it's lots of work then. Unless committed fulltime to the task of writing, how does one fit this around a busy work or family life, holidays, hobbies, fitness, domestic duties, maintaining friendships. I know you know it, the list of life's demands goes on right?

Let me bring you to my reality for a moment. It's a sleep-in to be woken up at 6.30am by two bouncing juniors, especially if I've been up half the night already with their feverish temperatures, bedwetting or soothing fears about the creatures that go bump in the night. Factor in school drop-offs and pick-ups, ballet, swimming, volunteer positions at the school and kindergarten, and all the boring stuff that keeps the household stable, there's not even a 40 hour week left to fit in a producing job let alone writing features as well. And I'm no stranger to the kind of hard work that Tash refers to, once working a 60 hour week in a production house coupled with about another 40 hours a week on a hobby (building houses in my spare time). Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about being a mum or being busy. Maybe they are excuses for procrastinating over a blank page. So it's the challenge of finding 7 uninterrupted days of writing that makes me A) glad I'm a producer and B) hopeful of meeting lots of workaholic writers like Tash!

To date, aside from establishing herself as a Director, especially creating music videos, Tash has 12 feature scripts and a TV series under her belt. She's just getting started. And she won't stop for anyone. She'll have an idea...a genre...research market forces...and write it before anyone else does. She is herself and it's her take on the idea which can't be copied. If someone else writes it first, who cares - she's got another idea and it's going to be even better than the last because her writing got better with every hour she spent on that big print and dialogue.

Tash revealed the reality that very few are talented enough to take the auteur route. She believes that writers should be writers and directors should be directors. You don't find too many "surgeons who are also practicing lawyers," Tash says (although with medical malpractice litigation these days, maybe they should consider it).

She also believes writers need to be more accomplished market researchers. You need to feel the zeitgeist and know what scripts are out there. "Follow Creative Screenwriting publication obsessively and be a writing nut. As an artist, feel it. As a businessperson, make it," challenges Tash.

Collaboration is best at the genesis stage. But even if only sharing at first draft stage, sharing is crucial to success. Share the script with other artists to learn where the communication is flawed, what isn't cinematic and whether the film will work.

There is a sense of urgency is Tash's fast-talking. She thinks Australians spend too long making short films. The time is better spent making one feature (even if it's bad) than making dozens of shorts (even if the last one's brilliant). In the U.S, Tash explains, at university level filmmakers create features, not shorts. Her advice: "Practice the sport you're designing to play at."

After a quick drink break, the group moved into the most important session yet...our first ever idea sharing exercise. Four brave aspiring writers including me stood before the group to share the results of our first goal worksheet - 1 premise, 5 themes, 5 loglines. I can't share the ideas with you in this blog but what I can share is my pride in our members for facing this challenge to share and applaud those, including guests Tash and Warwick Field, for providing insightful comments and raising issues about each concept around genre, structure, characters, plot and the market.

Excitement brews as Line by Line proves it's worth as a safe place for collaboration. Explore, prod, reject, query. Dig deep into the soul of your idea. Better to hear the responses now than to spend a life in solitary confinement slaving away at an idea only you believe in.

So to follow Tash's advice in summary...write hard, then even harder and clock up those 10,000 hours. Share your work with other artists...DOPs, editors, directors and producers to name a few, as well as non-filmmakers, your cousin, workmate, neighbour. Learn to trust when it's time to let go of that piece of writing and get on with another.

And the advice I liked best:
It's all well and good incubating an idea. Sure, sit on it for ten years and watch other writers, filmmakers, the market place, pass you by.

Feature films wait for no man...what are YOU waiting for?


Fiona Leally
Buy Me a Pony

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