Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Script Doctor

The "how, when, who, what, and where" of the Women's Studies production is really coming together nicely. We've got a lot of elements in place and have started to bang out something that resembles a shooting schedule. This weekend will be the big design meeting with Art Director Stephanie Petagno to finalize some costume designs and the like. At the end of the month I'll kick off the first rehearsal with the actors, a true milestone.

To that end, I spent part of the weekend working on what will be my final revision of the Women's Studies script, the "blue" script. (Once we started production, the script went from being the fourth draft to the "white" script. Since this is a production draft, it's gotten upgraded to "blue.") There will be other minor rewrites as location needs or storyboards require changes to be made. Still, from a certain point of view this is my last chance as a writer to craft the story before I hand it off for the actors and allow them to turn my words into their words.

I like to think I'm not one of "those" writer/directors. You know, the type that has to micro-manage every line delivery because the actor "just isn't capturing the vibe I intended." To me, a script is a blueprint. The actors, camera and sound crew, and art director are like the carpenters, electricians and pipe-fitters. The director is the foreman, and in this case, the foreman just happens to also be the guy who drew up the floor plans. But the foreman doesn't tell the carpenters every detail of how to put up the walls. He lets them use their own method and is just there to make sure evrything comes together as intended.

I come from an acting background, so my attitude towards actors is to give them enough space to discover their own countries, yet give them enough guidence so they don't get lost. I want them to find aspects of the script to claim for themsleves. If they need to take the words I've written and alter them slightly to make them their own, I'm down with that.

I like working with actors. A lot of directors have troubles with actors because their main tool is emotion, and to really get down and dig deep with them requires everyone to look inside their hearts and reveal truths they might not ordinarily want to share. It takes a lot of trust between actors and a director to really make the emotional discoveries, and trust just can't be given. It has to be earned.

Writing is like that too. I have respect for anyone who writes something and puts it out there for others to see. It takes a great deal of courage to expose your inner thoughts in that way, be it a poem, a novel, or a script. What if people don't like it? Or even worse, don't get it? That's the biggest fear I have, I think; a fear that people will read or see what I've written and just look at me in that queer way that says, "I don't understand what you're trying to say?" And yet there are times when I'm in the midst of creation that I myself don't quite understand what I'm trying to say. I only know I have to say it.

Another part of me feels a bit of loss at letting the Women's Studies script go into the arms of others because I've spent the better part of the last two years with it, constantly turning it over in my head. I still will of course, though once we start shooting, I'll lose the option to change anything. Film is immortal. Once an image is captured, it's always captured. You can only have so many takes before you simply have to choose one and live with it.

The consolation to it all is that I really like this script, and can't wait to share it. As great a blueprint I think it is, I think it's going to make an even better movie. And it'll do so not because of my singular voice, but the varied tones and tambours of the cast and crew's voices, singing together in harmony.

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