Many thanks to author Wanda Dehaven Pyle for this feature interview on her blog.
For most of us, I would imagine, 2012 was a bit of a rollercoaster of mixed experiences. Mine certainly was. No personal tales to be told here, but suffice it to say that I took a large cup of pure joy, followed by a bitter smattering of deep sadness. Throw into the mix the odd crisis and a couple of heaped tablespoons of the old reliable stressful situations, and yes, I am guessing that many of you are nodding your heads in recognition of that familiar recipe right now.
And to the artist, it’s all copy, after all. Lived experience and inspiration for future work…
Whatever 2012 brought, [here comes the cheesy bit!] it is wise to remember that 2013 is as yet, an unspoiled page in the book of time, and as hopeful creatures, we shall creep, leap, stagger or dance into it with all the blind optimism that never fails to invoke some much-needed anticipation at this time of the year.
Not just from a writing perspective, but certainly intrinsic to it, reflection must be a component of the process of moving forward; knowledge gained to put into practice what you have learned, realising what you need to change, nailing down what you most desire, and naming what you hope to achieve in the coming twelve months.
The voyage of 2013 is about to begin, and though I cannot control many elements of it, it will not go uncharted…regarding all of the above, I think I have it sussed. I know what I want to change, I know what I most desire, and by jaysus, I know what I want to achieve.
And only Mother Faith and Father Time will tell the outcome.
I’ve done okay with the scribbling in 2012. Have placed well in some writing competitions, and was shortlisted for an Irish Film Board Gearrscannain Award. I got into the Second Round at the Austin Film Festival [Couldn’t manage the trip over, but I’ll get there in person this year, no stopping me!] and was shortlisted for best Arts and Culture Blog at the Blog Awards Ireland.
I continued to work towards the development of two feature scripts, LADY BETH, and THE CAPTIVES. I’ve continued to plug away with the family fantasy feature script, PIXER KNOWS, and have seen two of my short scripts, ADAM, almost locked, and IN RIBBONS, due to begin shooting in April, 2013, take leaps in terms of development. I look forward to working on these projects, collaborating with some talented, like-minded and exciting people attached.
And then, there is always the novels, three of them..but enough about them for now.
So, I will leave you all [In the 193 countries that 2012 WordPress Report has indicated my visitors come from!] with the sincerest good wishes and the best intentions for the new year, by imparting some seriously profound and learned advice…
BACK UP YOUR FILES, PEOPLE!
Computer Hard Drives, much like the human brain, are labyrinthian networks of mystery, prone to short-circuit now and again, and for no identifiable reason, to malfunction with complete loss of memory, and to fold and shut down under the pressure of too much information and / or neglect. Treat both with tender, loving care…
Fictional characters are anything but.
To write them, I must know them, inside and out, before I can feel empathy for them, and before I can understand why and how they will do the things that I will make them do, and say the words I will make them say. In other words, I must believe that they are real flesh and blood, with all of the wonders and foibles that go along with that. Only then, can I really write them in any meaningful way.
This is nothing new to any writer worth their salt, right? And of these knowing writers, who does he/she choose to analyze the most?
The writer’s self: as Confucius say – no matter where you go, there you are.
We are not just students of the human condition, we are our own subject matter, and it never ceases to fascinate me how we operate. How we relate, articulate, disseminate the world, our lives, our wants, our needs. And what of our secret selves? The histories, the pain, the faded and vivid memories, the disappointments, the yearnings, the unchartered dreams, the joys? The stuff that shapes us; the stuff that we never show and tell. Our interior lives – where the most fascinating secrets exist to influence how we choose to live and the paths we take.
The fictional life is no different. And it is the challenge for the writer to pick away at those layers of being until exposing that space between what is seen in the character’s exterior life, and what is hidden in their interior one. The secret place of the human condition that exposes the reasoning behind every deed and action, and towards those surprises and discoveries that will lead us to chart a compelling arc for our character.
Image is the FREEDOM Sculpture by Zenos Frudakis
Over the years, I’ve attended many filmmaker courses and masterclasses, always searching for the magic ingredients that will give me the template to forge ahead as a screenwriter and someday director. And yes, while I have gathered a wealth of invaluable knowledge and experiential anecdotes from listening to the creatives who have been there and done that…some have been a tad disappointing, unfocused, badly organised, or just not relevant to what it is I am seeking.
Each experience though, has taught me something, and what continually comes to the fore is this; that even the ‘doers’ in this business sometimes struggle, make mistakes, are let down or manage to turn something potentially beautiful into a balls-out mess! And, that while treading your path, you will always encounter your enablers, your mentors, the ones who are secure enough not to pull the ladder up behind them as they carve their own niche, there are also ten more who will shut that door on your unknown, unripened tenderfoot!
Making your way in this business is not easy and it can take a long, long time to see the benefits…nobody knows you while you struggle the lonely road towards developing your voice, coming up with the goods and making the grade…and nobody wants to know you until you do. Therefore, if, like me, you are going to launch yourself into the mire of this weird and wonderful world, it would be wise to seek and find those mentors, and to listen, really listen, to what they have learned…
Most recently, I encountered two such mentors, both at the top of their game, when I attended a Writer/Director Masterclass with Irish Director, Aisling Walsh (Song for a Raggy Boy, The Daisy Chain, Wallander). The all-day workshop was hosted during the inaugural Fingal Film Festival and there was a double treat for participants when we also got to spend the afternoon with actor Martin McCann (Swansong, Story of Occi Byrne, Killing Bono, Titanic: Blood and Steel). Martin is not just an amazingly talented actor, he is also a generous one, giving over an entire day to talk about his craft; to share the knowledge, and between the two of these amazing people, they managed to turn the day into an entertaining and insightful experience.
Here are the main points that I took away:
Build relationships: Writers can be shy, directors can be shy, actors can be shy…talk to people…make connections.
Make a short film. Nobody knows your story better than you do. Low budget, no budget, gather your team and just do it.
You don’t have to be technical: Work with the best crew and actors you can get; learn from them.
The energy will come from you: Be a good listener, see things others don’t see, be a decision maker, stay calm.
Three traits you need to have: Concentration. Communication. Stamina.
Learn about Actors. Find out about them, what it is that they do and how they do it. And listen to their instincts.
You can make your film three times: When you write it. When you make it. When you cut it.
Open the door and walk in! Are you going to just think about it? Or are you going to do it?
Right so! Armed now with bundles of notebooks, filled with theory, paradigms and checklists of how it all comes together, it is time…
Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power…
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
In 2016, the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising will take place in Ireland. A rebellion that raged swiftly and momentarily in an era when the First World War was raging on (a war that, under British rule, many Irish men had already signed up for and were fighting in…and dying for) and when ordinary citizens of the time frowned upon, and indeed spat upon the rebels on their capture and surrender.
Only after the execution of so many of those young leaders, Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Thomas McDonagh amongst them; teachers, poets and artists, did the general public take heed of what WB Yeats described as the terrible beauty born…and the quest for independence raged on through the youth of the Irish Volunteers…
Through the medium of film and cinematic exploration, there has been little made in the telling of the stories of the male and female insurgents of 1916, Michael Collins being the exception. Interned at the age of 25 in Frongoch in Wales, for his part in the Easter Rising, upon his release, Collins went on to mastermind the guerilla war against British Rule, which resulted in a truce that enabled him to lead a delegation to London to sign the Treaty in December, 1921…a move that divided a nation and culminated in the Civil War of 1922. In August of that year, Collins was dead, and Ireland was changed, changed utterly.
Now, with the centenary beckoning to offer us all a time to reflect on how far we have come as a nation, it is no surprise, that in the writing world, a plethora of ideas for novels and scripts are circulating already. So, it was interesting for me to go along to an event recently organised by the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, and co-hosted by the Irish Film Board, to see the five finalists of the UNTITLED Screenwriting Award pitch their film projects.
All exploring some aspect or theme of that historic year, the award to the winning project, a first draft development loan from the Irish Film Board, would be €12,000 for a single writer applicant, and €16,000 for a team, ie, writer and director. In my humble opinion, all five shortlisted pitches, each presented to an audience and in front of an industry judging panel, had potential for support towards further development.
Anne Marie Casey pitched a biopic she is writing with her partner, author Joseph O’Connor…Grace 1916: The story of Grace Gifford, woman, artist and icon of a revolution…the only project to look with any real depth at a compelling aspect of a woman’s life during the period, and one I would definitely want to see!
Hugh Travers gave a very entertaining pitch with his project, The Players : A black comedy about ex-IRA members who join an amateur drama group to commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Rising. Jasmina Kallay presented her drama Das Irland: A tale of what if. What if promised German help had materialised in 1916? and Virginia Gilbert pitched her drama The Boys: Everybody remembers a great teacher but how many are willing to die for one?
The winning pitch came from Jamie Hannigan and Michael Kinirons with their noir thriller Come Monday, We Kill Them All: April 1916: A down on his luck smuggler reluctantly agrees to help a wealthy politician find his missing daughter only to become embroiled in murder, conspiracy and rebellion…potentially fascinating…trench coats and tribly hats at the ready!
Each project was very different, and as alluded to earlier, there is a wealth of varied ideas out there that have the potential to create exciting, dramatic insights into the lives of not just the key characters of the rebellion, but also, to be a window into the lives and struggles of the ordinary people who lived through those turbulent times in Dublin, 1916.
Which begs the question…if they could see now what they fought for, what they suffered for, and what they died for, what would those men and women of 1916 think of Ireland, one hundred years on?
Featured Image: The Women of 1916, Cumann Na Mban, sourced from http://saoirse.21.forumer.com/a/
Great blog from screenwriter Doug Richardson, (The Hostage, Bad Boys, Die Harder) which you can check out in its entirety here: http://dougrichardson.com/2011/the-worst-note-ever
While Doug tells it with humour, I can only imagine the frustration he felt at being on the receiving end of such shite-worthy feedback!
So what’s the worst script note/feedback you have ever received?
The script is about Mikey Joyce, an eleven year old boy, who together with his two best friends, Paulie and Jacinta, enter a fantastical otherworld, Pisreóga, to track down an ancient Celtic warrior, Fionn McCumhaill. The children need to convince the reluctant and embittered Fionn to help them in their quest to rescue a displaced princess, Pixer, to free the children of Pisreóga from the evil druid Dowan, and in so doing, realize Mikey’s dream to become a great storyteller.