An Article in Search of a Theme

This will be one of those posts where I just kind of catch up with everything that’s been going on over the past two weeks, because I haven’t written in a while. We’ll see if by the end of the article, some sort of opportunity to tie everything together under a common theme presents itself. I’m not optimistic.

My screenplay is in a good place, although I haven’t found many opportunities to work on it. Basically, I figured out how to rewrite Act III so that it accelerates all the conflict to a sharpened climax. I have NOT figured out all the steps to get there, but I plan to put it in the hands of my characters to see what happens. I intend to steal some time away from the rest of my day to work on it for an hour or so.

I was hired last week as a Set PA on a movie. It was my first DGC gig in Ontario and it was absolutely a positive experience. I seemed to have gained the respect of the crew, and I held my own on set. My biggest challenge was trying to figure out what the plan was from day to day, because I only came on the show with five days to go. Getting me up to speed wasn’t a big priority for the AD team, and I don’t blame them. I spent a lot of time eves-dropping on conversations, studying the call sheet, and asking questions. I then used the information to figure out my place, without being told.

I continue to work the DGC Hotlist, looking for my next gig. Mostly I’m interested in meeting people because I can’t rely on my resume. Too many PM and Producer credits, not enough AD type credits. Individuals with senior level credits, applying for lower tier crew positions doesn’t add up, and usually means trouble. I need to meet people and tell them my story. To date, a number of AD’s have offered me days on their shows, but haven’t specified which days yet.

Mom and Dave are visiting right now. It’s great to have them here because they buy me stuff – err… I mean because I love them. The visit has been super chilled out. Not a lot of tour guide type activity going on. They haven’t shown much interest in leaving my balcony. Makes it easy to get stuff done, while at the same time, being fed. Jazz said they should visit more often.

I have to wrap this up now. Jazzy has a job at a cafe, and she wants us all to come for a visit before her shift ends. I need to transform into ‘Presentable Jarrett’ from ‘Slept on the Couch Jarrett’.

The sun is out and the weekend is upon us. Let’s see what we can make of it.

A Table Read and A Milestone

The table read went well last night.

Nine people came over to help bring the words to life and I was pleased with what I heard. It was the culmination of several weeks worth of contemplation and writing. Mostly, I’m pleased with the fact that I got this draft done.

The story is a romantic comedy about divorce. My divorce to be specific. PJ and I would have been married 18 years on June 8. We still call each other every year on that day and we’ve come to call it our ‘Exaversary’. We still love each other, but we’re both on different paths now.

In rewriting material that I first put to paper seven years ago – that I previously thought to be solid – it made me realize how far I’ve come as a writer. In looking back to material, that is so deeply autobiographical – it made me realize how far I’ve come as a person.

I’m in a much better, more mature place as a writer. As a person, the most I can say is that I’m in a different place – not necessarily better or worse. It has been deeply moving to relive all those memories, then evaluate them dramaturgically for their best use in the story.

I cut one scene, wrote a couple new ones, and got the page count down to 102 pages, from 110. I found several scenes where there was minimal conflict, and too much exposition. I tightened up the transitions between scenes, and worked hard to make the whole thing feel more ‘cinematic’ – cutting dialogue in favour of conveying the same idea through imagery.

I didn’t have enough time to plug a few holes I discovered in the rewrite process before people came over last night. A couple other structural things came to light in our discussion after the read. I definitely have some solid places to go to when I pick this up again. I’m a bit torn between jumping right in to make those changes, or giving this draft some time to settle in before I pick it up again.

It’s a good script. A number of producers have asked to read it. Perhaps it’ll be best to give it a couple weeks, rather than a couple years, to see how the next draft goes.

Tricking Myself Into Completion Through Hard Deadlines

I’ve been too lax in getting to a rewrite of my screenplay, That Moment In Between, so I scheduled a table read to take place at my place next Thursday. Actors are coming. Some producer contacts I’ve made are coming. An agent is coming.

We’re going to read the new draft together, whether it’s ready by Thursday or not – and it will be ready.

It’s clear that soft deadlines don’t work for me. When I look back on everything I’ve ever written, completion came mostly as a result of some kind of hard deadline. It gives purpose to the process, because otherwise I feel like I’m just writing for the sake of writing.

There are no consequences to not being great, because I can always get around to fixing problems later – much later at some yet to be determined ethereal place on the calendar. No one’s going to see the work until that time, so why sweat it?

Commit myself to showing my work to a room full of people however, and things become much more heightened. I feel it in my headspace. I’m swimming with the work in my headspace. Thinking through script problems, even while I’m doing something else.

And there is plenty else to do. That’s the trick to it. There’s always something else going on, and it’s usually just as important as finishing the screenplay. So as I weigh the pros and cons of getting to those other things, verses spending time with my script – while feeling the cold glare of a hard deadline – I find clarity in putting my daily schedule together.

When the 1970s Weren’t So Long Ago

The most meaningful thing I did yesterday was watch 1970’s prime-time television. Two episodes of Rockford Files. Two episodes of Quincy. I’m beginning to understand what space aliens might feel like when they start digging up artifacts of our culture in a millennium or so.

I sort of remember the 1970s. I was six when I left ’em behind. Even then, I remember thinking how weird people dressed. I remember ugly couches and hideous wall paper. Unfortunately the 1980s’ over-reaction to the 1970s wasn’t exactly awesome.

I found myself watching those shows, and spending more time staring at the backgrounds – looking at the cars on the road, the architecture, the signage on the streets, and the people in the distance. They didn’t use seat belts and the cars couldn’t handle worth a shit in car chases because they had shitty suspension.

I remember long road trips with my parents in our 1974 Plymouth Fury. Big boat of a car. So big, I used to believe people lived inside the dash board, and they played music whenever Dad pushed a button on the radio. I remember crawling into the back window sill and going to sleep, while my brother splayed across the backseat. A quick look at the speedometer and the needle was hovering around 70 mph.

Not a care in the world.

Probably that was the best part of the 1970s. Nothing bad ever happened to me and I can’t remember a single thing that ever upset me – nothing worth remembering anyway.

Someday, 2014 will be thirty years away. I wonder how I’ll look back upon these times. I’ve got a load on my mind right now, but how much of it will stick? How many of those worries and deep thoughts, and random slights I feel, will make it into the future with me?

I seem to have developed a deep interest in my past. It’s certainly a theme that bubbles up in this blog from time to time. I don’t know how healthy that is, but it has to be somewhat good to think about.

Perhaps it’s time for a change in routine? Maybe I’ll dedicate some thoughts to my future. See how close I can come to realizing some dreams.

In the meantime, it feels like a good time to look at where I came from – where my family came from. I wonder if my mother, grandmother or great grandmother ever sat down and wondered where they’d wind up in thirty years time?

There’s got to be some lessons worth mining from that past.