Thursday, December 07, 2006

Character is story/Making the unperfect film

Just over a week to go before we start shooting on 'Deliver Me' and I'm feeling tired, crabby and stressed - probably about par for the course as far as working on funded shorts goes (especially those where they neglect to actually give you the funding...). The main concern over the past couple of weeks has been casting. Luckily, we've got a really good casting agent, Ali Fearnley, on board, who is really into the project and has been working hard to get us to see as many possibles as we can. I've said before how I find casting a bit weird, and after thinking about it a bit more, I think I know why. I don't really have people in my head when I start writing a story - that is, of course there are 'people' in it, (rather than just, I dunno, broccoli or something), but the character isn't normally the starting point of my stories. In fact, I'm much more likely to think of a story first and then work backwards from there - creating a character to fit what I need them to do in the story. Back story comes into it as and when I need to think of it - I don't normally create an extensive character bible or anything - a lot of that stuff develops as I work on the project as a whole.

One of the things you hear a lot when you're writing is this idea that 'story is character' - which seems to suggest that in really nailing down who your characters are you will figure out what their story is. And while I think that is totally valid, and makes complete sense, I also think the inverse is true - 'character is story' - you create interesting characters by thinking of stories which require them to act in certain ways, so you mould them to fit the story. Maybe it's just the way my mind works - maybe its tied into my distrust of the idea of 'truth' onscreen - or maybe I just don't have the same interest in people that other writers do. My characters are very rarely based on people I know or have met - they're not people I grew up with or hang around with. Maybe that's why I've veered towards horror - not because you don't get realistic characters, but because it gives you an opportunity to create twisted worldviews - to imagine a person's brain and personality, rather than try to imitate or replicate one.

It was good during the casting sessions to have a chance to direct the actors in certain selected scenes - it started to help me think about how the film's going to work in terms of performance. I think we've got some good people involved and I'm hoping that they're going to enjoy it...

The other thing I've been doing is storyboarding and shotlisting some more, with the aid of Chris Cooke. Chris is great to work with because not only has he got an encyclopeadic knowledge of every horror film ever made (he spent the 80s locked in a room watching video nasties) but he's got great enthusiasm and is willing to take risks and improvise stuff.

I've been trying to remind myself that this is an opportunity to take some risks and not to play it safe just because it's a funded film and it's going to be 'seen by people'. I mean, I'm not planning to make some experimental oddity, but there are certain things that I'm not sure are going to work, and I figure the only way I'll ever find out is if I try. I guess if people watch the film and end up saying 'what the HELL was that?' I won't really mind - I'm not setting out to make a perfect film - as if you ever could - in fact, it'd be closer to the truth to say I'm setting out to make an unperfect film - something with weird edges and strange features that'll hopefully find an audience, but isn't self-consciously trying to make itself seem 'great'.

Or maybe I'm just covering my arse in case the whole thing turns out to be terrible. Who knows? I guess we'll find out soon enough...

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