I confessed in my last post that I wanted to write a screenplay, and why. But I had a problem: Having friends in the film department at Biola, I knew I was not “a film person.” And frankly, I did not want to become one of the many people I knew where were always “working on something,” but never finishing anything. Full of fear that the creative process would be aborted before it reached full term, I held back from starting.
I never took the right film classes, I know just as little as the next guy about the real world of film-making. I do know little about story, and a little about script-writing, when it comes to philosophical dialogues or stage plays. So I found myself in the predicament of wanting to contribute to the new literary pool, but having a steep learning curve to hurdle before doing so.
I wrote a short-film script (ten pages) and several ideas, and waited for my screenwriting skills to magically develop.
When this didn’t work, I teamed up with a friend whom I shall call Dizzy. Dizzy has much more experience in and knowledge of the film industry. I told him of my desire to produce something, and he (wisely) constrained my indefinite desire by saying, “Send me three ideas. We’ll talk.”
I sent him four ideas, two of which were ill-conceived general plotlines of the sort I would like to see made, but no one is currently making; one of which was really just a scene from a nightmare I had last year; and the other of which was a more intelligently thought-ought storyline that dealt with “important” and “sensitive issues” for our day. We discussed possibilities.
The first two were too ill-defined to help. Neither of us were motivated to elucidate nuggets of literary genius from them. The more intelligent storyline had potential, but it was too “serious” and could too easily become a soap-box story that we are as bored writing as viewers are watching. Also, it frankly seemed beyond our powers at the moment. We shelved it. Perhaps it will be tomorrow’s “Schindler’s List” after today’s “Duel.”
The nightmare scene (and the implicit storyline) surprisingly turned out to be the most promising. It was a scary scenario rather than a developed storyline, and seemed pregnant with interesting visual images, the most potentially interesting characters, and themes. We went with it.
The initial interpretation of the “backdrop” of the dream changed almost immediately. The setting moved from the United States to Europe. The group changed from young adults to adults. But the “feel” of the initial dream persisted. Something less than horror, but more than suspense. We settled on an ideal genre: “Psychological Thriller.”
I draw lightly, at this moment in my development, on the generic narrative-art theory that Ayn Rand lays out in the Romantic Manifesto. (A theory I’m guessing she inherits from the greater Western Tradition, but that’s where I heard it explained first and most clearly). She simply enumerates the “elements” of story as four: Character, Plot, Theme, Style. From the initial Dream Image Dizzy and I had a theme and a style. From there, we needed to develop, or discover, characters and plots…