2011 July

Stuck on page 63

I took Old Betsy the laptop out for a stretch today – blew the cobwebs off the mummified remains of Windows XP and like a total word warrior, went to a coffee shop to write.

I set myself up in a bright and breezy place on 5th Ave. It was a blazingly hot day, but the air inside was as cool as a glacial spring. They love me in here, and I love them back, even though the food’s not that good. (Also, every single other seating area in Park Slope is occupied by 8.15 am sharp on the weekend. Don’t people have homes they can write in?!). So I open up my free scriptwriting software of choice, and see I’m on page 63 of my spec. It’s goddamn perfect so far. Only about 30 pages to go. Easy.

Except it wasn’t. After taking a massive break from writing, I couldn’t remember where I was in the story. Had to re-read the whole thing again, and then gently – carefully – caress the words out of their hiding place like nervous kittens. Wrote two pages. Took three hours. And I’m not even sure I’m going to keep those, seeing as they felt so clunky.

There’s a lesson there somewhere (in fact, completely obvious) – No matter what, don’t take a break in the middle of a project. Just keep going.


The Tree of Life

Terence Malick’s latest opus is either: A) the worst piece of shit you’ve ever seen, or B) the crowning pinnacle in cinematic history. I guess your opinion depends on how generous you were feeling on the day you saw it, or if the person you dragged along didn’t fidget and sigh for three hours. I happen to be in the B) crowning pinnacle camp. Utterly amazing work, and I cannot sum it up any better than the review by gentleman scholar Jonathan Crocker, so I’ll just link to that instead.

But one thing that struck me as I was watching Sean Penn stumble through a rocky canyon in a suit, chasing a small child – how do you go about writing something like this? There’s only a handful of whispered lines throughout the movie. Every shot seems so meticulous on one hand, and then so personal and intimate on the other. How do you plan for that? How do you communicate what you’re trying to do, so others can get on board? I can’t even imagine what the script looks like… Sure, I could download and read it, but that’s assuming I’m not a lazy toad.

Whether you think it’s successful or not, it’s a really interesting film from a writer’s perspective.


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