Directing: A Writer’s Dilemma

I like to think of myself as a writer and as such, made the decision to write a film. It’s called One For Sorrow and at present it is 93 pages long. At one point in my life I liked to think of myself as a director. That ended abruptly with the seemingly cosmic failure of my first real venture into that world. Now, I don’t know if I can part with One For Sorrow. I also don’t know if I can direct the thing. Watch me argue with myself after the jump and if you’re lucky I’ll reach a conclusion.

Below, you can watch that aforementioned directorial effort, Invalid Theories.

Invalid Theories

As you can see, it’s not strong. A series of events conspired to squeeze the life out of what we could achieve and the script got shorter and shorter, morphing to accommodate our constraints yet never improving. Even worse, when we got to the editing bay, we discovered that all the humour that was supposed to be evident in this “comedy” just wasn’t apparent. And so, having just seen David Lynch’s Eraserhead for the first time, myself and co-editor, lead actor and (Y) collaborator Henry Gale set about changing the atmosphere entirely, into something more sinister. Ultimately, the film is a glaring failure; nonsensical, cheap-looking, narratively aimless, it has some sense of atmosphere I suppose but neither the right one nor a fully realised one.

My inability to direct or perhaps more fittingly, my inclination to not direct stems from a multitude of issues, both with myself and the activity itself. For one, I have a terrible attention span and a long day on a set just doesn’t sit with me. Writing is a work flow I can get behind because it’s less systemic and more organic. Any time I have an idea I just have to jot it down and it’s there, I can come back later. On set, you’ve deadlines to keep to and quotas to hit. You must be completely organised and ready to shoot on the day of shooting and I am neither organised nor do I like to be told what my day will consist of.

Secondly, I think I may just be fully inept at the craft. I watch a lot of films sure, I have ample knowledge of what a good film is and how to compose a nice shot but the minutiae behind creating atmosphere on set and such escapes me entirely. I recently watched the documentary Room 237, a film about Stanley Kubrick’s superlative The Shining which is what got me thinking about my own directorial career again.

Kubrick was an obsessive, a man possessed, beyond intelligent and cunning to degrees the extent of which we probably have no idea of. He is a hero of mine and someone I admire very fervently but it’s a double edged sword. One part of me would like to follow his footsteps and master that craft so I can do my scripts the service I believe they deserve. The other part is totally disheartened because presumably I have no chance of scaling his lofty heights, no one else has and he’s been dead for close to 15 years.

My work ethic is probably something that will improve over time, it certainly has this last month starting (Y) and continuing to write and work towards our goals etc. I quit university because I was finished with all the crap modules they were giving me, I was daunted by a 3,000 word essay. I’d hazard a guess that since then, I’ve written close to 10,000 for this blog. So maybe I could improve and I could bend my will to be on set for a whole day without daydreaming and fidgeting as is my current inclination. But once I get on that set with my newfound focus, do I have the ability to command a crew of actors, camera guys, sound guys and all those other miscellaneous jobs I have no idea about?

I think on an executive level, maybe with people I have pre-established relationships with, people whom I trust more than myself and people I know will be able to help me without diluting the DNA of my own vision I could maybe do it. Maybe as a writer/producer with a more interested role, more of a string puller. I definitely have no technical skill but that could be delineated to other crew members of the crew.

One For Sorrow is my baby, I’ve been hacking away at it since December 2011 and it’s not done yet. I’m deep into the rewrite process for Draft 2 and it could be another year or two before it’s truly “finished”. Every aspect of it’s being I can see in my head, I’ve previously mentioned the extent to which music has informed it’s conception and how I’ve soundtracked it in my mind. It’s more than likely that I’d be hard pushed to get the creative licence to use those specific songs but the film is a Black Metal film and if someone buys this script and were to put it in the hands of some Dubstep fan or even simply scored conventionally, the atmosphere would be gone and the film would automatically fail in my eyes.

Even the minutiae has been considered, this passage for instance; “Red Milton taps hard on his head with one gnarled finger, three evenly spaced times. The noise rings out like a broken wood chime.” (Y) Collaborator Joe Aldous has this awful clicking in his jaw that would be perfect for that sound.

I have to weigh up how important this piece is to me against how much I dislike the on-set environments and all the pressures that go with that. As much as I feel the film should have a sloppy, lo-fi appeal that isn’t something that can be achieved by being sloppy. Everything about the production stage of a films development needs to be highly organised and orchestrated to levels of complete professionalism else the end product will fall apart, that much I learned from Invalid Theories. 

I believe that with enough hard work on the pre-prod stage, I can maybe delve into this venture with a great team behind me. My hear and soul have been poured into this script and I can’t let it go, it bares too much of my own DNA. If I can do the same on the storyboard (with the help of an artist, anther area I’m not so adept at), with a tight budgetary system and a flawless production plan, I feel that maybe I could do this.

While it seems arbitrary and obvious, I’ll need a team of highly artistic and technically minded folk to help me, who share the same aesthetic DNA and passion for the source material. All films need that, but here more so because of my nerves and my desire to do this film the justice it needs. It may mean that you will all have to wait till 2018 to see it but until then I’ll keep you updated on the progress of this work of which I am so proud.

– Oliver Drew.

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