Monday, September 12, 2011

Start with the Baby

I was talking to a filmmaker, a good one, about beginnings. I was trying to figure out a way to convince her to consider cutting the top of her film, but she loved it and so did her circle of beloveds. So I used the movie-as-baby analogy and took it a step further. Your movie may be an amazing baby, but if you introduce me to it by showing me the delivery or, God forbid, the act of conception, I am so outta there you have to work doubly hard to capture my heart. TMI, folks, too much information.

Seeing act of birth can be beautiful and amazing to family. The lovemaking that leads to conception is also beautiful, but not really something I want to watch if I'm not one of the parties in bed - and even then, probably not. Keep all that in your heart, and possibly in the extra value content on the DVD, but take it out of the film. Show me the shining, luminous new being already washed and swaddled in its blanket. All that other stuff you are so sure needs to be in there so I know what's happening probably is covered again later. And even if it's not, I can figure stuff out. I know where babies come from. I know that you had to do the deed and nine months later push it out. Not necessary to explain. Start with the baby, not the birth.

When I first started writing screenplays myself, I read all about how a movie has to grab you right away. Comments on my earliest work were always the same: starts slow. But I needed all that stuff. Now I realize the emphasis was wrong... I needed all that stuff. Readers and viewers were telling me they didn't.

Part of the reason I didn't write more "by the book" openings was that I really didn't know what that meant. I could understand the words but couldn't feel the right or wrong of it. So I avoided and rationalized that my work was different because I was afraid I would lose heart otherwise. Over the last few years, I have read hundreds of screenplays and watched as many if not more films for Broad Humor. One right after the other. And that work has made me hyper-sensitive to wasted page or screen time. Not to mention a better writer. I volunteer my time here, but I do get amazing intangible benefits out of it.

I write this blog hoping it gives you the insight that I had to spend years figuring out. If you get it from this analogy: great. If you have to take the long, slow path of learning through mistakes and false starts, that's okay too. That's one of the reasons why I created the festival: to have a place where women doing comic film writing and directing can come and get their work in front of a public that is not friends and family, but is still supportive. A kind of half-way house for the overproud "moms" who have "babies" they want the world to accept and love.

One more thing. I did the over-sharing opening myself in writing this blog entry. I front-loaded - started by giving you background on myself and my learning curve - instead of diving in and trusting you will keep reading. So I'm gonna rewrite, reorder, put the baby/birth analogy in the first paragraph and give the background on me at the bottom. If you made it this far, you now know that I do practice what I preach.

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