the drum is the most important instrument

I was chatting with a guy I know about films tonight. He makes documentaries, and has a tremendous knowledge of cinema, but has a definite bias towards arthouse films with something to say.

It’s great discussing movies with him because he knows so much about alternative films, especially those made in the 1970s – the last decade when avant garde cinema was considered a viable, and even necessary, market. We have a lot of overlap in taste, but I also enjoy the cinema of pure entertainment, which doesn’t appeal to him at all.

It’s an interesting conundrum when you consider writing for film.

Do you tackle the project that you know will only ever succeed as an Indy picture (and thus will take years to incubate and get made), or do you plump for a more commercial movie?

Of course, getting any film made is a bit of a crap shoot…

The choice doesn’t have to be that simple. You can tackle interesting subjects and still have commercial success, but that requires top-notch writing. I suspect that kind of output only comes after hard work, and numerous scripts, and then you have to assemble the correct team at the best time.

One of people in the industry who visited us gave us a good piece of advice: be passionate about what you write. Tackle the subjects about which you feel strongly. That heat will be communicated in your words, and it should sustain you when you’re on your tenth draft and it’s still not working.

I have noticed that I can’t write crap. By that I mean that I can’t write convincingly about something that doesn’t stir me on some level. The writing doesn’t have to be on a par with my favourite authors, but some part of it has to have meaning for me. I’ve noticed that readers always respond better to the stories that have been dug deep out of me.

At the moment, before I put words onto the page, I try to figure out what’s important about the tale – why I have to tell it. I suspect that’s why I don’t finish certain stories. It’s not that I lose interest per se, but it’s that I don’t know the heart of the story.

If I hear what beats beneath the words I can follow that rhythm to the end.

Well, that’s the current theory. It could change.

But that’s OK. How else will I discover what works for me?