cooperation

Today my friend Brian and I finished a short script.

Six weeks ago we came to an agreement to work on a project together. We bounced around ideas for a story every time we met. A lot of our get-togethers dissolved into movie debates and tangential conversations, but we made progress on each occasion.

I’ve never collaborated on a script before so I was keen to give it a whirl. I figured a short project would be an easy first step. We didn’t discuss our intention with anyone; after all, we weren’t even sure that anything would come out of our meetings.

Initially Brian had a core idea, and we poked and prodded at it. We decided not to get locked into fixed notions about the script, and kept brainstorming until the first idea disappeared completely and an entirely new concept blossomed into life.

We were both amazed at the story evolution, and once we hammered out the details the first draft flowed very well.

I’ve learned a number of things from the experience. I understand why writers collaborate–it’s much easier to generate, test, and develop ideas, characters and scenes when you have a writing buddy. I suspect a lot comes from externalising your thoughts and explaining your reasons out loud to another person. Much of the process is verbal. You talk things out, doodle, and scribble little diagrams (I’m a believer in the power of the stick figure drawing).

The internal creative process is opened up for examination. You have to negotiate with one another, and remain flexible in outlook. Ultimately, you have to respect vision of the other person even when you disagree.

It’s not a competition, it’s a collaboration.

Of course it’s important that you are temperamentally suited to your co-writer. Luckily, Brian and I worked well together. Neither of us would have come up with this script on our own, and we’re really pleased with the result.

Occasionally, I found it frustrating to explain everything as we wrote. When you’re so used to putting the words on the page under your own steam, without anyone’s input, it’s sometimes difficult to share the process with another person. You have to be an adult, and you have to be able to share the story sandbox.

There are real benefits to working creatively with another person as long as you can resolve your differences politely, and remember that it’s the project that’s important, not your egos.