Sunday, 15 May 2011

Being a writer

I had the neatest experience on the film set this week. This is the first time that I have ever written a script that I wasn't directing myself. When I am directing, I am so closely linked to the script that I know it inside and out. Once the script is finished, I am still working with it to break it down for the camera and for the actors. A director has to spend a lot of time with the script if they want to successfully convey it on film. And so, in the past, by the time I get to the film set I am so familiar with the script that there isn't anything new.

With this film, the last time I spent any time with the script dialogue was when I wrote it six months ago. As the assistant director I did break down the script for scheduling, but you don't need to delve into the dialogue portions to do that. So when I arrived on set for Friday's shoot, which contained the first real dialogue scene (and also happened to be an emotional and pivotal part of the script) I was going to be hearing it for the first time.

Let me tell you, it is an amazing experience to hear your written word brought to life. I would have spoken the words out loud when writing it, trying to hear how it might sound, but it is completely different to suddenly see the scene play out by talented actors in the proper setting. I had to duck my head numerous times, because although the scene was very serious, I couldn't help but smile.

I'm not sure I am even able to fully convey the feeling that washed over me. It wasn't so much pride as astonishment that the black and white letters I cobbled together on a computer screen could suddenly have such life breathed into them and appear in front of me as an actual scene. I imagine the experience is even greater for most screenwriters, many of whom would not be present at the shooting of the script, and might only see the film once it is complete.

This new role of writer is a new one for me. I have written much in the past, but nothing that ever went past my own eyes, or perhaps the eyes of a school teacher. It is such a cool experience. I thought I would feel naked or exposed when my own words were put out there to be examined and critiqued by the world, but I don't feel that at all. Others have compared sharing writing to watching your child go out into the world to perform, having to stand back and watch without interference, and yet I don't have that feeling either. The best way I can describe it is the same way a sculptor, or musician might. A sculptor will say that the statue already existed hidden within the block of marble, he just had to chip away until he revealed it. A musician will say that he didn't write the song, he just heard it first and wrote it down. I don't feel like I am laying my own heart and soul out on the table, because this script is something apart from me. I was simply a conduit to bring it to others.

I think I like this role of writer.

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