Monday, February 3, 2014

Better Days Part 1

The Preamble 

In the reckless Boy Scouts of America days of Portland, Oregon, I drank heavily. I drank heavily for a number of reasons. I drank because I was out in the bars night after night being social with the twentysomethings of my neighborhood. I was looking for sex, I won't lie, I was in my twenties. I was drinking because I worked for a living and I fucking hated it. I hated it so much that as long as I was hungover all day at work I didn't, or couldn't think about what I was doing.

At twenty-seven, I still had something to prove. It was still the 1990s and I was still young. I had no real plan of what I wanted to be, nor did I have any direction. So, I did what my dad told me to do, I went to work. And work was the problem.

When I drank, I made toasts. At first it was: to your health. This was only funny because we were drinking, smoking, and all around trying to kill ourselves. The second was: to love and happiness. I pinched this one from Ewan McGregor in the movie Shallow Grave. But the toast I most used in those old time was simply: Better Days.

Better Days to me was a strange combination of less complicated times, both in the past and in the future. These days were endless Blur albums and jokes and bike rides. Better Days was going to be a time of peace, and a time of clarity. I knew I would get there some day. And try as I did in those old days to find a solution, the solution was one that I could not define. The solution was and is, simply age.

I set about working on a few short screenplays about a year ago, February 2013. I already knew then that I would be moving away from Portland and back to Denver. The biggest draw to Denver, of course, was that I would get to work with my friends at Rocket House Pictures.

The initial screenplay was a group of five scenes titled “In the Heat.” These five scenes for me were an experiment in writing of short screenplays and it was a sort of catharsis for a younger time. I thought about all the missed opportunities, lost loves, scary close calls and an uncertainty of self that I knew at a much younger age.

I don't think it's any doubt, for readers of either of my novels, Dysphoric Notions or Undertakers of Rain that I'm somewhat fixated on a specific time of life. The characters in thesebooks are all between 26 and 28 years old. And likewise the characters of “In the Heat” are 8 years after high school graduation, or 26 years old. I guess I like this age because it's an interesting time of life. At this age most of us are no longer kids and yet we are not yet adults. At this time of my life, I was not a writer, although I wanted to be. I was not self-possessed, although I wanted to be. I worked for the Boy Scouts of America, and I drank heavily.

I think there is something cathartic in writing, there has to be. I also think that there is something peaceful in it. The peace for me, well, I'm torturing 26, 27 and 28 year old characters who get to live and struggle with every failure, both real and perceived, that I ever had.

I was not married at 27. I was not part of the murdering of a philandering husband. I did not have a met-up with a high school love interest. I did not have an ancient aunt who died. But within the screenplay, I did use small bits of conversations for dialogue. I used familiar trials as springboard. I used a handful of real experiences to mold the female, Marion, character. She was a composite of several girls I knew, and especially one I met one night many years ago in a town very far away. The Thomas character was nothing more than what I thought as a reactionary character. He was really along for the right with the whole story.

That's what I thought when I was writing it.

When you write screenplays you really have to think differently about the whole process. Ultimately, you write dialogue. Yeah, yeah, the whole show don't tell thing, right? “In the Heat” had absolutely no 'stage' direction written in it. It was only dialogue. There were two or three characters at a time. Easy.

Writing a screenplay, like the writing of this blogpost is a very solitary activity. Right now, it's 11:00 PM MST. I'm alone in my office and I daresay I'm probably all alone in this entire building. It's me, a bag of potato chips, some old Brit pop and my aging laptop which is the M-60 for my thoughts.

But a screenplay becomes a 'script' that gets distributed to the cast and crew of a company that wishes to preform and produce it. Everyone has their thoughts and their spin and their influence. For instance, I wrote a screenplay called “In the Heat.” The resulting film will be called “Better Days.” Seeing a screenplay come to life is a different experience than writing it.

Next time:

Visions of Marion. You gotta meet Aeon Cruz
The collaboration process
Tedium as Medium
Telling a story to the biggest audience possible

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