Sunday, April 28, 2013

The write stuff

Sorry to have been away from the blog for a couple months. Too busy living!

OK, I'll be more specific. At my friend John's behest I sent out some screeners of my movie to get reviews. I got a glowing review from German website Search My Trash: "loving but also enjoyably mean ... viciously funny ... irreverent ... insane ... a really fun trip". The site also interviewed me about the film.

The film also got comparatively mixed reviews from Film Threat and Swedish website Film Bizarro. I also sent screeners or emails to other sites, but these are the three that responded.

Also, a movie I helped produce, Bury My Heart With Tonawanda, had its festival premiere at the 2013 Buffalo Niagara Film Festival. It won two awards: Best Western New York Film, and Audience Award. Hopefully the film will have additional success in other festivals.

Apart from the usual everyday challenges of work and stuff, and the occasional don't-feel-like-doing-anything lull, I'd also been developing another project, a sort of biopic about the behind-the-scenes history of Doctor Who. I'm not normally one to make fan films – in general I think people should create their own work from their own imagination. But this was a subject that I've been passionate about for many years.  

After much research and rewriting, I had a script that I was pleased with, and that friends who've read it said they really liked. I was going to do it as simple animation (or possibly a radio drama), and was ready to start casting voice actors. However, my enthusiasm for the project fizzled when some nastier details emerged in the press about the behind-the-scenes behavior of 1980s producer John Nathan-Turner, who has become the subject of a new biography.

I went through kind of a crappy time in my life around eleven years ago, which coincided with the time when Nathan-Turner died and was thus being talked about a lot in Who circles. People talked about how he continued to do his job in the face of harsh personal attacks, and I took a lot of comfort in that example. My development of this Who project largely grew out of that. I knew John Nathan-Turner was a controversial and not-always-liked character, but that was part of what made him a flawed hero in my book – in spite of his faults, he continued to fight for something that others no longer believed in, despite being harshly criticized for his efforts.

When I read some of these new details, I realized John Nathan-Turner wasn't someone I could fully endorse as a protagonist. He still had his virtues, but his faults were unpleasant enough that I no longer felt like I wanted to spend hours of my own time on a non-commercial project that hinged on him being a sympathetic underdog. And it's probably just as well – I realized I'd still been carrying the baggage of that time in my life, embodied in this script, and it was time to let go.

What I am working on now is the series of in-universe sci-fi novels that Josh, the protagonist of Saberfrog, is always obsessing over. For a long time I've thought it would be cool to have those books actually exist, so that when he talks about them in the movie he's talking about real books that you could actually read.

I've written the first one and it's not that long – more of a novella length – but it's my first attempt at a novel, and certainly the longest piece of prose fiction I've ever created. I've sent a draft to some friends to see what they think, and now I'm moving on to the second one in the series. One day, I'll be able to sell the movie and the books together as a set!

I also have a prequel idea, kind of a Corman-esque B-movie about some of the older Saberfrog characters as loony college students in the 1960s. I've written the beginning of that script and gotten an enthusiastic response from people I've shared it with, but I haven't gotten much farther in it. I might end up jumping back and forth between that project and the novels, depending on what mood I'm in.

After years of focusing on the movie Saberfrog, I'm content simply to do some writing for a while. I had been thinking about maybe filming something new this year, and while I wouldn't entirely rule it out yet, it's now slightly late in the year to not have a full script or a plan. For now, I would just like to be creative in a way that doesn't cost anything or require the coordination of locations and other people's schedules.

So there'll be a new Saberfrog-related movie, and/or the Saberfrog-related novels. And I'll be working on them at my own pace, as time and energy allows. Hopefully by the end of the year I'll have something to show off. I'll let y'all know.

Also, yesterday I went to the annual artist conference DIY Days in New York once again, and got to network with other artists, writers and filmmakers outside my usual social circle, which was a huge shot in the arm.

While stimulation from others is important, finding the inner peace and strength to do your work is also important. When you're in a rut, the tendency is to constantly look elsewhere for answers, thinking that reading one more book or seeing one more movie or going to one more event will restore your focus. But I've found that when you're actually being productive and creative, that's when everything clicks. The smart and successful people aren't necessarily the ones who read and think and analyze the most. Maybe they're actually the ones who understand the basics just enough, and then roll up their sleeves to actually do the damn work.

So that's the next step right now. Just doing the damn work.