Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lisa Gornick does it again!

Lisa Gornick  tonight i channel the wisdom of my inner sages
So here I am in Jersey, at Branchage Film School's directors lab. I needed a new perspective on Development-the-movie. And at the end of today's masterclass with script editor Kate Leys and the others in the group, I have one. To do the necessary work, I now have to channel my inner sages. THOSE girls. They're different than Lisa's sages (of course). But her drawing reminds me that they exist. Many thanks Lisa. You've delivered yet again.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

I feel the earth move under my feet-- Chris Vogler & GIRLS LIKE US

Canterbury house after September 4 2010 earthquake
I’ve been trying to write about Chris Vogler’s visit to Wellywood. And just can’t get there. Mr Vogler’s the guy who wrote The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. You probably know about it, a classic that many writers love.

As you know, I’m a woman. A woman writer guided by Jane Austen’s words in Persuasion: “Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story…The pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything”. So I’ve avoided most books on screenwriting, though I love Linda Seger’s take on some women’s screenplays, where some linear narrative remains to move the story forward, but action is de-emphasized, and the proportions of emotion and psychology become greater. And I work hard to reduce some risks she identifies:
[S]ome women…may not yet have the craft to make these different models work. Although these kinds of stories can be done for a much lower budget than the more action-oriented models, if they fail, women know they usually don’t get another chance. If they compromise, they feel they aren’t truly telling their stories.
And I love what Susan di Rende at the Broad Humor Film Festival writes, because she reads a ton of women’s scripts each year and analyses them. And keeps right on thinking about them, over a long time.

But I haven’t read The Writer’s Journey. When I began my scriptwriting apprenticeship I did try—briefly—to read it. But I didn’t ‘get’ it. Trudged through a few pages and stopped. I was not going to write about a mythic single hero’s journey. Though for my third apprentice screenplay, I disciplined myself to write a single-protagonist script that worked.

But then there was an article about Chris Vogler coming to talk to New Zealand romance writers. It said:
The hero’s journey is more often straight like a railway track, he says, or a circle. But a heroine’s journey is more three-dimensional, “you have to go deep inside to the emotional levels”.
And I thought, hmmm. Wish I could hear him. And then heard he was coming on to Wellington, courtesy of Script-to-Screen and the New Zealand Film Commission, and to a second small session at the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML). So I went. Twice. Once, with around a hundred others, to Park Road Post—part of Sir Peter Jackson's empire out at Miramar. I love Park Road Post, because it's a little how I imagine a Hollywood studio complex might be, and we gathered in what I imagine as a Hollywood-studio-type theatre. Later on, vegan soup (thought of you, Kyna) and a tasty orange slice for lunch, before quick side trip next door to the renowned California Garden Centre, for delphiniums, rosemary, stock, and seed mix. Irresistible brief nap in the super comfortable theatre seat afterwards. Mr Vogler presented a fascinating run through his ideas, accompanied by clips from The Wrestler (the romance writers got My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Handouts. & lots of notes in my wee pink Moleskine notebook.

And the next day, there I was in the IIML’s room-with-the-beautiful-view-over Wellington-Harbour (even Mr Vogler loved it, & I was thrilled to see the white plum blossom at the side window, as well): the room where I’ve had many remarkable learning experiences, among people I love. With twelve others this time: the 2010 scriptwriting MA students, their teacher, and another scriptwriting PhD student. Delicious lunch again, mixture of pumpkin and red capiscum in one sandwich, great new-to-me combo that worked, & nuts, dried fruit, cheeses... And Mr Vogler asked us about our projects. And when I told him that my long-term dream is for New Zealand to be the first country in the world where women write and direct 50% of our features, he advised me to aim for 75% to reach the 50%. Again, I took notes. And wished the session had been longer. I wish I'd heard him talk more about archetypes. I wish he'd talked more about whether and how archetypes connect to emotions and organs and chakras, because he told us that these visceral things are important to him. I found the potential of this discussion much more complex and interesting than the Joe Ezsterhas/ Norman Mailer writing-with-the-balls theory. It gets away from language like 'the masculine' and 'the feminine', or the hero or the heroine, while raising more questions like "What's the relationship between all the women's stories that remain unexpressed and a belief that the shadow self represents the unexpressed?" and "How affected are many women writers' throat chakras by the difficulties they face when they try to tell their stories in public and are unheard, or silenced?"

But then there was the big earthquake down in Canterbury. And now a huge northerly gale here. It’s so unsettling that I can’t get to what I want to say.

(And every time I read or hear of ‘safety’ being the first priority in the south I’m waiting for the not-so-magic words: domestic violence. A few years back, on a government gig, I met Rosalind Houghton, who’s just finished her PhD on domestic violence that accompanies natural disaster. Some of it’s related to schools closing and children’s constant presence at home adding to the stress of cleaning up. This morning, many schools are closed in the south. I hope that Civil Defence has remembered Rosalind’s research.)

The Christchurch earthquake was small by the time it reached us in Wellington. Big enough to wake us at 4.30 a.m. just before it happened, but not big enough to require us to roll out of bed, to cover, and to hold on. The kind of earthquake that I quite like if I’m gardening. A twitch of mother earth’s tail. A reminder of who’s really in charge. Big earthquakes scare me though. Three possibilities especially. Being trapped in a lift. Falling into the depths when a chasm opens beneath me. Or the chasm closing up on me as I fall. I feel a little sick when I read about people in Canterbury being rescued from holes.

But, after Chris Vogler's visit, some quake images resonate with me the script writer. And a couple of words that go with them. The best I can do for now is to show you those. The one at the top and this one are just for context. Like the rest, they come from Stuff.

Central Christchurch

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

P.S. The Feminist Male: Do Not Be Afraid

Lisa Gornick's Film Drawing site is AMAAAAZING-- I group her with Alison Bechdel-of-the-Bechdel-Test for quality. But, unlike Alison Bechdel's multiple frames and long stories, Lisa's stories are usually self-contained, within a single frame. Those single frames invite me to enter them with my own story. And then they make me think, think, think. And then try to reconcile the thinking with my feelings. Often, they make me laugh. Sometimes they break my heart. Collectively they're so full of life & complexity.

And this one's just the ticket after yesterday's post. Would love to know what you think and feel when you look at it!
The Feminist Male: Do Not Be Afraid is Lisa's title.

Lisa's latest film is DIP, made for Channel 4's Coming Up series and screened last week. She wrote in a blog post that DIP is "some poignant suspense set on a London nightbus. A French take on the British crime drama. (I’ve always wanted to make a French film and they let me – salute to the producers, crew and cast – and of course Channel 4)".