There’s been a lot of broken sleep at Fortress Mamea the past month or so. Broken sleep means there have been some
arguments heated discussions over the most trivial things. Broken sleep means conversations suddenly halted as one or the other speaker racks their brain for words like ‘soup’ and ‘confectionery’. Broken sleep means a puppy undergoing toilet training.
Meet The Tyke, aged four months.
After The Dog’s passing, we thought that a reasonable and respectful length of time should elapse before looking for a second dog. We hadn’t counted on The Puppy, though: she took The Dog’s absence very hard, having long sleep-ins, being rather lethargic, and — most worrying — losing her appetite.
We visited the local SPCA a few times. Contenders were shortlisted. Candidates were interviewed via play, cuddling, and licking (by the interviewees, not the interviewers). We put our name down for a couple of finalists, playing the odds. We thought we’d have a month or so as we were on a waiting list, and we needed to show the SPCA inspector that we were of good character and that the property was suitable. After just one week, we got a call to say we had a new hound to collect.
The Puppy doesn’t have a chance to sleep in now. (Nor does anyone else.) Once she’s been licked and pawed and nibbled awake by The Tyke, they play together, their yipping and (play-)growling a welcome sound to the household. And The Puppy’s appetite has definitely recovered as she soon found that the new arrival was more than happy to finish her food if she didn’t want it.
At times it’s exhausting and frustrating as we get up for the billionth time that day to shape her eventual good behaviour, and the moment she sees us and she wags her tail, whatever reprimand that was on the tip of our tongue instantly transmutes into an If you weren’t so goddamned cute… remonstration.
She has taken up the figurative and symbolic bone left by Ella. And we welcome her.
The past four days have been such a blur of ideas, conversation, food and shockingly warm weather that I’m still having trouble believing it’s Thursday already — I only flew down on Sunday to get a headstart on things and —. Did I say I’m having trouble believing it’s Thursday already?
I was very chuffed to attend the 2017 Screenwriting Research Network (SRN) Conference in Dunedin this week. It took me a good day or so to get my head around what the SRN mean by “rethink[ing] the screenplay in relation to its histories, theories, values and creative practices”.
Screenplays as more than just the starting points for film and television productions. I could dig that. Kind of.
Since Monday, academics and practitioners have rubbed shoulders and broken bread together on the Otago University campus, and I thought everyone played rather nicely together. Highlights included — beware shameless name-dropping:
- being on a couple of panels with filmmaker Tusi Tamasese, multihyphenates Steve Barr and Casey Zilbert, and producers Catherine Fitzgerald and Christina Milligan;
- enjoying talks by Rachel Lang, Fiona Samuels and Kathryn Burnett, and Alan Brash (scheduling meant I missed out on talks by fellow guild board members Allan Baddock and Andrew Gunn, and guild ED Alice Shearman);
- presentations by and/or chats with Terry Bailey, Shirin Brown, Alejandro Davila, Paul Janman, Desha Dauchan, Levi Dean, Eugene Doyen, Emily Duncan, Patrick Gillies, Mauro Giantini, Amie Taua, Rosanne Welch, Paul Wells, Gavin Wilson, and a gentleman screenwriter from Wanaka whose name I neglected to note;
- and keynotes by film maker Gaylene Preston, New Zealand Film Commission CEO Dave Gibson, New Zealand On Air CEO Jane Wrightson.
Big props to organisers Davinia Thornley, Al, Amie, Maureen Lloyd, Pippa, Katie Baddock, and a small army of volunteers for making the whole occasion smooth sailing.
The next conference is in Milan. How hard can it be to knock up an abstract on Screenwriting as discomfit: at which point did I begin to self-identify as a writer?
I’m always writing notes for one thing or another. It helps pass the time if I’m waiting in a very long bank queue, or trying to look busy and productive.
At some point, those scribbles on recycled paper are scrutinised in the hope that something interesting has popped out of my idling brain.
Below is an excerpt of an idea I’m doodling with:
-- an idealist who will be corrupted
-- an innocent who will be sacrificed
-- a damned soul who dares to seek redemption
As I looked at that role call and its accompanying notes, I admired my subconscious mind: this could be the beginning of something. Those three characters, executed with care and precision, could exceed their archetypal origins and become players in a story that an audience could care for — cheer for, even — unaware of the cruel fates I have in mind for them. Why, this story —
INT. FORTRESS MAMEA -- DAY
Our PET WRITER turns to find his LOVELY WIFE reading over his shoulder:
THE LOVELY WIFE
(off Pet Writer’s notes)
... Another rambunctious comedy, I see.
The lights dim and you press Play on your entertainment system. You lean back in your seat to enjoy another entry in a well-loved genre. It’s quite likely a story you’ve seen a few thousand times by now, but you recognise the names of the creatives and you’re willing to give things a whirl.
You know the story, the one about the willful child who careens from one self-inflicted calamity to the next, while their forbearing parents, patient and compassionate (and invariably well-resourced), try their best for their child. And we know how it ends — on screen, at least: as our story reaches its appointed climax, the child — having spurned their awful, selfish and clueless parents for the preceding 80 or 345 minutes — returns to the arms of their parents, safe, secure and totally forgiven.
The earliest memory I have of exposure to such stories is from The Wonderful World of Disney television series when I was ten or eleven. That same memory includes 10-/11-year old me exchanging a look with my Awesome Sister, and together we would look at our Stern but Loving Parents, and we’d think, That shit would never fly in our family.
I’ve just written the end of my latest project: my fingers were a blur over the keyboard as they typed direct from my subconscious onto the screen.
It felt rather satisfying getting these last few lines down:
Here’s the thing, though: that’s all I have in script-form at the moment. I have a three-page treatment I threw together a few months ago but it’s dry and plot-heavy.
I may have eighty or so pages of script to write but confidence is high: by golly, I know where I’m headed.
The first warning signs showed a couple of years ago.
Fortress Mamea runs on 10.6 Snow Leopard, an operating system that’s now seven generations behind the current OS.
We like 10.6. It works for us. The Lovely Wife can still watch ponies galloping in slow motion on Youtube, while I can keep in touch with friends and colleagues near and far (and still write, obviously). Online schmoozing sometimes required Skype which has been a no-brainer.
I guess the Macbook Pro is slowly but surely headed for pure writing duties.
An upside could be more efficient writing.
But I wouldn’t count on it.
I was doing a pass on a script recently when I resolved each and every outstanding note with an insouciant flick of the pen.
It felt good. (Too good, as it turns out a few passes later, but hey.)
And as I savoured that sweet moment, I flashed on this short by Australian writer-director Matthew Saville.
“A Writer and Three Script Editors Walk into a Bar” (2013) — Matthew Saville
At the beginning of the month, it seemed like a pretty nifty idea to dust off an old project. I estimated a few days — a week, tops — to make it submission-ready.
This first-pass of edits was not a good sign:
And a fortnight has passed already.