Monday, 29 November 2010

Falling Out - Developing the Screenplay

It has been about five months since I first mentioned to my writer Tom K McCarthy that I wanted to make a short film which focused on a small group of people dealing with the immediate aftermath of a nuclear blast in Scotland.  Last week he delivered the first draft of the screenplay.  There are several redrafts needed before we get to a shooting script but we both agree this draft holds the essence of the story we want to tell.

It took us so long to get to this stage was that we were coming at the process with a strong notion of tone and thematics, but no story or characters.  The first step I made towards the story was sketching out our three characters and most importantly the lead, Carrie.  I wanted to see a female lead get in touch with her survival instinct, to be forced to find her strength rather than play the damsel.  Tom suggested that she be pregnant, this raised the stakes, as the radiation could damage her child and also gave her a source of strength to deal with a future where she would not be cushioned by society.  Although we had discussed theme heavily up to this point (human technological advancements outstripping our ability to reason or communicate etc.) it took a grounding in character to give us something more tangable; 'When society breaks down, we had better toughen up an learn to make the hard choices'.
Since October, Tom and I have been keeping a Tumblog to record our thoughts and share sources of reference.  We explored many story options which turned out to be wrong for the material.  The largest error I made was in trying to give the story a dramatic arc, I kept reaching to the outside world for conflict.  Of course the fact that nuclear desaster is on their doorsteps has a huge effect on these characters, however in trying to find ways for them to interact meaningfully with the larger world I had struck a false note.  Not only is it unbelievable to show a few civillians having an impact upon war and politics but it is very difficult to create dramatic moments without face to face interaction.
Despite these wrong turns, I feel that we are close to cracking the story and the characters.  A chronological links list of our Tumblog conversation follows;

Oct 12 - Matt - Beginnings
Oct 12 - Matt - Script Class
Oct 18 - Matt - More Script Notes
Oct 19 - Matt - Emotion Graph for Carrie
Oct 25 - Tom - Yet More Script Notes
Oct 27 - Matt - Notes on Notes
Nov 4 - Tom - New Beat Sheet
Nov 15 - Tom - Even Newer Beat Sheet
Nov 16 - Matt - 'Even Newer Bear Sheet' Response