So. The great experiment was a success. We picked a genre out of a hat (cup) and wrote a script in a weekend. I think the script’s pretty good, too, which is an added bonus — and we had fun writing it.
Now it’s done, though, and we still have fifteen genres left languishing in that hat (cup). This struck both of us as rather a pity. It got us thinking. What if, we thought, the experiment didn’t have to be done?
After all, as we’ve already noted, we may just have gotten lucky with “Off the Record.” Would we have been able to pull it off if we’d pulled a different genre, or different characters, or had come up with a different plot? In other words, it’s really a little premature to call the experiment a success after only one script.
That means we’d better do it again. And if we’re going to do it again, why not do it a few more times? And if we’re going to do it a few more times, why not make it nice and round and do it once a month for a year? So, as Abigail laid out in her last post, that’s what we’re going to do.
But is it really feasible to keep working at that rate? Won’t we get tired, or, like, run out of ideas? Possibly — probably, even. But there are ways to guard against it. Stephen King, in his invaluable book on writing, On Writing, noted that, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” He was talking about novels, but the principle certainly applies to screenwriting.
You can’t make movies without an intimate knowledge of movies. Film is a self-referential medium. The greatest filmmakers are, often, almost obsessively encyclopedic about film. Sorrentino doesn’t exist without Fellini, Joe Wright doesn’t exist without Powell & Pressburger, Sorkin wouldn’t be Sorkin without the patter of the 1930s and 1940s screwballs.
All this leads us to a fairly obvious conclusion, which is that if we’re going to pull off writing 12 movies in the next 12 months, we’d better start boning up on our film history. We’re already no slouches in this department, but there are plenty of great and/or classic films that we’ve missed for one reason or another. So we’re putting together a film history docket, comprised of the notable films that one or both or us haven’t seen, that we’ll work through over the course of the next year.
At the end of the work day, instead of flopping down on the couch and facing the anxiety-inducing “what should we watch on Netflix” dilemma, we’ll just flip to the next film on our docket.
And on the weekends, because even if we’re writing movies we’re still writing, we’ll read. A lot. The great storytellers and the great imaginations — Georgette Heyer, Conan Doyle, Austen, Dickens, the Golden Age sci fi authors, maybe even a little Stephen King.
We’ll follow this up with the docket itself in a separate post.