I finished on Shakespeare yesterday, so why not start with him today. I have a well-thumbed Arden edition of ‘The Merchant of Venice’, having been assistant director on a production of this awkward play when I was at drama school, some sixteen years ago now. I refer to it as “awkward” because in the climate that we live in today, the themes that Will Shakespeare explores here could be easily contstrued as anti-Semetic; but that dicussion is for another day.
I drew a parallel between myself and Antonio (the “merchant” of 'The Merchant of Venice') just the other week, in that he was pre-occupied with ships of his that were at sea, returning with cargo to Venice and I was waiting to hear on six projects that were tossing on the ocean of my hopes, wondering if any of them would come safe home to provide me with some much-needed finance with which to write (and live whilst I write).
Alas, like Antonio, my thought, too, was consumed with images of “...shallows and flats..” where my ships might end up “dock’d in sand” or “dangerous rocks” on which my dreams might founder, and so it came to pass that news came to me that four of the six “ships” had sunk whilst the other two are still lost at sea or being lured by some wretched siren song to a rock of Lorelei proportions: the Lorelei Rock is a soaring natural edifice that sits on the eastern bank of the Rhine near St. Goarshausen and is the subject of a nineteenth century poem in which an enchanting woman - Lore Lay - would sit atop the rock and lure shipmen, with her singing, to their end, crashing on the rocks below. The Pogues, Wishbone Ash, the Cocteau twins and Scorpion have all written songs titled ‘Lorelei’. I have seen the Lorelei Rock, on a car touring holiday of the Rhineland many many years ago, I wasn't writing screenplays then, but I do remember (I was a small boy) buying one of the those toy trolls with coloured hair??!! I have no idea what that has to do with anything?
What to do with projects that have been rejected? What to do with me when I’ve been rejected...swept onto the rocks?
Here in Australia, we have State and Federal film & television bodies that are set up by the respective “local” and national governments and their Arts Ministeries; as a filmmaking community, we are lucky in that we can apply to them for development and production finance, indeed a well-worn trail is beaten to their doors on a daily basis by virtually all of us in the industry. I’ve just submitted a Treatment for a feature film project called The Age of Enlightenment to both funding bodies and received knock-backs from both organisations for differing reasons, the detail of which doesn’t really matter in regards to this piece I’m writing today. What does matter is what I do with that project from here.
Maybe it will help a little to explain further. From one august body, I’ve kind of gleaned that the project might be “too dark" and that "no one would go to see it.” From the other, it’s a case of “we love it but.....”, the “but” being that they thought it would be a good idea for the writer (me) to go ahead and execute the thoughts and ideas put forward in the very comprehensive development notes that I submitted, critiquing my own work (a common mandate made of the writer as part of these applications). You might have spotted that there’s a catch-22 situation in the latter response, given that they’re asking me to spend weeks and months doing the very thing that I’m asking them for money for?!
Nevertheless, as long as I don’t get a “well, we think that idea stinks” or a “somebody take this guy’s crayons away from him”, then I have to work out (once the emotional dust has settled) what to do now? Showing any idea in the early stages of development to anyone, is a bit like showing that first ultrasound photo of a pregnancy around, the last thing you want is someone to say “well, that’s going to be one horrible adult when it grows up”. Yet, to be fair, maybe some projects should be aborted before going any further (is that a distasteful analogy? Sorry if it is).
My bottom drawer could easily get to the overflowing stage, stuffed with scripts, synopses and treatments that I’ve written - many in my early years - and to continue my maritime theme, it’s becoming a veritable Davy Jones’s locker down there. To be perfectly honest, that drawer is probably the best place for some of those early pieces from the earnest and ethusiatic writer that was me then, but the current stuff, the work of the latter-day me.....I’m not so sure?
Day #131 Tip: Top drawer or bottom drawer?
Walking back from town to my apartment today, I was talking to a friend about The Age of Enlightenment and before I knew it, I was into my “elevator pitch”, telling the story in about ten minutes, just like I (and Mckee) recommend at the end of the Index Cards stage. The listener loved the story, which stopped me dead in my tracks as I had that Treatment halfway to fifty fathoms and a "dead man's chest", never to see the light of day again.
Maybe it’s worth another chat with the Producer (who I’m having lunch with on Monday)? I’ve also put in a phone call to a litmus-test-of-a-friend who has been privy to the story so far and been a fan over the last few months. I’ll get a second opinion from them too. Maybe, just maybe, The Age of Enlightenment should not be consigned so quickly to a premature end and a watery grave? That pitch this afternoon and the ensuing conversation didn’t happen by complete accident y’know?
I have to be careful about who I hand over the little power (if any) I have in life to, and to be fair to those who have said “no” to The Age of Enlightenment right now, they didn’t ask to be judge, jury and executioner of any of my ideas. If I kill off a project (at whatever stage) every time someone doesn’t care for it, then my keyboard and bottom drawer will both be working overtime with the head of steam I get up, creating and then dashing (to the rocks) ideas as though they were two-a-penny and worth little more.
I’m not saying that everything is a ‘keeper’ but nor should all of them sink without trace either; some of my ideas are worth more than that and need me to champion them.....who else am I expecting to do that, if not me?