I’m swapping horses mid-race. When I started this blog, some 137 days ago, my intention was to write a crime screenplay in six months - Jerusalem - sharing the journey with you, from Index Cards to Step Outline to Treatment to Screenplay. But the writer's life is never a straight road and other projects crowd in and jostle for position on that helter skelter highway; a meeting here, an application there, development notes that need writing, a short biog needed, a resume wanted, a 25 word synopsis, a paragraph synopsis, half-page, one-page, three-page.....
At the start of the treatment stage of the journey, I had to put Jerusalem on hold and turn my attention to a couple of other hopeful projects that needed nudging along, in particular a treatment for another screenplay: The Age of Enlightenment.
The Age of Enlightenment began life as a feature film idea some fourteen years ago - circa 1996 - at a time when I still called myself a writer-director and when, on the back of a reasonably successful short film, I was looking to flex my filmmaking muscles and move from the shorter medium to a longer format; I was cooking up ideas, and this project - which was then called 'The Victorian Girl' - was one of a bunch I had on the go.
The basic premise was this: 1870. Due to a chronic and potentially fatal health condition, Estella has been locked away in her home, never seeing the light of day, never having contact with any other human beings aide from her widowed father, who she relies on for everything. One day, her father does not return home from his professorial position at the local University and Estella has to fend for herself. After more than a week alone, with food and medicine running out and Estella unable to summon help, her life begins to fade away, until the door to her home is broken down by a young man, from the 21st century, revealing the lie that her life has been. However, despite the gentle encouragment of the young man, who falls in love with her at first sight, Estella refuses to leave her Victorian world and vows to die there rather than live in the new world she is confronted with.
What if you discovered that the life you thought you were living was, indeed, a lie?
The Age of Englightenment is a love story, set in “1870” and 2010; it’s a period piece, the tale of a young woman’s attempt to escape her imprisonment and, it’s a love story. None of these are genres that I normally write in; I’m from the Godard school of filmmaking : “...give me a girl and a gun and I’ll give you a film...”. However, in three of my film ideas that I’ve more-than-tinkered with over the years I’ve been coming up with plots and premises, I have three stories about people trapped in a room or buidling where time stands still, whilst outside it’s moving along it’s chronological axis.
The Age of Enlightenment is one (a young woman caught in the late 1800’s when really it’s over one hundred and forty years later), The Comedians (a group of eight comics sharing one large backstage dressing room on New Year’s Eve 1969, their old style of traditional comedy threatened by a ninth - a Pythonesque upstart - who unexpectedly shares the room and the bill with them) and Mr. Memory Man (the story of a group of 1970’s variety artists who, when stranded at the end of a seaside pier cut off from the shore, choose to spend the next ten years living there). Three stories that all share the underlying idea of protagonists confronted with the shifting sands of time in their respective lives and their reluctance/opposition to change.
It’s obviously a pre-occupation of mine and I know not why? Maybe I do and I just don’t want to lift the lid off that one? The last thing I’m about to do is to lay myself down on one of my couches and psychoanalyse myself as to why this might me; my mind investigating my mind has the ring of an Escher print about it, no one in their right mind would want to jump down and run around in that vortex.
Anyway, following a lunch with the producer attached to the Age of Enlightenment (a great friend of mine [also an organic garlic framer, which I think counts for a great deal in the cut of a producer], we have decided that despite a couple of bumps in the road (knock-backs for development funding applications) our combined enthusiasm for this prospective film is not dampened, we believe that we’re onto something and will press ahead. The treatment for Jerusalem is moved to the back-burner, The Age of Enlightenment is shifted to the front burner and so that becomes my active project and the one that I will be referencing here when talking of “the treatment that I’m working on”.
Day #138 Tip: Don’t get stuck
I often feel that my tips can be so contradictory, mind you, all great central texts of the world will indeed counsel for something on one page and then advise the very opposite on the next. “Life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Genesis, Old Test.) vs “turn the other cheek” (Matthew, New Test)?
One part of me will reccommend never abandoning your ideas, yet another part of me will guide to not let yourself get stuck behind creative road blocks. I can’t remember who first talked to me of “creative road blocks” but what they were suggesting was that as writers, we shouldn’t get wedded to the one idea, the one script that we doggedly pursue at the expense of others that might be backed up behind it; sometimes we might have to put it aside to allow the flood gates to open (excuse me doubling up on the metaphors here) so that other stuff can move through.
Pray, allow me one more allegory: we want to be the Red Sea not the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is well known for it’s exceptionally high levels of salinity, making for a harsh environment where little flousishes. Water flows in from the River Jordan but there are no outlet streams.
The Red Sea, on the other hand, is a seawater inlet, fed by Gulf of Suez and the Gulf of Aqaba in the North, flowing out to the Indian Ocean in the South. The world’s northernmost tropical sea, it boasts over 1,000 species of invertebrae marine life and more than 200 hard and soft corals.
Jerusalem (so much Biblical referencing today) is not by any stretch of the imagination anything like a “dead” project; I will return to it in good time. But the Age of Enlightnement is running high and fresh, just like the Red Sea and, as Shakespeare, via Caesar, espoused:
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries,
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it
Or lose our ventures.
Study the tide charts and make your choice.