Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's not the years, it's the mileage

"The way I work generally is I figure a code, a general measuring stick parameter. A thirty scene thing means that each scene is going to be around four pages long... I have a tendency to work rather mathematically about all this stuff. As I build this up, you'll see it's done vaguely by the numbers."
Aren't you rushing to see the movie this fella is planning?  I think you knew it was a man. But it's George Lucas and he's speaking privately in the first of five story conferences, five nine-hour story conferences about Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1978. He's spitballing away with Steven Spielberg, briefing  screenwriter Laurence Kasdan.

Fancy reading the whole thing? A transcript of the entire thing is available right here in PDF.

I think I've said before that a reason the latest Indiana Jones film was so poor was that it was just a series of stunts with some bits to string them together. There were other reasons too, but that was one and it's a failing of a lot of films. But as I'd thought I'd heard and now know for sure, it's precisely how Raiders of the Lost Ark was done.

More, the stunt scenes they couldn't fit in went on to become the next couple of films.

So maybe George Lucas has a point.


Mathematical screenwriting? What's that line of Aaron Sorkin's? I can't find my copy of his book but it was a crack about network TV executives saying you can't have politics on TV, can't have people with moustaches... Sorking said something along the lines of: "People make up rules  because it's considerably easier than learning the real ones."

Blimey. From Lucas to Sorkin in one blog. There is actually a chance these two fellas have never been talked about in the same breath.

But anyway, I was fascinated by the Raiders documents: the torrent of ideas, for one thing, but more how we know so very well how Kasdan absorbed all this and wrote something so very good.


Monday, March 09, 2009

I had nothing to do with it

I've had some wonderful nights in theatre and I'm going to admit to you that up to now the best have really been when it's been my own material on stage. Sitting in an audience, feeling them laugh and choke, knowing that an idea you had in your head is now working. Does it honestly get better?


On Saturday night I was at the Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds where my wife Angela Gallagher's first-ever play, Rainwatching was performed.

You can't imagine how good it was. It went down a hurricane. Rainwatching closed out the whole festival of new writing and when the lights came up, the audience was in tears. There was a writer/actor/audience discussion panel right after it and most of the other plays were skipped over in seconds but Angela's was all anyone wanted to discuss. I may be biased there, but still.

The piece is a very raw, apparently simple but truly rich and very powerful monologue about a cancer patient with a right git of a husband. And during the panel discussion, the theatre announced to the audience that Rainwatching was to be restaged over the summer - in a trilogy including a monologue for the git husband.

I've written that. And I've written the final part of the trilogy, a piece about another character in both the first two monologues. It's the best thing I've ever written.

It's funny but one of the strongest reactions on Saturday night was about this husband character, Len, who we only hear about, we never see in Angela's Rainwatching. And another strong reaction was to the idea of seeing him in mine: everybody wants to see him, everybody wants to hear his side. But women who had been cheery with me until this point, positively turned on me: challenging me, I mean really threateningly challenging me, to try justifying this git. The look in their eyes!

I've never had such a good night - and nothing of mine was actually performed. But the power of Angela's piece, it was wonderfully affirming to see an audience reacting the way I believed they would.

What I didn't expect was the reaction after the show. Because of the panel, the audience knew what Angela looked like so they kept seeking her out in the bar. When we were leaving, people abandoned their conversations in mid-word to come over to her: not just to congratulate her, but to actually thank her for writing it.

And to give me a funny look about the sequel.

Wish you could've been there. I'll let you know when dates for the trilogy are announced - and in the meantime, fancy seeing what the fabulous writer Angela Gallagher looks like? Stop by her Breast Cancer Walk donations page and say Mr Angela sent you.