Each time I prepare to type the words FADE IN, I am faced with more than a little trepidation. Each new story, each new film presents itself with a unique set of challenges. I might be working in a new genre; I might be tackling a new narrative or visual style, or creating a piece for an actor whose work I am unfamiliar with, or a thousand other things, none of which I can control.
All well and good. I flex my fingers, take a deep breath (and a swig of green tea) and dive in, headfirst. I enter this brave new world with abandon.
I am unafraid.
Or, rather, I was.
A little over a year ago, I was wandering the streets of Toluca Lake just after dawn, when I was bitten by the spark of a story. I was immediately drawn in; snapshots of scenes flashed before my eyes. I picked up my pace, and hurried home to pound out some beats.
A bit later, I sat in front of the computer, frozen. I tried to remember the shape of what I saw on my walk. What was the tone? Style? I worked and worked, and became completely frustrated. I told myself that I simply could not wrap my head around it, turned to something else, and let the story slip away.
Stories are funny things to those who create them. Once you permit them into your consciousness, you run the risk that they will develop a life of their own. Once they taste that spark of creation, they hunger for more. They sit with you, fermenting in your brain. They possess you late at night. They come to you at the most inopportune moments. They haunt you. They nag you. They demand to be told.
Thus, this story was for me. And yet, I turned away from it time and time again. I had – I have – other projects, some in post, some in pre-production, some still being developed. I don’t have the time – or the energy, I’d tell myself in the wee hours, when my muse hammered inside my brain, begging and pleading to once again be set free.
And so, I found myself awake a few days ago at 3 am. The witching hour; or as I like to think of it, the hour of the muse, for that is the time when I often find myself propelled from sleep straight into the act of creating.
I padded through my home with my thick wool socks banishing the chill of the autumnal air. We had experienced a cold front – temperatures had plummeted into the 40s at night. It was practically winter for L.A., another bonus for me, as I thrive in cool climes. I yawned as I poured myself a cup of green tea, and sat down in an oversized chair, snuggling up with a blanket and a couple of kitties. On the table in front of me were two books by Steven Pressfield – The Warrior Ethos and The War of Art. I picked up the latter, and flipped to a random page:
“A Professional Acts in the Face of Fear
The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.
What Henry Fonda does, after puking into the toilet of his dressing room, is to clean up and march out onstage. He’s still terrified but he forces himself forward in spite of his terror. He knows that once he gets out into the action, his fear will recede and he’ll be okay.”
I tilted my head back, and closed my eyes. There it was again, that whispering, pleading voice. I waved it away, and yet, it did not silence. I began to plot out my day: I was putting an actor on tape, I was reviewing edits of a short, I was pulling stock footage for a sizzle reel.
But the voice did not silence. I channeled a sort of reverse inner Scrooge and told myself that the voice was really hunger. I walked into the kitchen to boil an egg… and that is when it hit me.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t wrap my head around the story.
It was that I was afraid of it.
And so, here I sit, a few days later, working on my newest script, which I plan to film. It is a short. It’s told mainly through visuals: moments in characters’ lives as we follow them through one day, a sort of cinema vérité look at a part of our world, and our society, that few see, or would ever want to. I can only manage to get out about a half to three-quarters of a page out per day, for it is that mentally and emotionally draining for me, to face this fear.
And, because it is so, I know I must.
Now, go write.
HRH, Princess Scribe
Great… since you are all about visuals… one day lets do coffee and you can explain TO THE WONDER … to me… cause I keep thinking I understood it but I realize I did not…and yet somehow I enjoyed it but mostly I learned from it…and that was the coolest part of it all.
🙂 Malick’s style is a thing to behold; he is a conductor of his films… they are a symphony of images and emotions. Definitely not cinema verite 😉 But yes, let’s grab coffee, it would be great to see you!