There has been some uncharacteristic productivity here of late, namely, that there has been any. As most writers will refuse to admit to, the actual process of writing often involves anything but. Checking email, social networking and other procrastinatey pursuits are frequently employed to do something, anything, other than what you’re meant to be doing. I.e, to write. But in between retweaking the website the past two or three weeks has been spent drafting projects that will hopefully one day be made flesh. And to act as a jinx after all this good writery fortune, we’ve decided it would be a good idea to tell you about it. Because the chances of that backfiring are extremely remote, right?
This project is, in fact, one we have told you about before. The dedicated Studio 279 acolytes out there may recall our discussing the piece in our film funding posts a few months back, applications which weren’t, alas, successful. The project was intended to be my final twenty-minute film at university, a film noir inspired by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett fiction, one which utilized a modern technological twist: green screen sets with the fictional American metropolis being realised with hand drawn sketches. However, the intervention of a gaggle of drama students, who turned the green screen into a stage for rehearsing a musical, along with lack of support from some course leaders, killed it stone dead. The project has since come and gone in a variety of guises: a twenty-minute short film version, an expanded (and thoroughly awful) feature-length version, and, most recently, as a five-minute proof of concept trailer to secure more funding for a longer stab. All of these, so far have been fruitless endeavours.
So, the drawing board has been returned to. This project has numerous problems, among them being the ambition, the technical challenge, the length of the thing, and the process of writing it. Some of these feed into one another. Part of the reason the film is so hard to write, aside from adopting a hard-boiled Chandlerean patter, is that there is not enough time to tell the story in a satisfactory way. The other main issue was one of location. As anyone who sat through George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels will tell you, it is very difficult to get a sense of place in front of a green screen. Why? Because it is not a real place. Writing the films was so hard because unlike a physical location, I had no idea what this city was really like, so making it live on the page was impossible. Not anymore!
The breakthrough came twofold. First, came the city. In order to write this city, know this city, breathe this city, I had to properly invent this city. Roads, subways, hospitals, banks, nightclubs, the works. By working out the minutiae of the town, it is now possible to send the lead character, an archetypal private detective, to any street knowing which one it leads onto. As well as creating a sure to be unhealthy sense of omnipotence as fake town founder/city planner/minor deity, it has helped writing the thing no end. The other breakthrough is to mirror the old masters themselves. Hammett and Chandler originally wrote short stories for pulp detective magazines like Black Mask. Later they cannibalized the short versions and fashioned them into their great novels. As such, the single film project is now a web series, linked by the same fictional metropolis and revolving around the characters who populate the potential feature. Sleazy photographers, corrupt politicians, oil barons, they’re all here! Currently three scripts have been drafted, each around ten minutes in length, with hopefully more to be added. We have our eye on various funding options so hopefully the passion for the project will shine through and it will get made sooner rather than later.
Chief among these is the Sky Arts Ignition Futures Fundin association with the good people at IdeasTap. Artists aged between 18 and 30 have the opportunity to secure £30,000 to fund their work for a full year, be it dance, theatre, art or film. This last one is where our interest lies, and from now until the September 19th deadline we will be working hard to draft scripts, budget budgets and work on supporting materials (in our case, lots and lots of pretty drawings) to prove we may be worthy of such riches. For all you arty sorts, check out the link above, and you better join IdeasTap to promote your creative wares, because they are great.
I shall now head back to going through the script with a fine tooth comb, working out how many drawings I need to do to give them a good idea how episode one will look. Unfortunately for me, there are a lot…