Thursday, 11 February 2010

Location, Location, Location

Last Sunday me, co-writer Jonathan Benson and producer/director John Goldschmidt went on a field trip. Actually, we went location scouting. I should clarify. This has absolutely nothing to do with shooting anything. We are still a long way off that. But it became apparent when looking at the last draft, that there was both a lack of visual information in the script, and not a good enough sense of place.

So we went to have a look at one. It may not be the area the actual film is set in, and almost certainly wouldn't be somewhere to shoot in, but for reasons I can't go into, it resonated with the world of the fictional story we had created.

From a writing point of view, I found it really useful. I often find myself in the habit of being able to visualise something in my head, and therefore, because I have managed this extraordinary feet, assume that somehow everyone who reads the script will have the same picture in theirs. This of course is ridiculous. Whilst you have to be wary of the dangers of overwriting, nothing can be assumed. The only way to convey visual images is to write them on the page. I think this is a weakness in my screenwriting and with the help of the others, I am working really hard on this.

Because it doesn't really matter where your story is set. A real place, a fictional somewhere that mirrors a real place, the wild west, outer space or Middle Earth. It's got to be plausible. It's often said that screenwriting is not about making up stories or creating characters. It's about creating a world, and then letting all the rest happen in that place. But it's going to be really difficult to do that if you don't know what your world looks like.

I've got a better idea of the one we're working on now. And the next draft has got to be done this weekend. I hope it pays off.


Tom Murphy said...

Hi Jez

On my MA (at Bournemouth) they put a lot of stress on observational research and the importance of 'arena': one of the units involved visiting a location for five days, compiling an observational diary and then using it as the basis for a 30-minute script.

I found it really useful - particularly, as you say, in terms of spotting telling details that you can incorporate into strong imagery.

It also reinforced a point I read somewhere: 'Research is the antidote to cliché'. If you're basing something on what you've observed in 'the real world', you're less likely to default to some beat or bit of narrative grammar we've all seen on film or TV a million times before.

(If you're interested, here's a blog post about the unit, together with my - not totally successful - script)

Take care

Jez Freedman said...

If I had a quid for every time John has told me research is key - I wouldn't have to write any more movies!

Loved your blog - I did something similar at Highbury many years ago whilst at secondary school