For me, it's never enough just to have an idea for a film. There are lots of film ideas out there. I feel like every second person I meet has one—they tell you an anecdote and finish off with: There you go. You should make a short film about that. It's sweet and they usually mean well.
But why tell this story?
It's a question I ask myself, at some point, on every project I develop. Sometimes the answer is very clear. TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW was a film born out of love and driven by anger. It was me looking at the treatment of women in the theatre industry—and the arts community at large—and feeling angry. The 'why' was apparent to me from the start.
In the case of another film I've been developing—a script I wrote late last year—I came to realise it was less about the project's questions and more about my growth as a filmmaker, making a film that was more nuanced, more subtle, a film that took me in a slightly different direction as a storyteller. Thematically, it continues an exploration of isolation, grief and self that has become a running thread through my work, but in some ways, it's a smaller, more personal story.
This script I'm working on at the moment though? I'm not so sure... As mentioned in an earlier post, I'm currently developing a proof-of-concept short to sit alongside a feature film. I believe the premise is a good one, and I'm fascinated by the setting, the themes, the tone. It feels dangerous to me, somehow—and I like that.
And yet I've been struggling to write the short. I'm trying to be kind of myself and not let the frustration and sense of inadequacy get in the way. But I think it's time to ask the question of why.
Why tell this story? What do I really have to say?
And I think the 'why' of it all is important when looking at this short, because I've chosen to write something of a prequel to the feature, from the perspective of the antagonist. The logic behind this was to get to know that character better and understand why she might do the things she does.
But in some ways, it also means that I'm trying to reverse-engineer a story. I'm writing backwards instead of forwards. I'm going sideways and getting a little lost. I've also been letting the character wallow, because that's why I've been doing—wallowing in tone and place and losing any sense of urgency.
So that's the goal for today: to write with a sense of urgency; to find the urgent, desperate need driving the character, driving this story; to follow that thread and see where I end up.
Because I think the 'why' of this film lies at the end of that tether.