Writing through fear

I've been grappling a lot with fear of late, struggling with my writing and the circling thoughts that result from coming up short. For my latest project, I have a strong sense of the world that I'm exploring and a lot of thematic material and questions—almost too much. It's become unwieldy, and trying to find the story in it all has been hard.

I've also spent a lot of time going down the wrong path in terms of genre and tone. I've been feeling very lost in it all. And I've been experiencing a lot of fear—at times, feeling crippled by it. I can only imagine it as being akin to stage fright.

And I've thought a lot about why I might be feeling this way...

My last film, MEAT, was a tremendous challenge in terms of execution. It had a large cast of actors playing teenagers, we had stunts including a car accident and a fight scene, as well as other large, challenging set pieces to film. And my producer and I were more or less first timers. But I felt more confident in the writing itself. I think this was, in part, because it started as a monologue, so there was a solid foundation for the screenplay. We also had a lengthy development period (a year, including four months of weekly development sessions at Metro Screen) which meant that I had a significant amount of time to sort out issues. Plus, I knew less—you don't know what you don't know.

My current project is a whole different kettle of fish though. I'm shooting in July on a project that is still only at treatment stage (and has only been in development since late February). It's less plot driven, much more ideas driven, about a topic and a world that is very important to me, and very topical at the moment. I feel a weight of responsibility to "get it right". Stylistically, too, I've set myself a challenging task (which I'll go into more at a later date).

It seems important to mention here that yeah, I get it—it's just a film, one more in what I plan on being a career of films. I even have other projects in development for production over the next few years. So I'm not resting all my hopes and expectations on this one (I've done that before and it's a lesson in disappointment). But still, to do right by yourself and your collaborators, you have to work as hard as you can to make every project worth your time and investment, and theirs. Plus, the question I ask myself: what contribution is my film making to the cultural landscape? i.e. Why make this film?

So the outcome has been fear, and lots of it. And for the last few days, I've sat with that like a constant gnawing in my gut. Despite looming deadlines, I needed a break from my treatment. I needed time to think, mull, and watch other filmmakers' films, see how they've done it. Last night I caught up with some friends from VCA (we've been on Easter break this week) and it was a relief to find them in a similar position. As I've talked about previously, writing is a lonely art form, and it's easy to feel like you're stuck out in the wilderness of your project on your own. Turns out everyone else is lost and walking in circles too, just beyond the horizon.

That's been my week. I returned to my treatment today after a two-day break and I'm seeing things a little more clearly. It definitely feels like I'm making progress.