Just write it
Let me begin with couple of disclaimers:
1. I’m not formally trained as a screenwriter, have never had a class on screen writing, never attended a writing group, not even while I lived in Pasadena - and I’ve never written a script before.
2. I’ve never written a screenplay before or been involved in a production which means that I have no experience in the genre to compare this experience to – but this can also be a strength since I have no preconceived notions to fit this experience into – my only thoughts in conceiving this project has been in conceiving it in CVR.
What are you going to learn in this blog? My approach to the script. First, its purpose is to create an environment that conveys the essence of Elizabeth Barrett Browning – that gives a sense of who she was in her totality. My first approach was to write it like a script for theatre in the round. I put no limits on the script—went all in to create the illusion to the point of fairly extensive direction notes. Then I went to our second production meeting and, as my director likes to say, the idea was out there – a blob that now belongs to everyone on the team (which is great, by the way) and which everyone is going to make the best they possibly can. When the realization hit me, that I was no longer solely responsible for my idea, I immediate relaxed. Lesson 1: The blob belongs to everyone. And everyone pointed out the problems with the script – too many characters, too much time, too stilted language. So I began again.
This time, though, I approached it after a writing session with Gabe that helped me refocus on viewer experience and the hero’s responses.
The rewrite began with a lot of thinking and reframing my approach. Something that is obvious that I didn’t consider until the rewrite is that CVR is on an X, Y, and Z-axis. The Z is what helped me most in the rewrite – it focused me on the problem of how to use the Z, specifically with the spatial audio. So I called my audio designer and asked a simple question: How much control do you have over amplitude when viewer changes visual focus? Five minutes later I had an answer (have I mentioned how great my team is?) and began rewriting. Lesson 2: Think in the Z.
Because the CVR is visually limited by a fixed focal length, and because this version firmly sets the viewer as part of the narrative, I thought of the action as two concurrent scripts – an inner primary script taking place near the camera and a secondary set of converstations further away from the camera and on the periphery of the primary conversation. From there I broke the original script into what characters would actually share with a newcomer and what might be interesting enough to divert a viewer’s attention from the main conversation and make them want to overhear. In other words, the second script is not conceived as linear – as much control as possible over what to watch is given the viewer. How this will impact viewer experience is one of the questions I’m seeking to answer in my dissertation. This is a new medium – no preconceived realities – only a whole bunch of potentialities which leads me to Lesson 3: Play with the form.
Our third production meeting was this week. I was looking forward to hearing what the team thought and to making changes in reshaping the blob. We delayed until next week so everyone could take a second, closer look. I know this won't be the script's last iteration - we still have to cast and then the actors will have their interpretation of their character & will add their own style to the piece. Lesson 4: Give artists freedom.