Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Shifting Shrifa.

I have become an accomplished Procrastinator.
How long is it since I wrote: 'Buzzing with energy, I'm ready to restart writing my screenplay ?'
It's been a month, if not more.

Having decided to rename Rachel (my main character) Shifra , an avalanche of exciting new ideas and people rushed into my life. They mostly arrived via the Internet. My imagination was fired, but the screen play became like a damp squib. More graphically, like a box of sodden fireworks.
When the surge of new ideas and mind opening information subsided, everything regarding the screenplay went blank and then mute.
Every time I sat down to write, I was plagued by a dreadful feeling I simply couldn't do this anymore. I felt empty, perplexed,then completely discouraged.

My bare bones Pitch, this is the film's storyline in the briefest possible synopsis, omits all the interesting bits I feel give the screenplay it's specialness.

The Pitch:

A young talented Jewish (disinherited) French artist's illegitimate baby is abducted in Paris. When a clairvoyant foretells the baby will not be found but she ( the baby) will find the mother 18 years later in South America, Shifra, the mother along with her Bolivian street performer boyfriend emigrate to Bolivia to start a new life teaching circus arts, music and dance to thousands of street children.
Many challenges follow until 18 years later Shifra's elderly alcoholic mother turns up with the 18 year old daughter, a talented singer with a promising future and a fatal flaw. It emerges that Shirfa's late father arranged the abduction, and an ancient family theme of racial hatred is exposed and finally put to rest.'

A really good pitch would be about a tenth of the above.

To explain the back story why Shirfa has been disinherited, why her wealthy parents dysfunctional family life included racism, why the role of the family's kindly grandfatherly Bolivian Butler in Shifra's upbringing is still important, and so much more, all have felt impossibly difficult to show.

Screenplays are all about showing, not about explaining verbally.

The rich creative backdrop of Shifra's installation art work, her improvised music and dance, her partners acrobatics and street theater, each become healing tools which give the film's story a powerful visual impact.
'It sounds pretty tragic to me,' said a friend when I gave her the first brief pitch.
But it's not at all I said silently, sighing inwardly. It's inspirational beautiful and moving. It's a perfect example of how creativity can transcend and heal any tragedy. But I didn't have the energy to explain this to her. That day I was running on empty.

Oh God!
The alchemy of creative energy.
When it goes, where does it go ?

After writing the book, (which charts the journey to Chile to find a story to make into a film), after publishing the book, after dreaming the film has been produced, and picturing myself in a queue at a cinema waiting to see it, after taking a summer course in storyboarding so I can storyboard it, I'm stumped.
It feels like I had all the equipment to mount a fabulous firework display, but now that equipment is useless.

So what do you do with an enormous box of damp squibs?

I bought a book called Your Writing Coach.

I read the book avidly and loved it. But back in front of my screenplay, in my studio, the disappointment and frustration rolled right back. No chapter addressed my specific problem : namely, that the most interesting part of my films story, I think, comes right at the end. It's like a whole new story starts right at the end of the film.

How can I change this ?

Do I have to include the end story? How important is it?

This has been the wall I've been hitting my head against for many months. Recently, the what ifs and the whys and all the other question writers ask themselves wouldn't come.
The inner voice became silent.
Something was seriously wrong.

There was a sense of silent grieving, of failure, of sadness, and some shame. I didn't tell anybody. The story I had gone all the way to Patagonia to find wasn't going to become a film. How could this possibly be ?

Finally, today, partly thanks to the book which got me back to asking probing questions, I've discovered the problem, and now amazingly, a solution. It happened so fast. Then spontaneously , syncronistically, the Universe confirmed all this procrastination as a kind of rite of passage, a necessary part of the writers journey. The wise and illuminating words of the poet David Whyte hit the spot...

But first,The Problem:

I've been trying to write a screenplay which has at least ten separate possible themes!
I've haven't allowed myself for one moment to veer off the original story idea and create something completely new. It's been like I made a pact with myself I couldn't break.

The Ten too many Themes:

1. Family Issues leading to disinheritance.
2. Pregnancy, fathers who leave before their child is born.
3. Abduction, Clairvoyance, immigration.
4. Working with street kids to change the chip (in ones own head).
5. Ex pat life in South America.
6. How to cope with the death of a child.
7. Suicide.
8. Living your dream in a foreign country.
9. Meeting an abducted (or adopted) child after an eighteen year disappearance.
10. Forgiving alcoholic parents for their dysfunctional parenting.

The solution:

I've narrowed it down to just a few themes, and I've found a new one to add!
I've 'asked' each story how much potential it has to 'show' that creativity and compassion can heal anything, even the pain of abduction, and the reality of not being wanted.
The bit I've still to figure out is how to show the faith that an intelligence far greater than ourselves is the only real key to authentic healing. This has been the missing theme from all of the above.

Finally, by bringing the end story to the beginning of the film, by using innovative animation to explain the back stories, something hugely exciting and completely new has emerged.


The energy is buzzing again. The Stalking Procrastinator has taken a sabbatical.

And then the Universe with exquisite timing revealed that all this stalling is a kind of rite of passage, it's all part of the bigger picture:

'Stay in the place (of unknowing*) until the current of the story is strong enough to float you out...'

' Apprentice yourself to yourself...'

'Become the source that makes the river flow...'

from David Whyte's CD The Poetry of Self Compassion.
More on the new screenplay ideas very soon!

"If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it." ~Andy Rooney

* of unknowing are my words.
Your Writing Coach is by Jurgen Wolff