Here it is, the last in this grand, self-indulgent saga of me explaining how my mind works when I try to write things that are (I hope) in some way, likeable to someone. I will admit, that on the eve of my final deadline before summer, I’m a little bit contemplative about what the future holds and whether, ultimately, embarking on an MA was the right decision, much in the same way as I did a year ago when I was wrapping up my journalism degree. But I’ll get on to why I’m feeling that way towards the end of this post.
In this edition, I’m going to be revisiting a project I’ve previously talked about – ‘Give My Ashes To The Coast‘ – and talking about the final product and how it’s evolved from the idea I posted way, way back in February. After that, I’m going to be addressing how writing about what I know has helped in my evolution as a writer. And finally, I’m going to be offering up some thoughts on blogging as a form of reflection on my creative practice in contrast to other methods. I hope I don’t bore you all to death in the process because I have a feeling this might be a rather lengthy entry.
So! First and foremost, I’m really stoked about ‘Give My Ashes To The Coast‘. It’s been a wonderful journey, writing this particular piece of work because, actually, it’s the first remotely sad thing I’ve ever written. Up until now, I’ve always written rather dark, macabre pieces of work that almost parody the idea of death and use humour to cover up the much more sinister undertones of my work. It’s kind of a reflection of how I am as a person; constantly using a smile, a laugh and sarcastic humour as a coping mechanism for my own problems because I’m far too much of a coward to tell anyone or to face them head on. Writing something that is so explicitly sad and having small parts of my own outlook on the world as the main driver for the project has been an unexpectedly therapeutic aspect of undertaking it. Not only that but that old writing adage – ‘write what you know‘ – has undoubtedly added to the emotional impact of the work as a whole.
But it isn’t just me and my own experiences. I had previously mentioned that the work is inspired by Deaf Havana’s latest album ‘All These Countless Nights‘ and the clear narrative that I was able to pick up from that particular work. When I embarked on the project, I felt like simply basing a screenplay on an album was an incredibly superficial way to go about creating something that I had already attached so much meaning to, and so thought it was necessary to go back and tease out some of the underlying issues behind the piece of work I wanted to create.
I had always been aware of the frank way in which musicians such as Deaf Havana had addressed the real life struggles musicians face; whether it be financially or mentally. In fact, the band address this in a recent interview where they talk about the amount of debt they managed to accrue while touring in support of their third album, ‘Old Souls‘ and the pressure that managed to put on the band. As someone who wrote extensively about the issue of musicians’ financial struggles, I was able to call upon one particular example from Music Producer, Count Eldridge’s documentary, ‘Unsound‘, where he offers the shocking statistic that only 1% of musicians can sustain themselves financially in the digital age. This is just one of the issues that my screenplay addresses in some way.
The second main issue my screenplay addresses is the emotional strain that musicians face. As I’ve previously mentioned, Deaf Havana themselves, along with musicians such as Frank Turner and even Bruce Springsteen touch on this in their work.
The idea for the main protagonist in my screenplay to actually experience the height of his own struggles after what looks to be his band’s final tour actually came from Bruce Springsteen’s recent autobiography, ‘Born To Run‘ where he talks about his own struggles with depression:
It also remains congruent with research that indicates that 68.5 percent of musicians believed they had experienced depression, while 71.1 percent believed they had experienced anxiety and panic attacks, compared to the 19 percent of people in the UK aged 16 or older who had said they had experienced anxiety or depression (Gross & Musgrave, 2016).
Ultimately, though, because I wanted to write something that doesn’t end well for my main protagonist, I wanted to kill him off at the end after he succumbs to his own demons. There’s even a nod to the infamous ’27 Club’ in there too. Everyone loves a rock star death, really, don’t they?
So going forward with these projects that I’ve been working on, I am planning on continuing with ‘Fangirls‘. It’s an excellent opportunity to develop my severely lacking filmmaking skills and to create more short episode scripts to showcase my understanding of how to actually carry through an entire story. Myself and my team are going to begin filming this over the summer and I’m hoping to have the first episode, ‘#SpiderSquad‘ online in July and continuing on a weekly basis after that for the other four episodes. As previously mentioned, the project aims to serve as a primer for my MA project, ‘The West End Cultists,’ in the sense that all the kinks with my film making and editing skills should be ironed out when the production of ‘Fangirls,‘ is complete, allowing me to create a better end product. With ‘Graves’ Girl‘, I feel like the project needs further work and development. It’s pitched as a short film right now, but it does have the potential to be extended to feature length. Some of the characters are gravely underdeveloped and certain minor aspects of the story can be teased out more. The main aspects where the project does shine is that it has served the purpose of personal development in the sense that I was able to collaborate with another writer on it and it’ll definitely go in my portfolio as is for the time being. Similarly, ‘Give My Ashes To The Coast‘, is going to be a mainstay in my portfolio. I feel like the quality of my writing on this project is by far the strongest and it tells a complete, satisfying project with the length that it’s at right now. It also satisfies the requirements of a long short by The Academy’s definition, so there is no need to extend the project over the course of the summer. Not that I’m planning on making a kick ass movie out of this and taking The Oscars by storm next year, as much as I’d like to. Last, but by no means least, I’ll be continuing ‘The Berlin Bug‘. It’s always good to have a back up and I’m a trained journalist, so a travel blog, complete with eye catching images, is a great way to update my existing journalism portfolio. This particular project has prompted me to go back to some of my old music photography and give it an editing update and to think of interesting articles to keep the project alive by delving into my own experience of traveling (that same experience that inspired ‘Fangirls‘).
I just want to round off this blog post by talking about the process of documenting my creative output on blogs. I was reading back through my posts over the course of my MA, even dating back to the tail end of my journalism degree and I had found that I had, pretty much inadvertently, managed to maintain an interesting and insightful recollection of my creative process and the influences behind my projects. It also made me realise how my goals have changed, where I began to find my own ‘niche’ during my MA and the mindset I’ve been in all this time.
At first, when the notion of ‘documenting your practice’ was thrown at me at the beginning of my MA, I kind of balked at the idea. I didn’t see the merit of it, contrary to what a plethora of academics may have written about it. I mean, I just sit down and I write things. Or when I have to film, I grab a camera and I do it. I don’t attach any meaning to things like that while I do it and I’m not the type of person to sit and actually ponder that. But, for the purposes of getting through certain classes, I had to find a way to document my practice. Blogging was always going to be the thing I gravitated towards because I’ve unknowingly been documenting my practice all along! I hadn’t realised that until last night.
I feel like utilising blogs to actually contextualise and document my output has been such an easy, insightful and even enjoyable thing for me to do, in comparison to penning an entire essay at the last kick or having to actually talk about my work in front of actual people (it goes beyond introversion; public speaking is just a plain fear of mine). Perhaps it’s because I get to make use of a rich array of resources such as video content and external hyperlinks that I wouldn’t think to use in an essay. Or it may even be in the fact that I get to write in a more informal sense, safe in the knowledge that it actually might make sense (compared to verbally explaining things, which I just plain suck at). But honestly, it’s because I’m a writer. I have a style that doesn’t translate well into the crisp white expanse of a blank word document destined for Turnitin, and with blogs, I get to use that to my advantage.
In fact, I can pinpoint when I realised that no, I don’t want to make music documentaries (which was my main reason for applying for this particular course), I’m gonna make films instead. I know when I realised that I categorically sucked at making films and that my mum had been right along – I’m a damn good writer. And I’m fairly certain I’m going to look back on this post, a few months down the line, and remember exactly when I decided to blog about my experiences more, because it helps. So yes, documenting your practice is important.