So today, I’m going to be rabbiting on about a screenplay I’ve been working on recently and all of the wonderful things that are helping to bring this particular piece of work to fruition. It’s called ‘Graves’ Girl‘ and it’s probably the most badass piece of work I’m writing out of the iconic trio of scripts I’m submitting this semester. But I’m just gonna give you a short synopsis of it first:
“Set in the 1970’s Marsha Gold, in her desperation, heads to one of new york’s most notorious strip clubs in search of a job, and quickly falls in love with her boss, Stanley Graves, an ex hitman. But all is not as it seems as remnants of his past come back to haunt him, namely his assassination of a high standing politician, Russo Salvatore, who swore to close all the illegal clubs in the city back in the 1960’s. Now, the politician’s son Salvatore Jr. is back for revenge and our protagonist is forced to adapt to the chaos, or be swallowed by it.”
Sounds great, right?
The first thing I’m going to tell you about this project is that it’s the first time I’ve shared writing duties before. Writing, for me, is such a personal thing. It’s something I do on my own. And, as someone who, outwardly, manifests themselves as a huge introvert, and inwardly has a mind that just won’t shut up, I tend to find that I get my best (and quickest) work done when I’m on my own. So working with someone else on a project was never on my radar.
Until it had to be.
Remember that book I talked about in my last post? The one by Pamela Douglas? Yeah, I’m mentioning that again. According to Douglas, I’m gonna have to get good at writing with other people and sharing my ideas with them, because it’s part and parcel of writing for television. So, I’m considering this screenplay to be me dipping my little toe into the dark and terrifying depths of collaboration.
It throws up so many issues for me that it’s hard to figure out where to begin. At times, during the writing process, I feel like I’m basically bombarding my co-writer, Jamie-Louise, with snippets from my dark and twisted mind (like a super villain, kinda). I’m finding it hard to strike the right balance in terms of how much I should be contributing, how much I should be communicating, how much of that bombarding I can get away with without sickening my writing partner off the project entirely. Because other people have lives too, you know? But I like a fast pace to any workflow and, no matter who I find myself working with, in any capacity, I feel like things become more considered and sometimes static.
I don’t know if this is me latching on to something that excuses my overthinking of all these interactions, but, according to the Myers-Briggs personality type model, I’m an ISFP. And lookie here:
“Freedom of expression is often ISFPs’ top priority. Anything that interferes with that, like traditions and hard rules, creates a sense of oppression for ISFP personalities. This can make more rigidly structured academics and work a challenge.” – 16 Personalities
That feeling of perhaps having to censor myself a little bit may just be the kicker here. Maybe we need more structure. Maybe more communication on my end. Maybe the fear of overwhelming someone else stems from me and that’s why the project is taking more time to come to fruition. Who knows?
I’ve also realised that different people have vastly different styles of writing and it’s helped me to better understand where I really shine as a writer. For example, Jamie-Louise is great at dealing with emotions and exploring the relationships and reactions of characters. I’m all about action scenes and dropping little pop culture easter eggs in there. It’s great because sometimes, in everyday life, I feel like a bit of a cold, emotionless robot, and that sometimes bleeds its way into my writing, so it’s helpful in having someone else to balance that out to give the script some emotional depth.
Ultimately, collaboration isn’t the most natural way for me to write, but I realise that this is something I’m going to have to master. I can’t just see all my works as my babies in the future and I can’t be too precious about them being ‘all me’ as it were. That’s never gonna make for great television, is it?
But anyway, I can’t speak for Jamie-Louise, but I’ve been having an absolute blast researching the 70’s and getting into the headspace of being able to write that time period.
Influence from that era is bleeding into so many aspects of pop culture today from fashion, to film, television to music. It’s everywhere.
One of the things that inspired the idea of this screenplay being centred on a club is an upcoming show called ‘I’m Dying Up Here‘. Produced by Jim Carrey, the show centres on various clubs and characters from the Los Angeles comedy scene in the 1970’s. From the trailers they’ve posted, the characters seem to be bonded together as a family.
I’ve spoken about the show more than a few times on this blog and there’s a number of aspects drawing me in here. First and foremost, the cast is stellar, with Melissa Leo, Clark Duke and Sebastian Stan all gracing our screens. Secondly, the grading on those trailers is blowing my mind; completely in keeping with the decade. And third… Jim Carrey! What’s not to love? Check out the trailer below:
Another piece of media that I was really taken with over the course of my research was Ben Wheatley’s ‘Free Fire‘ which was produced by Martin Scorsese. The film itself doesn’t really inform any aspects of the plot of ‘Graves’ Girl‘ but it did prove one thing: your plot doesn’t have to be overly complicated for your film to get its point across. The whole film takes place in a damn warehouse and yet, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen when I saw it. Oh and thanks to this film, I now know that you can survive for a looooooong time looking like a human Swiss cheese with all them bullet holes.
Let’s be real here, it wouldn’t be a post of my blog if I didn’t gush about who I’m listening to during the writing process.
As you would expect, Brian Fallon and Ryan Adams are staples on my playlist for this project. It’s all those twangy, 70’s guitar sounds that do it. Surprisingly enough, Lana Del Rey features heavily too. It’s not so much her actual sound that inspires the writing; it’s more in her lyrics that heavily document power imbalances in relationships, paralleling the relationship of Marsha and Stanley in this screenplay. I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t blaring a fair amount of Rolling Stones, Derek and the Dominos, and Blondie. It’s been one heck of a time for listening to great music.
But there’s one interesting by-product of that. I can’t actually listen to music while I write anymore. I don’t know the science or the psycho-babble to explain this, but I somehow end up typing the lyrics to whichever song I’m listening to, instead of some kick-ass dialogue. Weird.
But anyway. ‘Graves’ Girls‘. Woo.