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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Collaborating

Writing to me is a very personal and private matter. I cannot think of anything worse than having to write or type with someone else reading over my shoulder. My thoughts shy away immediately and I'm left staring at the screen.

When I was therefore asked if I wanted to write together, my answer was a very loose yes. To me it was a future possibility, but I had no idea what we could write together. I had many ideas for features and shorts, but they were all mine. I knew some of them inside out, how could I let someone else into that? Even if that person was my husband.

The reality is that our scripts are never really our scripts. Sure, we are the ones who give it life, create a whole new world with what we believe to be extraordinary characters. We open our minds and let it all pour out. This is our baby, we give birth to it, but as is the case with any child, you prepare them for the world and before you know it, they are influenced and moulded by others. Who they are to become won't be dictated by one person alone.

Every time someone gives us notes on a script, whether it be a friend, family or a professional, the final draft is becoming less 'ours'. It becomes a collaboration of thoughts and opinions, hopefully turning it into a better stronger piece. If it then becomes optioned, produced, directed, yet again there will be a series of re-writes influenced by other players. Never mind if it gets sold, then there is no telling how many different voices those pages will contain.

Considering all of the above, the idea of co-writing shouldn't be so absurd, unless like me, you are a control freak. I realise my way of doing things isn't the only way, and possibly not the best way either, but it's my way, so deal with it.


The first thing I had to do was learn to let go. It wasn't my script, it was our script. From the moment we agreed to write together, we had to write together. I confess having trouble understanding that. Before we even had a chance to talk about an outline I had a draft ready and would send it to him for a re-write. If he then gave me positive feedback, I would get upset that he wasn't taking it seriously, if he actually re-wrote it and replaced my words - how dare he. That was project one.

Next, we worked on our first pilot for a sitcom. This was a huge learning curve and it's taught us both, hopefully, how we work together best, and worse. I was still writing, and my partner re-writing, but I was a lot more open this time and welcomed the changes and opinions. We openly talked about what was working and what wasn't and together tried to work around the problems. We actually made the time to sit together and talk about it. After all, we did live together, why was it so hard to actually talk face to face about a script? 

Our current project is another pilot and we are doing things differently. Before putting anything to paper, we've talked about it, where we each see it going, what our thoughts are about it, the series potential, the focus and who are the main characters and their motivations. Next, we did a rough outline, also together.
I am now in the process of writing the first scenes and we have both realised that we need to sit down and talk further about the scenes and get a proper beat sheet done before we move any further. 
To me, it's a slower process than what I'm used to, but hopefully it will save us time in the long run and re-writes will be easier, if there is such a thing as an easy re-write.

The main benefit to me in co-writing is having someone else know the story inside out, together we are able to edit and re-write possibly faster than solo as one can spot different weaknesses than the other. If one has a writer's block, the other can offer suggestions. You get the gist. Two minds work better than one. I have also learned to let go, share, and well, work together.

Finally, co-writing doesn't mean you always have to co-write. I can and should have my own separate projects, which I can work on in-between the co-writes and can make it as me as I want and can be as selfish as I want about it. Even if these turn out to be not as good as the others, at least it's something that's my own voice.

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