Thursday, 17 February 2011

Urban Endings

For the last however many years, the tradition on our course has been that everyone submits a script and a couple are chosen for an end of year film. We made two last year, for which our class was divided into two groups and we were all allocated roles. On top of working on grad films and second year's end of term films, they were an incredible learning curve, and I really think that the best way to learn professional practice is to be thrown in at the deep end and be made to fend for ourselves.

This year though, things are being done a little differently. As opposed to one person getting to direct and the rest of us being given jobs accordingly, we're all getting a chance to conceive, produce and direct a two-minute short. The brief? It has to be the final two minutes of a film. Two locations at most, at least one line of dialogue, and a maximum of three characters. On paper it looks relatively simple.. In fact, no, it doesn't. Upon hearing it at first it sounds relatively simple. Now that we're being given the brief it's gone from "oh, that sounds pretty interesting!" to "OH GOD, I AM ONLY BARELY COMPETENT AT EVERYTHING ELSE NEVER MIND A SATISFYING ENDING".

Endings have always given me some trouble. I have a Shyamalamalamam-esque fondness for the good old-fashioned 'twist' ending, although I'm fully aware of how badly it can be executed. For every time I've seen a properly satisfying, conclusive yet still shocking 'twist', there are scores of clunking, obvious twists thrown in to instigate deliberate shock value- or, worse, thrown in just for the sake of a twist ending. It's especially difficult when trying to come up with an ending and THEN follow it up with a beginning and a middle.

I've chosen to do mine on one of my ideas which I'd sent to Richard. It was an idea Richard seemed to quite like and that I'd begun to develop, but was far from having an ending for. The ending is the crucial moment, the one last chance to leave your audience breathless, to make them feel like the two hours or so they've spent invested in your plot, story and characters has been worthwhile. It's the difference between a good film and a truly great, memorable work. Even ignoring the 'twist' ending, even if there isn't one, there still has to be a conclusion of some form- whether it be a cathartic one or one which leaves the audience asking questions. Since we had a mere weekend to come up with our pitches for the brief, I sent one which I'd already worked on and in my opinion it already seems kind of rushed. I've already come up with a couple more I think would be more suitable, or interesting... But in terms of applying the tactic to screenwriting in general, I think it's a valuable way of looking at things. Since endings have always been a sticking point for me, it might be something I apply to further scripts which I have to come up with... and it's always helpful to come up with new ways of writing. After all, how do you know what works for you if you don't try it? There's more than just one way to write, same as with anything really.

I'm actually really looking forward to the project, mild panic attacks and confidence taking a knock aside. In all honesty, I know I haven't been as focused on my school work as I should have been in the last couple of weeks. But something strange has come out of it... a new desire to show what I can do. Shooting someone else's script with shots and set-ups done according to their vision is one thing, but it's something else to execute a piece of work that's entirely your own. It's a chance, I think, for me to finally say: "hey! Fuck you! This is what I can do". I'm not the most proficiently technical person in the class, but I have an imagination in there somewhere. I always thought my background in studying film history and art was irrelevant after starting the course (apart from being slightly ahead in our CCS classes with Andy), but I think this could be the chance to put what I've learned to good use. It's one thing to be technically skilled, it's another to know all the theoretical and historical context of what you do, and it's a different beast altogether to tie all this together and come up with something that is entirely your own. Here's hoping this new-found determination lasts, and I can finally prove that I didn't just get into the course by sneaking in through the side door.

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