A year and change after I began a script originally entitled “The Good Book,” I am finally comfortable with shutting down Final Draft 8 for several months and starting the storyboard process. That script will be the next picture I direct and produce (my third feature). Its title is, and has been for some time, WESTERN GRIP.
Now, while this is the third feature film I will have made, it is not my third finished movie script by a long-shot. Much like the RZA in the early 90′s, I have a basement filled with beats. Some were written with the idea of me directing and making the film in mind during the writing process and some were not. This one most definitely was. I began writing it as a sort of escape while editing Regretting Fish in Spring 2011 and, ironically enough, I finish it as Fish‘s prolific festival run slowly comes to a fruitful end. Needless to say, the act of working on a script while attending festivals, watching one’s previous $12,000 effort screen in multiple venues across the country gives one, to say the least, an element of caution in their keystroke whilst executing their most novel of efforts. In spite of Fish‘s successes and my overall satisfaction with the picture, I had an axe to grind while hacking away at Western Grip: kill the playwright and bury him.
Well, not only did I bury him, I fucking dismembered him systematically, dissolved the remains in a vat of phosphoric acid, and laid cement over that vat at a construction site in Secaucus, NJ. And, while watching the filmmaker in me slowly choke-out the playwright in me over the course of a year and change, I learned four crucial things:
- As I get older, writing films doesn’t get easier. It gets harder. This isn’t because I’m losing it, as I initially feared. It’s because I’m getting better. Better means pickier. Much pickier. I’m deleting more pages. That’s a good thing. More writers should do it.
- Writing plays did me some good as a filmmaker. But, it wasn’t fine-tuning my knack for useless, witty banter. It served as a medium where I could purge all that childish, unnecessarily elongated fecal matter out of my system. Actions propel a movie. Dialogue should be used as a last resort.
- Plot is the only character that matters. Characters are merely pawns of the plot. Write a movie like you’re telling a joke in a bar: fast with a shot list. After all, characters are merely what they do and nothing more. What they do is a function of the plot. Plot is God, and God is good.
- It takes me at least a year to write a good script. Anything written in less simply isn’t ready.
As for the plot of Western Grip, at this point, I am reluctant to say anything more than that it is a Neo-Noir Crime Thriller, an Opera of violence and betrayal that takes place in Texas. STAY TUNED…