I decided tonight to dust off one of my old screenplays I had never finished. Back in the year 1999 I had started writing a fantasy film. A feature film. I had planned to write it and shoot it on a small budget. So, like many screenplays I wrote back then I would make sure that whatever I wrote I might actually be able to pull off. That means curbing some of your more glorious ideas in order to make way for more reasonable ones. Many times this can lead to more creativity. When it comes to writing a fantasy film however, that doesn’t always work.
I’ve always had a place in my heart for classical medieval magical style fantasy films. Though I’ve never been a big reader of fantasy novels, I did grow up like many boys fantasizing about being a knight and fighting with a sword and going on some grand quest. But because I never got really in depth with it I had never becaome tainted by the concepts of elves, orcs and goblins like so many fantasy fans seem to. In fact even to this day I still don’t understand some peoples obsession with elves. I’d rather not deal with such creatures. Human beings are complex enough.
In fact, I’d rather not deal with a lot of things that many fantasy films seem to exibit. Like fans of vampires, fans of the fantasy genre get so irrate if you do something that doesn’t already fit the predefined conceptions of a given thing. For instance if you decide not to give elves pointy ears you might as well have held a gun to their mothers head. You’re already a criminal in their eyes.
But I like to draw outside the lines a little bit. Fantasy is one of those weird genres that has both boundaries and no boundaries at the same time. Should you decide to do something completely off the wall you’re ok. But should you decide you might just want to play with the ideas of knights and dragons and wizards, you better not paint too far outside the lines.
That said my screenplay falls somewhere in that grey area. The story and the characters have a certain eclectic quality about them that makes things a little different. But knights and dragons and wizards are abound.
The screenplay had reached about 80 pages when I stopped writing it. In the screenwriting world a properly formatted screenplay should equal out to about one page per minute of screen time. Which means I was already up to about 80 minutes. But I felt like the story was far from done. I hadn’t been writing it concise enough. I was going into too much detail, too much dialogue and not enough action.
At the time I began working on other things and put it on the back burner. I revisited the story for a short time a few years later, thinking I might turn it into a stop motion animation film. But that idea also fell quickly out of favor and the story was on the back burner again. It was during this time I had also seen the three Lord of the Rings movies and realized some similarities between my main character and that of Frodo. Now I had never read LOTR’s before, so to me my main character idea was fairly original for a fantasy film. A character who is a bit conflicted and crosses somewhere between a good guy and a bad guy. Not exactly Frodo, but I saw enough similarity at the time to scare me a little. So seeing LOTR’s, the wind was taken out of my sails and the story was shelved again for six years.
Tonight I was watching the sci-fi channel and happened to catch the beginning of one of their “original sci-fi movies”. Which happened to be a fantasy film starring Christopher Lloyd. As I was watching I kept thinking to myself “why are all these fantasy films so cheesy and typical?” But I did noticed there was something in it I had toyed around with myself conceptually in my original screenplay. It made me realize how much more ahead I had been 10 years ago then this film is today. Even then this film didn’t capture the fullness of that idea. The idea just being a small piece of a bigger puzzle, but still.
So I started thinking about my screenplay again. I started remembering the characters and their flaws and their past and the story in general. I realized it was a good story. I still feel like it’s a valid story with valid characters. If anything it needs to be written to completion.
There was a time in my past where I didn’t have enough faith in my own witting. I felt like I was too young and I hadn’t lived enough life. I felt like everything I was writing was nothing more then a regurgitation of movies and characters I had seen before. Stereotypical concepts of characters slightly tweaked rather then real characters written from my own experiences with real people. Now that I’m a little older and I’ve had a lot happen to me, I feel like a have a better sense of the world and the people in it. I realize now that my stories before were in fact good stories in a broad sense, but they lacked a certain depth to their realism when it came to the characters. A certain lived-in quality that only a writer with some real life experience under their belt can grasp
Now I’m dusting off that fantasy film and I’m going to rewrite it. I may never make the film itself. But I feel I at least owe it to myself to complete the script and tell the story.
I’m thinking about writing another blog post shortly talking about my filmmaking past. In fact I think I should. I know my xanga readers don’t realize it, because I don’t talk about it. But there was a time I was a filmmaker and it was the center of my life. So that’s coming up.