I had an unexpected lunch yesterday with some friends I met in St. Louis this past June. They’re moving to NY—the Big Apple Black Hole has sucked in two more creatives—and stopped in DC on the way to see family. It was a lovely surprise.
Amanda is a fine actor who worked with me on the workshop of REALS at the HotCity Theatre. Her husband Cody, who I was meeting for the first time, is a filmmaker, and in time our conversation turned to the subject of whether I’d ever write for film ever again.
The thing is: temperamentally, I think I’m actually very well suited to the medium. I have a measure of flexibility with regard to my work that I’ve come to understand is at least somewhat rare among playwrights. When a director starts changing things, and actors start taking my dialogue in new directions, and editors re-cut my story in an entirely new way, I’m fine with it — I don’t care if they make things different, as long as they make them better, too.
But I also know my limitations. I know I don’t think about screenplays the way they’re supposed to be thought about. I think in terms of dialogue and character and motivation and poetry and emotion. Film is a much more visual medium, and while I do sometimes dwell on the visual elements of my plays—even sketching mock sets and storyboarding scenes from time to time—it’s not a high priority for me creatively. Film is also—at least conventionally—far more rigidly structured and plotted and paced. It’s more formal, in a way—a way that doesn’t always call to me.
I also just plain think it would be audacious of me to assume that just because I’ve had moderate success as a playwright, I should also automatically be able to write a screenplay. (People also make the assumption that I should automatically be able to act and direct, too, which I find equally baffling.) I have too much respect for people who write the films I admire to assume I have the necessary skill to be good at it.
And yet… I have, from time to time, tried my hand at it. I wrote one full-length screenplay, early in my career, that I subsequently deleted — scattering the bits and bites of which it was made into the electronic winds so that no one would ever read it—because it was rotten. I’ve written two films for the 48 Hour Film Project, the first of which was also disastrous, and I also wrote the short film I blogged about yesterday, Bewildered. Oh, and several scenes from my play THE FAITHKILLER were also filmed and integrated into the Taffety Punk Theatre Company’s production of the play. Something about the medium does still speak to me, and I would definitely like to do it again… if the circumstances were really, really right.
Which is exactly what I told Cody yesterday, in fact. I think I’ve done it—written for film—enough now to satisfy my basic curiosity: my need to just try it a few times. What I want now is a situation in which someone is going to challenge me, to inspire me, to propose a project that will make me stretch a bit. So for the time being… I’m going to be selective. I only have so much time to create in this life, after all—so why work on anything less than exactly what I want to be doing? I am now officially setting my project-selection discernment on high.