Although it’s still only February a whole load of green shoots are beginning to poke through the earth, promising that spring will soon be here. At this time of year, I begin to get really fed up with the cold and damp and start longing for the weather to warm up a bit.
Cheery crocuses and anemones are the first signs that things are changing. However my favourite winter blossom belongs to the Christmas Box. I love it not for its flowers, which are pretty plain and uninteresting, but for its fabulous perfume, which fills the air outside my front door at this time of year and always seems to promise wonderful warm days to come.
Other exciting things have been afoot, not least the filming of my short screenplay. It’s a comedy – not a particularly sophisticated one, I have to admit – about a young photographer who finds himself saddled with the flat-mate from hell, and after being driven to his wits’ end, comes up with a very novel way to get rid of his tormentor. It’s a situation many, many people can identify with, so I’m hoping that will give it some fairly universal appeal.
The process of the filming itself is a lot less glamorous than you might imagine and involves endless repetitions of the same lines and scenes from different angles and viewpoints. As the writer, it’s quite hard to get a sense of how it will look once it’s finished. It all seems very disjointed at this stage, but the director seems pleased with how it’s shaping up and clearly has his own plan for it.
While I was writing it, I had a very clear image in my head of what the characters were like, what the settings would be like and how it would all play out. What is very clear as we make it, is that the director has a completely different mental image of the story and so do the actors. And then you have to take account of what’s practically possible to film with the resources and locations we have.
What will emerge will be a synthesis of all these things – our different thoughts and ideas about the story, modified by what we can actually get down on tape. With any luck, a bit of magic will happen that will transform it from being a series of mental images existing only in the imaginations of those who’ve read the script into something richer and more interesting than any one of those involved had conceived of.
Screenwriting, more than any other form of writing, is a collaborative process; the articulation of a shared vision for the film is essential to bringing the project to life. As the writer of a film, you have to be prepared to let your baby go, and let others get fully involved in shaping it and making it as much theirs as it ever was yours. It can be hard at times and the annals of film-making are full of stories about writers who were no longer allowed to work on their own films.
Personally, I really enjoy that collaborative creative process. I like the idea of making something that’s more than any one person could produce. Yet as the writer, you also have the satisfaction of knowing it all started with you, and your idea. Without that, there would have been nothing.