25 August 2008

Is This It? Part 3

OK, so when we last lest left our little saga (Before I wrote my little ode to my sister) my sister and I realized that we needed to take the bull by the horns as it were and make a feature, on our own, for VERY cheap. As we sat around talking about all of this I threw out a couple of ideas and one of them that I mentioned in passing was that I wanted to make a zombie movie. I didn’t really know anything more than that but, I love zombie movies and in theory one could maybe do one pretty cheap if you handled it right. It was then that Megan handed me the idea that would really kick this all into high gear. “What if Robert Altman made a zombie movie?” It was ludicrous and brilliant all at the same time and as I went home and began brain storming scripts I could write that we could potentially make on the cheap that idea lingered with me.

After a week or two of hand wringing, banging my head against the wall and false starts on several other scripts I realized I was going to write a zombie movie and I realized that if done right I could take my sister’s idea and turn it into a zombie movie with very few if any actual zombies that would in turn make it nice and cheap to produce. Thus began the greatest hell I’ve ever been put through as a writer.

One of the very first issues I had to confront as I sat down to write the script was budget. We would have none and I knew that. Of course I thought I had known that in the past and yet I still wrote JOSSINGTON FALLS which has dozens of locations, seemingly hundreds of deaths and angels falling from the sky. At the time I wrote it and literally up until we started production on END I thought FALLS could be made for a couple grand at most. Obviously I have since learned differently but it took a lot of slaps upside the head from my sister to realize some of my ideas just simply weren’t financially feasible.

While I’ve always had a problem with thinking big, I mean REAL BIG (If I’m ever able to make half the stuff I want to I may bankrupt America) this issue was even more prevalent as I began trying to write what was supposed to be a micro-budget zombie movie. For a month or two leading up to our decision to make another movie, which obviously involved me writing another script, I had been writing a script that I intended to try and sell, not make, whose budget would be at least $10 to $15 million if not more. Probably a lot more since it involved explosions and car chases and the like but for me I thought it was a pretty modest little sci-fi / fantasy story.

What this meant, and the problem that this ultimately created was that for the first time in my life as a writer I had let my imagination completely go. Having had only written for independent, low budget productions before I’d always tried to write things that could be shot as cheaply as possible. Well for the first time ever I had decided not to worry about it and I was LOVING it. Never once did I have to stop and think about whether or not what I was writing could be done because my idea was to sell the script to a studio and let them figure it out. Also the script was like many of the things I write, pretty humorous. Sure it had lots of action and danger but characters were throwing out quips and jokes every other line. I never gave a second thought to any of this until I sat down at my computer and realized I had to write something that was highly dramatic (A mandate made by Megan so that we could prove that we could do more than comedic horror since this was going to be another kind of horror film) and something that we basically couldn’t spend any money on.

In the 18 years that I’ve been writing I’ve never really had writers block, at last not that bad. Sure I’ve hit walls from time to time but normally they last a day or two at most or are the result of having too many ideas and not knowing how to filter them into something cohesive but I can’t really say there’d ever been a time where I just flat out COULDN’T write something. Then this little zombie movie bitch slapped me and proved me wrong.

For days on end I sat there trying to make something, ANYTHING work. I would start the script, get up to thirty pages in thinking I was on a roll, then realize it was all crap and start all over again. I watched zombie movies, read zombie comics (The brilliant series THE WALKING DEAD by Robert Kirkman is getting a huge thank you in our credits) and still nothing even remotely passable came forth from my brain. Seriously it got so bad that I started telling Megan that I was going to have to come up with another idea, work on something other than a zombie movie because there just wasn’t a script in me that would work.

Luckily for me Megan kept pushing me and just when I thought all hope was lost an idea hit me. At least to me it seemed somewhat Robert Altmanesque, it was unique, it was different and as soon as I got the idea for one scene, another one popped up and so on and so on. As I am want to do I sat down at my laptop and immediately started pounding out something that I was sure was pure gold. Several weeks later I turned in the script (Which I had tentatively titled ZOMBIE APACOLYPSE) to my Sister and The End…. or not.

In some ways I wish I could tell you that’s where the story ends and I’m sure you’re tired eyes and ass are probably wishing the same but sadly that was just the beginning, the beginning of something that pushed my sister’s and mine relationship to the brink both artistically and relationally in ways I hope to never experience again.

After turning the script in to Megan I went about my life, happy that I had completed my task and raring to get back to work on the script I had dropped to work on ZOMBIE APACOLYPSE. A week or so after having turned in the script Megan asked if we could meet and certain that she was going to heap praise upon my literary efforts and laud me as the second coming of Lawrence Kasdan, Aaron Sorkin, William Goldman and Joss Whedon all in one I humbly accepted her offer and thus we sat and talked. The smile on my face I’m sure stretched from ear to ear as I eagerly awaited her praise and adoration. Of course that smile changed when she said something along the lines of, “Are you joking?” Over the next however many minutes she at least in my mind at the time destroyed me as she ripped my work to shreds and then urinated upon the remains.

Now would be a good time to make a little aside. First and foremost I realize that Megan was in no way trying to be mean or hurt me, she simply did not like what I had written. To this day I still hold that it’s pretty darn good and it is something that I may pursue doing something with later on but I also understand that it just wasn’t her cup of tea and that what would eventually turn into END is FAR superior, so please don’t think that there are hard feelings on either side here.

No matter how much I argued the point we were at an impass. I really liked what I wrote and she REALLY didn’t. This honestly created a whole new set of issues because for the first time in my life she was vehemently opposed to one of my works. Sure in the past she had disagreed with various aspects of my scripts and in turn helped me make them better but never once had she flat out loathed something I had written. Devastated, after several weeks of arguing I realized there was no way my script was getting made and as such I was back at square one.