Often I’ll finish a story and that will be the end of it. I’ll do a couple of re-edits, and then I’ll move on to the next thing. Whether that story takes the form of a play or a novella, it will usually just end up tucked away on my computer somewhere, before I stumble across it one day, re-read it, and laugh at it while getting all nostalgic.
But there are some stories and characters that will not go away. The big one was my book Windmills, and that was a four year process of writing, rewriting, adapting into a play, writing a sequel, then finally mashing the whole lot together in a relatively cohesive book. And even then I had a lot of re-editing to do. Then I wrote my little epilogue, The Lost Girl… Okay, maybe I sometimes have trouble letting go. Sure, in day to day life that can be unhealthy, but often with a story it means that you haven’t yet brought it to its full potential.
Of course, there’s a fine line. When I was fifteen I wrote eight different stories about a character called Chris Hawkins, because my friends seemed to like him and, realising that this guy actually meant something to more people than just myself, I got attached. But re-reading all of them last year, only two of those stories really have any merit. The rest are pretty shit. The problem was, I couldn’t let go. Even two years ago I was considering writing a new Chris story. I could not accept that I just had nothing left to say about him. Likewise, it’s only recently that I’ve accepted that there will probably never be a Windmills sequel. Any more would ultimately be a disservice to the characters.
Sometimes you want to do more, but the story deceives you. Like Phoenix, my old YouTube series turned screenplay turned novel. Phoenix was cool and marketable, a kind of Tomorrow When the War Began meets Hunger Games young adult thriller that could have been pretty good. But ultimately, I like writing stuff that is a bit strange, or different, and Phoenix was too generic to ever really hold my full investment. I wrote a whole novel before I realised that I was barking up the wrong tree with this story, and it was time to move on to something else.
So all this brings me to a guy by the name of Boone Shepard. In 2008, during one of the few times I got sick of Chris, I wrote a quirky little steampunk murder mystery about a witty, eccentric journalist in 1960’s England who travels around the country solving crimes. Being me, there was an undercurrent of darkness, but it was funny and odd, which I liked. I wrote three stories about him before I realised nobody really liked him, so I left it and went back to Chris. But I never forgot Boone.
I always toyed with the notion of redoing his story. Making it into more of a dark fantasy story, perhaps. Or trying to do a comic book. I was missing the point, though. Boone was strange, funny and totally individual. Imagine a cross between Tintin, Indiana Jones and The Doctor; that’s who this guy is. I liked his stories because they were light and fun, something that could not be said for a lot of the other stuff I’ve written. I always felt that there was more to be done with Boone, and about a year ago, I spontaneously started writing a new story about him. Three years later, it was like he never went away. Boone sprung back on to the page, as sharp, free spirited and acerbic as ever, and I realised that I was far from done with him. If I wanted other people to see in Boone what I saw in him, I had to do his story right.
Recently I’ve been writing possibly the darkest play I’ve ever come up with. Called The Kommandant and the Common Girl, it’s a drama about a Nazi who falls in love with a Jewish girl in a Concentration Camp. Seriously heavy stuff. Two days ago I finished a brutal, climactic scene and found myself just feeling depressed. Listening to happy music didn’t work, but I had to do something to change my headspace. So I started writing a new version of Boone’s first story. And it flowed like you wouldn’t believe. Yesterday I wrote more. And today I had to look at myself in the mirror and say ‘right, you finish your uni work, finish Kommandant, and THEN you can run off and have adventures with Boone!’
Boone’s been waiting for me for years. And I cannot wait to see what he has in store for me this time.
So I’ve sort of fallen out of the habit of posting things here, but there’s a very good reason for it. If I’m not wasting the hours away writing self-indulgent stuff on my blog, I’m probably doing something, y’know, actually constructive. Or alternatively, I’ve discovered Twitter. Actually that part is true, but it does nothing to undermine the amazing escalation of things in the past few months. I guess the tricky part is where to start.
Firstly, I want to talk about the recently concluded production of Hometown by Centrestage Youth Theatre out in Ferntree Gully. At the time of their decision to take it on, I was very, very excited to see the finished product, but as other things began to sneak up on me the notion that a well-established theatre company working under a very experienced director were performing one of my scripts kind of went to the back of my mind. As such, when the performance rolled around it sort of came as a surprise. Of course, I was terrified going in to the show, but I really had no need to be. Hometown was a well-produced, polished and fantastically performed production. The cast took it above and beyond what I had written on the page and I walked out feeling seriously elated. I cannot thank them enough for their hard work.
The thing is, any elation I felt that day was compromised by a bigger looming terror. See, the main thing that distracted me from Hometown was the fact that, while it was being put together, I had been developing my own show, Reunion, which just so happened to be opening the same day I went and saw Hometown. Hometown was a matinee show and Reunion was on at night so I had both in one day and it was huge. By the time we got to Reunion I was a nervous wreck, but ultimately, it went well. There were laughs at all the right places, no rotten tomatoes thrown and a couple of positive reviews to boot. There is one more show of Reunion this weekend, and after all that, I’m pretty sad that it’s ending. It’s been a lot of fun and a really amazing experience unlike anything I’ve ever done before.
More than anything, though, Reunion proved a point. It proved that there is room for people like me to take projects they are passionate about and, with the support and help of the right people, produce them for an appreciative audience. The first review of Reunion, while critical of some characterisation aspects, was mostly positive AND written from the perspective of a reviewer who knew nothing about the show, the people involved or who we were. To this critic, it was a piece of theatre like any other. They had no obligation to write anything nice about us and yet here was this random guy talking about the strengths of the dialogue and potential of the characters. If anything, he seemed to think that it needed to be longer and more fleshed out, which insinuated that he wasn’t sick of it by the end of the hour. That’s a pretty good sign as far as I’m concerned.
So I’m coming now to the crossroads of deciding whether I go on to do further study next year or devote the time to doing what I love with my new production company, Bitten By Productions. Ultimately though? Study seems pointless. Why sit in a classroom and have people tell me HOW to write and WHAT to write when I can just do the projects I want to see produced myself? Between us the group at Bitten By have so many strong ideas just begging to get made, that the next few years alone will not be enough time to realise them all. But I’m itching to do it. I want to make all of them and make them well and prove just what we can do. I’m not flying solo anymore; I’m surrounded by a team of passionate, brilliant people who inspire me and bring me down to earth at the same time. This has opened up the doors for some exciting new stuff.
So what’s next? First up we have a script I’m very proud of; a futuristic thriller called Below Babylon. Imagine if Reservoir Dogs and Blade Runner had a bastard love child that was subsequently raised by In Bruges. That’s what this is. It’s tense, violent, character driven but gives only a hint of the gigantic universe we have mapped out for it. If it’s a success, there will hopefully be more projects in this world. We’re barely scratching the surface with this one. On top of that, we’re currently looking at the possibilities of a kick-ass film version of it. At the moment, all I can say is watch this space.
It doesn’t end there, though. I’m halfway through a dark and intense World War II set drama which promises to be something pretty powerful, then there’s further ideas for a Hitchcock Style thriller about a cult, a two person play about a German and Australian soldier getting trapped in a trench together in World War I, a short thriller film with some very cool surrealist/horror influences, and more. Plus, somewhere in the middle of all this, I plan on finishing a new book. The next twelve months are going to be a hectic time, but I can’t wait.
I guess I’m scared of getting lazy, complacent or event just daunted by all this. My biggest problem has always been trying to take the easy way through things, but as all these projects start to mount I’m realising that that is not an option any more. It’s time to grow up and bring a new focus and commitment to what I’m doing. Other people are relying on me now, and I don’t have the room to screw around anymore. It’s time to get this stuff done.
Just some thoughts.