Last we spoke, I had just gone from top to bottom - Fade In to Fade Out - on the second draft of my second feature film script, A Nutshell of Infinite Space. Which is kind of a bigger deal than it might sound ...
See, the first draft of the script - my rookie attempt at adapting George Rideout's play, Michel and Ti-Jean for the screen - was a very different animal than what this new draft needed to be.
Having so much respect for Rideout's writing and the undeniable strength of his dialogue ultimately kept me too confined to the spine of the original play on my first draft. I had tried to "open it up" (as they say in the adaptation game) while taking pains to leave almost all of the original work intact.
I've often likened the adaptation process to renovating an old house. It's as much work - if not more - as building a new one from scratch. And as anyone who's ever done home renovations knows, you can't knock down walls with a paint brush.
So for the second draft, I realized I had to take out the sledge hammer, crack open the "shell" of the play, and find the "nut" of the film. I had to go back to the proverbial drawing board of my brain and dig deep for the why I wanted to make this play into a movie in the first place, and the what I wanted to say with it, and the how I wanted to say it.
In short, I had to give myself permission to completely raze the playwright's original work and rebuild something new from his rubble - in my own selfish image.
A mean feat. Even meaner about that feat was the fact that I had to force myself not to write right away. Out of respect for the original work, I had to painstakingly plan out every single move before I could let swing the sledgehammer. So I spent months reading, thinking, outlining, scene-by-sceneing and outlining again until things were clear enough in my mind and Barbara could visualize what the new footprint of the film might look like.
And then finally, in early February, we agreed I was ready to type the two most thrilling - and threatening - little words in the English language: FADE IN...
FADE OUT eventually followed, as you read here, in late March. And true to my prognosis in the previous post, the first pass of this second draft proved to be full of good intentions and lots of gangly material in need of further editing and shaping to better fit the form I'd had in my head.
But, by April 2nd, I was sending Barbara and Valérie Beaugrand-Champagne (Quebec's much vaunted script guru) a 2nd draft about which I felt a little flutter in the pit of my stomach. It was a flutter that I hadn't had in a long time. A flutter that felt good.
It felt even better when Barbara, Valérie and M3* had similarly strong and positive reactions to what they read. At the risk of sounding melodramatic (what? a writer being melodramatic?!), I pretty much felt like I had come out of a long walk in a dark forest - and into the light.
Which is why the little thing that happened to Barbara and I the other day during our First Annual Brainstorm in Sutton (FABS) had special significance....
During that inaugural strategizing, shit-shooting, schedule-making retreat at Barbara's country place, we ate great, drank lots and talked more. We made plans for the next steps of Nutshell, made lists with the names of the cast we wish for, and the distributors we dream of. We watched movies and walked mountains.
On one of these uphill, deserted, forested walks, we were just about to head home before the threatening storm broke loose above us - and suddenly, through the trees, we spotted a clearing...
... and in it, an unlikely, yet cinematic relic. And like we got so used to saying during the making of our last film when it started attracting ordinary magic to itself:
IT'S A SIGN!!
*My Muse Martin