Monday, July 21, 2014

Reader Number One

As you saw in last week's post, I finally took the leap and sent my screenplay out to the first in a long line of important readers: George Rideout, the writer of the play on which my film is based. 

And as you also saw, in true gentleman George fashion, he got back to me as soon as he received the package, saying he couldn't get to reading it right away - no doubt knowing I would be waiting and wondering until I had news. 

So, as anxious as I was to know how the author of the original work felt about the direction I was taking, the job I was doing, I managed to put my waiting on hold, and more or less put the matter out of my mind.

Then, right before the weekend, I received this:  

Hi Tara,

I’m almost finished with those annoyingly pressing, uninteresting tasks. I will read the script this weekend. I’m greatly looking forward to it.


To which I replied:

Hi George,

Good that you’re coming out on the other side of those "aput's".
And I wish you bonne lecture this weekend!


And then I waited. 

And as the full weekend of waiting went by with no news at all from George, and turned into the beginning of the week, still with no news at all, I admit I started to worry. Just a little. Wondering if maybe - despite being such a gifted writer - George Rideout was having trouble finding the right words to tell me exactly what he thought of what I'd done to his words...

And then, mercifully, this popped into my inbox:

Dear Tara,

I just finished reading your screenplay and I enjoyed it enormously. 

The cover letter addresses your concerns that I might be bothered by the direction you’ve gone in, but in fact the opposite is true. William Burroughs, the third member of the triumvirate that included Kerouac and Ginsberg, used the “cut up” method with his writing. That is, he took a page of his text and literally cut it up into strips with scissors, scrambled the strips, and reassembled them. Now he didn’t do this randomly. He made conscious choices with the new juxtapositions of words and in some books he even gives various versions of the same textual content. The result is often striking and captures other layers of reality that are there for those who care to look. 

While what you’re doing with the images and scenes is not exactly “cut up,” it does offer a viewing experience that functions differently than a straight up narrative, and given the themes of Michel & ti-Jean, I think that’s a very smart choice. Your question--“has Kerouac conjured up Tremblay?”— is significant, as is your rationale for transitions in the Director’s Vision.

I love your addition of Jan, of the actors, of library scenes. I also love the scene in which Kerouac and Tremblay hitch a ride with Sal and Dean. 

I will be in Montreal soon. If you’re in town it would be great to chat. You can ask me specific questions if you like and I can be more detailed in my response to the draft. To my mind you can go even farther in the direction you’ve taken with the 2nd draft, but of course that might have implications for the agencies that would be putting up the cash.

Sorry that those “aputs” kept me from the script for so long, but for me the payoff was great!


Probably not half as great as the payoff was for me! Thank you, George!! 

And now, onto important reader number two...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Writer's Right

When George Rideout assigned Barbara the screen adaptation rights to his play Michel and Ti-Jean, he told us he didn't feel the need to be involved in the writing of the film script. The way he saw it, he'd already said everything he'd felt compelled to say when he wrote the play. And he still has so many other plays he wants to write, he doesn't have time to go over creative ground he's already covered. And covered well. Which is entirely fair enough. 

So, throughout this adaptation process, he and I have carried on a sparse and cordial correspondence, occasionally punctuated with the odd email saying he's available if I have any questions, or he likes the title I've chosen, or we could meet for a coffee when he comes to town. Otherwise though, true to his word, George Rideout has always stayed completely clear of the adaptation nitty gritty.

The last time we met over coffee, though, something changed... And even then, I didn't realize it had changed until the very end of the encounter. As we were saying our goodbyes, George threw out this off-handed remark: "If you'd like, I could read your next draft....".


So that was last fall. And it wasn't until this spring that I had a next draft solid enough to even think of showing anyone, let alone the very man whose wonderful theatrical work I was wrestling into cinematic submission.

But now that this second draft has been slow-cooked to the point the meat is practically falling off the bone, I guess I'm finally ready...

So, to wit:

Dear George,

Please find enclosed the 2nd draft of A Nutshell of Infinite Space.

I'm excited for you to read, but also a little nervous - as you might well be yourself!

In order to ease you into this strange, but familiar universe,  I'd like to give you a few "heads up" before you take the plunge:

- You are going to encounter new layers to your "story". I haven't turned it into Die Hard, exactly, but this iteration of your original idea has taken on a more adventurous shape and a dimension that is true to me, while still respecting the spirit of your play and most importantly, the relationships the play evokes. 

- Some timelines may not always seem to respect reality - but please bear with it. There is a method to my madness.

- I’ve used as much of your fantastic dialogue that I can keep intact in its entirety. In other places, I have truncated it for rhythm's sake, and very occasionally (please don’t freak out) I have attributed the words of one character to another.  

And finally, the last thing I'd like to say is, thank you. For your words, your wisdom and your characters. I hope you will feel that I have done - and will continue to do - my level best at respecting and honouring them all.

I'll leave the next word to you.

So, with that, I sent the package off to George's home in the Eastern Townships and waited.  Even if those who'd read it so far had given me positive feedback, I needed to know that George could get behind what I'd done before I could go further.

About a week went by before I got this note :
Hi Tara,

I received the package. It will be a week to ten days before I’m able to go through it due to other tasks which are less interesting but annoyingly pressing.

So, looks like I will have to wait a bit longer ... 

À suivre!