Friday, June 4, 2010

'Seven Days and Seven Nights'

Last night completed a seven day cycle of playing music at nights. I'm finally getting into a routine which feels good. I did, however, have to ice my fingers from playing, which I haven't had to do in a long time. I've also completed a five day cycle of walking in the mornings, which is very helpful in fighting any dark thoughts or moods that may attempt to get me sidetracked. Today, I'll take the day off from walking and playing. Aside from playing gigs at night, I've also been playing and learning new songs in the afternoons. I also took out another play, 'Under the Desert' and started re-writing it. It's a very different re-writing process than doing the C&W play. Although with C&W I didn't do any major structural changes, there were lots of changes in the general dialogue, smoothing it out and making it quicker. C&W is all about quickness and conflict. As I started going through Under the Desert, I found that it needed some minor structural changes. Although it is much more of a reflective play, there are such huge revelations that happen, I found that I had to flesh out the 'builds' so that when these revelations come its more plausible. I call these areas pre-transitions, and they are really fun to work on. A play is so much like a puzzle, all the pieces have to fit perfectly, and nothing can be wasted. I've probably mentioned this before, but a play is built with scenes within larger scenes, separated by transitions. These transitions occur with a change of action, a change of subject, or and exit or entrance of a character. Once the play is in this structure, then it has to be analyzed, making sure that the 'beats' or 'french' scenes are working properly for the audience. Think of every beat in a play as a line from a song or poem, each one has to contribute to the story. I believe, if a playwright is doing the job, an audience doesn't have time to think about anything else than what is happening on stage. In this day and age, its difficult for someone watching a play to have a dialogue going for long periods on stage (Shaw) without something happening, without constant change. It's also easier for an actor or a director to 'break down' the play. A play using this structure can then be rehearsed in the separate parts, making the process easier with two primary functions: Acting transitions from one beat to another, and the internal action of the beat. Each of these beats should be rehearsed for approximately one hour during the rehearsal process, not including the eventual run-throughs of the whole play. So, if a play has ninety beats, the play should rehearse for well over a hundred hours. I've seen plays that were well under rehearsed, for directors, if you properly break down a play, and adhere to this process, your play will go up with a full rehearsal cycle. End of playwriting lesson. If you examine a life, we are constantly going through this process, the difference is that the content of the beats is often unexpected. Your actions always change what you might be doing, a smaller part of the story you live in a day. Its one of the reasons I love the twenty-four hour play. If you can capture your subjects in a dramatic moment of their lives in one day, (which consequently captures the content of how that character behaves in that moment,) you can capture the entire history of the character in twenty-four hours. I've always written in this way. I respect playwrights who adhere to a more epic form, but it has never interested me. I'm much more interested in moments in our lives that change us. The longest duration I've written in a play was a week, with The Fish Must Die', that was because I had to show the cycle of a play (play within a play) being done, so I had to expand the canvas. I also believe that in the theatre, this gives the actor something really satisfying to portray, because the trajectory of the character is so compact. One way of understanding this is thinking of a day in your life when everything changed. Some event, a death, the moment of a life-changing happening. I realize that many of us evoke change over a period of time, (epic or episodic), but the changes that happen in a moment make for great drama. In Crime and Punishment, the main character's life was changed when he committed a murder. The content of the entire novel takes place in three days. It's why it’s a masterpiece. Okay, I realize I'm getting a little academic here, but its fun the think about, really, if you apply it to your own life. I always notice that some of the most interesting people are people of action. The Paul story in my previous entry is a perfect example. Five riders on the Boulder Mountain and Paul pulling his rifle and shooting a deer in front of everyone created a drama that will forever stay in my mind. We all have those days. (You can illustrate this by thinking about your day tonight, and find that pivotal moment that changed it.)

The job on the movie. Talk about an epic drama, Hollywood is full of them. The money chase continues in this drama, and the moment of victory has still not arrived. The producer of this first movie has kept me apprised of each event that has happened, and I have to tell you, it is a fascinating drama. I knew instinctively that this drama could go either way, and it looks like now it will be delayed for awhile, still, I believe that this guy will eventually reach his goal. However, the cliché, "Hurry up and wait..." (a well known phrase in the movie business) applies not only to actors waiting around to actually shoot a film, but also applies to the actual beginning of a film as well. I remember reading that Cider House Rules took ten years to get made, and that with a major writer and director at the helm. I don't think that this first movie is going into the ten year range, (it’s a 1.8 million dollar budget,) but no one can control the ins and outs of getting a film made. Its mind-boggling. The movie was scheduled to go into pre-production two days ago, (I was supposed to go back to Austin), but at this point, everything is held up. The script is not completely ready, (which would be part of my job), the financing is not completely secured. The weather in Texas becomes insufferable in July, etc.,ect. On any given day it changes into something so unexpected it becomes a little absurd. Still, I'm confident it will eventually happen, but for now, I'm refocusing on what I can do here. I've begin to put my energy towards Boulder for now, and if the phone call comes to take me away, I'll pick up and go. It's why I always go back to plays. Plays do take the same action to get made as a movie, they are financed on a much smaller scale, and instead of millions of dollars, they can be done with about ten thousand dollars or less. (In the case I was talking with the producer about, the original play, 'Blackout Blues' I did with three hundred and fifty dollars.) A play can be so immediate, although in some ways artistically, they can be more difficult to execute than a film. So, those of you who could see me heading off to the romantic skies of Texas to make a movie will just have to wait. The one really positive thing I'm learning from this experience, however, is that I can hang with these guys. Especially on the content of the blue print document that is the foundation of a movie. However, unlike the literary focus in the theatrical world, the film world doesn't care so much in the literary integrity of the script, (which is very weird to me) instead, the story is hyped so much that it becomes a little ridiculous, and so the actual script remains unopened on a table somewhere, then suddenly the movie gets financed and they open the script and find what was in their heads as the story is not in the content of the script at all. When I was teaching and running writing workshops, I was constantly finding this same paradigm. What was in the author's head as the story in the play or piece they were bringing to the workshop was not executed in the script. A good analogy of this is how we are constantly projecting what people might be thinking about us or talking about, and if we were able to read minds, we most often would find that what we thought and what they were thinking were not even remotely the same. This is true of writing a script that tells the story you think you want to tell. Talking and doing are two different ideas. Hang in there, folks, I am about to take an adventure into the movie making world, but it may take more time than I expected.

It's always a little strange when you are suddenly confronted with making the vast amounts of money that are paid out in the film world. After living such an austere life, I could only thing of a few things I really wanted to buy that would make my life easier. A better trailer, (so that I could travel easier) a newer used truck, (so I could pull the trailer) and a used electric guitar. (Oh, I want a cool western cut coat with rhinestones.) I suppose I've become a little like my mother in that respect, it was always hard to Christmas shop for her because she had no desire to have things. Hell, we didn't even have suitcases to travel with after the 'plastic bag' became available. So, you bought her a book and were done with it. (And, she liked used books I think better than a new one.) I remember once when I was ten or eleven I saved some money and bought her an electric knife, (remember those?) She looked at it like it was the most foreign object in the universe. (Mom, I was a little hurt by your reaction but I'm over it now.) I don't know what happened to that electric knife, I only know it never touched turkey in our apartment. It was rare when she would ever say, "I want this for Christmas…" as I think of it, I don't think she ever said it. We have so much as Americans, I don't mind living a while longer as a poor Russian peasant, they were the best writers in the world! There's a story I read about John Steinbeck. When he started making vast amounts of money from his books, He gave much of it away. He believed that the money would keep him from being in a position to write. I'm again rationalizing a bit here, but I have seen that happen, mostly to my favorite musicians whose music I loved during the struggle. After vast amounts of money were made, they could only speculate much of their music. Even the great Bob Dylan has lost much interest for me, because I can't relate to his music anymore. We live in two separate worlds. (sorry current Bob Dylan fans, I urge you to listen to 'Free Wheelin' Bob Dylan' and then listen to 'Modern Times', There's definitely lots of money in between.)

Oh God, this entry is going on and on, and I'm ready to get to the play. As I read back over this entry, many of the things I've said seem redundant, still, repetition is the art of mastery. Have to get in your ten-thousand hours! Have an action packed day!


Gerry said...

I was reading that a famous movie actor had dropped out of the Hobbit movies because of 'production' delays. I suppose he decided he could not wait around any longer! But I know you can always find other projects to work on while waiting, especially in the summer around Boulder. So have fun! The great adventure of life continues! said...

Waiting is a game not forgotten! We all 'hurry up and wait' for one thing and another. It's good to have an on-going project and knowing you, you do! I'm glad you are making music.

DB said...

Raymond, I haven't been blog watching as much as I want to. Tied up with my art work. But I really enjoyed this, all of it. You describe very well the handling of beats and french scenes, what the old world calls units and objectives. I've always enjoyed taking plays down to the molecular level to see what's there.

About doing plays in real time. Two such plays I've done twice with different casts. The Price by Arthur Miller and Long Day's Journey Into Night by O'Neill, They pose a particular but interesting problem for the actor. You have to come on with a lot of issues that would have been portrayed and discussed before hand and they have to have an effect on what you do. The preparation is intense.

And about not looking at the script before you go into production. I think that problem exists in the theatre as well. I have done too many plays directed by someone who may, MAY have read the play once before he decided to direct it. I got very tired of teaching the play to the director.

Thank you for a fascinating entry Raymond.