Scripted… Now, About the Angle?

The ether is off somewhere feasting on the original version of this post, which was longer than this one will be. I won’t complain about it, since this very rarely happens to me, and the software I’m using is free, but it does explain why I’m being so terse in this post. (I’m going to just recap the highlights, and be a little more vague about everything,)

First of all, I just finished the first draft of my script late Wednesday night (or, if you prefer, extremely early on Thursday morning.) That puts it at six days of drafting, three of them working my day job and one of them on which I cranked out 5,000 words on a different project. And my wordcount total for this one? 17,000-ish.

It works out to about 60 pages, as far as I can tell. (I can’t get Celtx to export to .doc, only to .txt.) I’m told that in a normal screenplay that’s about an hour long. But this one has a lot of detailed  stuff about shots, images, and so on–because that aspect of this project will be unconventional, so it’s probably more in the 40-45 minute range, in reality. Which is kind of long for a short film, and definitely too short for a feature film.

You’ll notice I’m being vague about the topic of the film. It’s SF, it’s an adaptation, it’s trippy, and it’s comedic. That’s all I can say for now. I can’t give the title, I can’t talk about the plot, because this is an adaptation and the author, when giving us the right to adapt the story to film, did so on condition of script approval. So I need to get the script as polished and solid as possible before sending it. Once the author approves the script–assuming that happens–then I’ll talk about it here.

I’ve sent it out to a few friends, and figure I’ll beg a few more to be my second-round readers before I send it to the author. But in the meantime, Miss Jiiwaku and I were talking about storytelling in connection to a project idea that she’s been working on.

One thing that came up was angle. I think about angle this way: in many, many films, story is made up of several things: plot, characters, cinematography… but a really important one is angle. It’s that thing we talk about when we caveat our explanations of what a story is “about” by saying, “But it’s not really about that, it’s about this,” or that the point and appeal of the story somehow is contained in the telling, rather than in the whizbang cool ideas.

That’s certainly true on one level in the film script I’ve just drafted. The story itself is a familiar sort of story, and it’s loaded with tropes familiar to SF fans. The challenge is to tell the story in a way that seems new and interesting. Or, in fact, to tell it in a way that might just seem absolutely ridiculous… and therefore wonderful.

I’ve been thinking about how to fix one of the problems in the script, inherent in the method of storytelling and in fact I suspect inherent in the narrative itself, which is that it’s an infodumpy action narrative, where the action is mostly offscreen. I was thinking, “How can I mash in another approach to telling this story that might make it work better?”

Because on one level, I kind of think it might work a bit like comedy: if you mash together two things that don’t really go together, and then just insist on making them work together–and if you pull it off–maybe you come up with something that has more wonderful than the sum of the wonderfulness of its parts.

What did I come up with, to mash into this weird, slightly-infodumpy, somewhat heartbreaking, and deeply bizarre SF narrative?

Musical numbers.

Hear me out!

I got the idea in no small part because I showed Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog to my Anglophone Cultures Through Film class, and have been thinking it would be fun to do a really incongruous musical of some sort in Korea.

(I actually have a fond dream of doing a musical about teenagers in a Korean high school in a small town, with the main character being a mixed-race child of a Korean farmer and his Vietnamese (Filipina?) mail-order bride wife. Something inspiring to other kids in that position, but also something to convey what it’s like to be an outsider, and a kid, and a disrespected minority, in Korea–while still being as Korean as anyone else around you–in a way Koreans will really connect with.

(But that’s a project for some time in the future. It has nothing to do with my current project, an SF movie script.)

Why not an SF musical? The song numbers would certainly break up the scrpt in a way I think would make the film not just more fun for the audience, but would also make the non-musical sections more compelling and powerful too, in a way that might be too much if it’s not broken up by something a bit more traditional, a bit more accessible, a bit more, you know… conventionally fun. It would also make a longer narrative possible, because the songs would help make a longer narrative sustainable.

We’ll see, though.  There are some serious considerations that need to be examined: the cost of recording musical tracks; the cost of getting the music done up; the added cost and shooting days of musical scenes… there are just a lot of things involved. It might even be something we’d have to put off until the spring, whereas if we did it without musical scenes, we could probably do all the shooting in late October and have something shorter finished and sent out to festivals by December.

But I’m getting excited enough about it that I might even be willing to stay on a bit longer, just to get it shot in early April, when it warms up enough to shoot some of the stuff credibly. (And that would let us organize more in terms of getting funding, getting the music right before recording, and so on.)

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