2015 - THE COLLABORATIONS
When people say, ‘that year went quick’, I usually think, ‘actually, it took about a year’. Sometimes I say it and immediately wish I hadn’t, due to the sharp pain from a punch, kick or poke in the eye. Despite me being a smart-arse, they’re right. It always feels like it passed pretty damn quickly until you break it down. Writing is usually a pretty solitary pastime, but this year saw me enjoying and continuing to enjoy some utterly amazing collaborations.
My recent trip to the good old US of A is not exactly recent anymore and I find myself asking if it all for naught? No, in a word, it wasn’t. OK, that’s three… well… four, if you’re not into the whole contraction thing. As well as sitting around a Hollywood hotel pool like I actually belonged there, I met up with former resident, Christina Hutchence, author of Just A Man: The Real Michael Hutchence, who was to become my guide to LALA land. I had worked with Tina in a purely advisory capacity on a project that ended over a year earlier but I’d never met her in person. Through her I got to see things I wouldn’t have seen and meet people I wouldn’t have met. Those things alone made the trip worthwhile.
It seems that she and I got along pretty well as we started talking about ways of adapting her book into a screenplay. ‘We’ being the operative word here. Lots and lots… and lots of back and forthing ensued and even the odd meeting and phone conference with film types in LA (I love Skype). We have decided to embark on a collaboration to produce a screenplay to coincide with the re-release of her book in e-format. Exciting times, to be sure, but I’m not kidding myself. Tina and I have one hell of a journey ahead of us.
Around May, I started helping out a writer I’m a real fan of, Margaret MacDonald. How much of a fan? I read the first thirty pages of her feature, #1 At The Post Apocalypse Box Office, and muttered, ‘Talented bitch!’ High praise indeed. Anyhow, I came on board as 1st AD on her short film project based on said feature. Before starting my official duties, there was a lot of chatting about the script. She asked my advice and, for the most part, she blatantly ignored my advice – as she bloody well should. She’s too good a writer to listen to this crazy old beardie. I do believe, however, she might have stolen my SPAM joke.
Justice was served when I got deliver the line myself on screen, so that made it all all right, right? Too right! Last night I made my acting debut at the Chicago International REEL Shorts Film Fest. I suppose Margaret should get a little kudos too.
Around the middle of the year I got a chance to work with an old friend, Ivan Engler, from Zurich. Admittedly, when he came to me his project was mostly done. They tell me English isn’t the primary language in Switzerland, so he just needed a little help wrestling the pesky English grammar into submission. I wrestled it good. In fact, due to deadlines (LA film type’s, not Ivan’s) the last day’s wrestling called for 22hours at the keyboard. Ivan made his meeting without a minute’s sleep and I discovered that my chair sucked. The result was a grand feature film script for Ivan and a new chair for yours truly. Ergonomic be damned! This thing is a big, plush, leather, Tony-loving marshmallow.
From here… where are we… September, I zoomed down to Melbourne to put the finishing touches on one of my scripts with wacky, longhaired director Tony Rogers. It was a bit of a writing highlight for me. Tony’s girlfriend generously loaned me her loft apartment in Collingwood and I spread out big time. Tony and I spent 5 days (and drank 18000 cups of coffee) working on the script. One of the best things we did was write out a beat outline on a ream of butcher’s paper rolled out along the floor. Every time a small disagreement arose, there were a few, we jumped to our feet and, arms across chest – hand on chins, referred to the ream. I’ve been working with Tony on and off for the last couple of years and I’m really looking forward to getting back together for the shooting draft next year.
I was extremely flattered when Ivan Engler contacted me again and offered me a co-writing gig on another feature. To be brutally honest, though, I did have a doubt or two. I like Ivan a lot. We’re about the same age, have similar tastes and I’m a fan of his first film, Cargo. Check it out if you haven’t seen it, you won’t be disappointed. But, (‘but’ is my least favourite word in the English language), but, Ivan and I are a hell of a long way away from one another geographically. The logistics of co-writing a script from opposite sides of the world worried me. And, there’s a small cultural thing too. Australians love to beat around the bush. That’s probably why I hate the word ‘but’ so much. “I love what you’ve done here. It’s really great. No, really… but…” Whereas the Swiss, as I’m learning, might say the same sentence like, “I don’t like this.” It’s refreshing, but it takes a bit of getting used to.
Anyhow, we’ve been writing for about a month now and I’m thrilled with the progress. It is really energising to work with a guy with such clear vision and is able to articulate it without a single bush being beaten. He is also able to listen to suggestions and feedback without interruption. This is new to me. Writers I’ve dealt with in the past always, always defend their work ferociously and leap to its defence before you’ve got anywhere near the first ‘but’. The first time I gave feedback to Ivan, I thought the Skype connection might have frozen. Honestly, I don’t think he blinked.
With the ten hour time difference it’s a damn good thing he’s a night owl and I like to work as the sun comes up. Our conversations often go on for hours and we’re becoming really good mates. At this early stage in the process, I’m going to venture that this promises to be the best story I’ve ever worked on and I feel privileged for the opportunity.
So there you have it – 2015 done and I’m living the dream. I wake up every morning knowing I’m going to spend the day doing what I love doing, and this year I’ve spent almost every day doing it with some of my favourite talented, innovative and wonderfully kooky friends.