PCN Workblog 1: Germinal

I have 10 months to plan and organize an entire night of story about the Philippine culture. The script is my responsibility, it's the burden I chose to take, and I've decided to chronicle all the whizzing (and non-whizzing) of the gears in my head as I go through this long, soul-draining process. I know it will be painful, it will be exhausting, and I may lose spirit a few times over. But it's all part of the job. You do it for the 1300 people in the seats and the 70 people behind the curtain. You do it because you'll never get the chance to do it again.

I've officially been working on the first draft of the script for just over one month. Not every day, but for big chunks of time when I do. I sit and I stir and I do my best impression of a Serious Writer. It's not all daisies, but I've learned enough in 3 years of Creative Writing courses that the first draft isn't supposed to be. It's going to be turds from which daisies will hopefully grow by the fourth or fifth draft. It's also really long - If there were no dances, I could probably write a whole night's worth of story. But essentially, I have to write somewhere between one half and 3/4ths of a show. The plan is to write the first draft to be exactly as I envision it, raw guts and everything, as long as it needs to be. Then I'm going to take a crowbar to it and dismantle the piece of shit until I can fit it in my trunk.

Warren Ellis says creative minds create art as part of an on-going creative conversation:

The creative commons is all around us. Any creative mind reaches a point where it realises that its work is part of an
ongoing cultural conversation. We are all the product of -- at the head of the notional genestream of -- generations upon generations of culture.
We all take from what's around us to make our art. We
engage in the conversation. Raise our voices.

Understanding this, it is our responsibility to introduce "new" ideas to the conversation. The themes I'm working out, still trying to grow and nurture, they aren't revolutionary or unheard of or even uncommon. But what I want to do is cast them in a way that PCN's haven't really done in a long time. I've seen my share, and I think we're all tired of the same story. I think we're all tired of the conservative parents and the accent-based jokes and the child-that-is-just-like-you-that-the-older-generation-just-doesn't-understand. I think we've drained that well for all its worth and it's time to find some new drilling sites.

I don't know. I am wary of falling into the trap of trying to create a Very Important Work. Like every young writer who sets out to write their first great American novel, over-ambition can lead to monumental failure. It's a balancing act, and I don't know how good my balance is. But I'm trying anyway. That's what outside opinions are for. I know that I can't aim too high, but how often do you get to write a play about something as big as your own identity for 1300 people? As an aspiring writer, there's a temptation for grandeur there, to make something perfect and ideal, to talk about everything. It would be easier, safer, and faster to focus on one consistent story and move it along, but... well, at this point, let's just say that I'm not. And I'm worried about over reaching.

Since our art is part of a conversation in response to the art that we have digested, I've been doing a lot of digesting since Summer started. I'm reading John Fante and feel inspired by the word craft and the miserably flawed, manic characters. I'm rereading old favorites like Transmetropolitan and figuring out what makes the small pockets of humanity so much better. I'm taking in episodes of This American Life to bear witness to the variety of stories to be told out there. I'm watching House for the lessons on establishing and building on a likeably mean character. I'm watching all the recent movies I missed for story beats, emotional story arcs, set ups, anything that could be of help. If I could, I'd hook this all up to my living brain and let it marinate.

In this first draft, I'm working with 5 story arcs. It might be whittled down to four by the end of it, but right now I'm aiming for 5. Two are fully fleshed out and pretty much written. Not very well, but at least the foundation is laid. Of the remaining three story arcs, one is completely up in the air except for the premise. The last two, well, I thought I was ready to begin writing them but I realize now that they're not strong enough yet. I have to keep adding elements, turns for the story to take, and clearly flesh out the motivations. I drew up a family tree for one a few weeks ago. It's like creating little histories in your head.

All the while, I'm still trying to settle on a title. I'll be leaving it up to my Creative Team members to pick the final one, I think. I've got four or five titles. I used to have only one, but I tested it with a "focus group" and got mixed reactions. But I've had the flier design in my head for a while, now.

The only thing I'm worried about is that once the writing part is done, the hard stuff begins. Writing the script is the fun part. I get to hunker down in the darkness of the night and get lost in the tapping of my keyboard. I get to play with characters and set up whole worlds. But when that final draft is complete, it's time to start thinking about casting. Then read throughs. Then insurance, props, stage crews, practice times, meetings, stage hand unions, ushers, tickets, sponsorships, money, catering, theater contracts and generally giving everything I have left to this one night in April.

Somewhere in there, I will have to calm down.