Shoot the glass.
A blog about writing. A blog about mental health (sort of).
“Hi. I didn’t come to last week’s group as I was in Berlin. By the way, Berlin is great, you should well go there. It’s sort of overwhelming and evocative, but really inspiring and interesting at the same time. I mean, when you think about what that country has been through. Anyway, I’ve done a one-page treatment. Honestly, I was writing this just a couple of hours ago and I’ve still been brainstorming it in the car on the way in. Right, so, I get inspired by lots of weird things. Like, this idea comes from listening to Rasputin by Boney M. You know the song? It came up on my Spotify suggestions weeks ago and I immediately thought it would be piss funny to have it playing over a really dark scene in a film, like a murder scene or something. Then from there I kicked it around a bit and have ended up with this story about a Neighbourhood Watch group at a seaside town, set against the backdrop of Euro 96. The chairman and main character is a guy called Willburry Mulligan. Oh yeah, that name just came to me a couple of weeks ago in a dream and I’ve been singing it as a jingle since then, so I didn’t forget it. This is the first chance I’ve had to use the name. So Willburry has the Neighbourhood Watch team looking after the town whilst all these boozy yobs come in to watch the footy and then this new guy joins his team. They end up going ‘head to head’ over some stuff and, I mean, we’ll read it now I guess then, I don’t want to give it all away.”
As opening monologues go at someone’s first ever writing development group, I reckon this is damn strong. It really sets a tone, doesn’t it? They must have been thinking “oh my God, who in the hell is this bearded, bespectacled, jabbering fool?” I could see myself, hands flapping all over the place (I talk with my hands…a lot) and shuffling in my seat as I got excited about my deliberately “silly” idea. FYI – I mean silly in the comedy sense, not mocking the quality of my own idea. I could also sense my face getting redder and hotter as I realised I’d been talking about utter nonsense for what, at that moment of realisation, felt like an absolute eternity.
I was last in the group to present my idea. Having missed the first week I was given the chance to settle in by talking through everyone else’s stuff first to get an sense for how it all worked but also to get to know everyone a bit. It was really good fun and whilst I might not have necessarily “got” all the ideas it was genuinely interesting to listen to how people think and develop their stories. Looking back (it was only a few hours ago) it also makes me wonder what they thought of me explaining that just a few lines from a disco song can suddenly spark this entire world in my brain. I love it, I’ve always been like it and now that my mental health is stable and calm I am finding myself sparking those ideas on a more regular basis. I’m not critical of my own ideas either, am happy to simply “let them be”, safe in a knowledge that I will find a home for each of them at some point.
Seriously, waking up and immediately thinking “Willburry Mulligan” was weird but it also felt like something I could use. I really should have written it down but I liked making a jingle for it instead. It helped make it seem more fun and a more unique way of recalling it when I needed it. When I started this new one-page treatment I had this character named Graham and as soon as I got to the end of my first draft I knew this was actually “Willburry Mulligan” so in it went and then the idea became something else entirely.
I was chatting to a friend at work about it and was laughing at the absurdity of the story. We both said how it sounded like a perfect story for Edgar Wright and immediately drew similarities in tone to Hot Fuzz. What happened at the development group was the highlight as someone said “Have you seen Hot Fuzz? This feels like a similar style, I think I’d find this really funny”.
Now that was a cool feeling!!! I’ve written roughly 800 words on a treatment and someone completely ‘new’ to me is already tuned in to the world and thinks they’d laugh at the whole story. That was a good moment.
My target for the next couple of weeks is to get myself a ‘beat sheet’ for my new idea. It needs a name too, but that’ll come when it’s ready. A beat sheet is simply a way to break down the story over the three-act structure but also include the overall theme and a logline. If I can do that in a week, latest two, then I might be able to get a couple of pages of script done after that because I want to make sure I have script pages read at the development group. Why? Because I’d love to have just one person laugh at it again and say “yeah, I like that, I would laugh at that”.
Not so long ago this would have been absolutely terrifying but I’d also have underestimated the amount of work I need to do to get to those five pages of script. Now, learning that structure and approach has given me a different mindset, a different approach. I know I’ve got loads to do to get to that script stage, but I’ve broken it down into manageable amounts that it’s not scary at all. It’s now becoming challenging, it’s difficult, it’s hard to come up with a simple but effective story because I’m more aware of not wasting the pages available. I need to be concise and efficient with every bit of space on the page and that’s fucking great, it’s exciting and a challenge but it’s definitely not scaring me or putting me off. The only way I’ll get really good at it is through practice and repetition. I also have to get used to sharing my work, my ideas, and not worrying about being judged. It’s not stressful anymore where it has been in the past.
Finally, one quick story from Berlin. As I was queuing to pay in a small café, an old lady asked to get to the drinks in the cabinet next to me. I watched her for at least a minute as she surveyed the cabinet to try to find how to open the imaginary glass door on the front to get herself a bottle. I kept waving my hand over the drinks but she kept ignoring my waves. At this point, as my own laughter grew, I remembered “schieβ dem fenster” from Die Hard. “Shoot the glass” Hans shouts at Karl when he remembers McClane isn’t wearing any shoes. So, with my best German accent I said to the old lady “keine fenster” which I hoped meant something like “without glass”. She looked at me, looked back at the drinks, reached in and picked up a bottle. She immediately burst into laughter, playfully tapped me on the arm like only old ladies can do, said a whole load of stuff in German at me, laughed again and went to the back of the queue. Moral of the story? Die Hard is the best film ever made and can help in even the most obscure life situation.
Thanks for reading x
My Life, Less Ordinary
What have I done this week?
- Went to my first script development group.
- Had an awesome, inspiring trip to Berlin.
- Laughed with an old German lady when neither of us knew what the other was on about.
- Finally nailed a new idea and used all my new techniques to develop a one page treatment.
- Got over 100,000 steps in thanks to lots of walking.
What will I be doing next week?
- Starting a first draft of a football article.
- Developing my new one-page treatment into a ‘beat sheet’.
- Write a one-page treatment for one idea.
What is currently hindering me?
- Bit of a loss of focus.
This weeks’ uplifting songs.