Let me first say that it’s been quite a while since my last post. I’ve been back in America for one month and this last month has been very busy. I do still plan on finishing the blog and concluding my tale abroad. I’m almost finished writing about Siena, Italy and next after that will be Florence, Stratford, Oxford, Paris, my last night in London and my last post, Virgin Atlantic: Part Two.
Very recently I finished my latest film, “The One And Only Billy Shears,” based on The Beatles song, ‘With A Little Help From My Friends.” You can watch it under the “Short Films” tab on this site. (PASSWORD: RINGO)
I say this because this brings up the topic of films. Weeks ago I mentioned in my of my posts that I’d abandoned my original idea of writing a story in pubs in favor of writing and shooting a film in London. This post is an update on that.
The end of my time in London was starting to creep up on the horizon and I still hadn’t started writing the film. This was in late March. I still was experiencing the issue of not knowing exactly what to write because I wanted to see how my own story would unfold. I was getting nervous that I wouldn’t have time to shoot it, though, so I resolved to bang out a full first draft during St. Patrick’s day weekend, where I would be alone in my seven person flat. I didn’t have as much free time as I thought I would because I ended up entertaining a friend for a good part of the weekend, wink, but on that Saturday I had the whole morning and afternoon ahead of me to think and write. What followed was typical of me as a writer.
I’m not a huge idea man. I’ve met some people at school who have an endless arsenal of ideas. Energetic hyper realists who constantly pitch things to their friends. I’m not like that. At any given time I probably have about two ideas sitting in me. What I do with these ideas, once I get them, is sit on them for a long time. I got the idea for Billy Shears in October 2012 and didn’t write it until the following April. I don’t like to rush in to things like that because I’m a big believer in the idea that if you let something marinate in your subconscious for a long enough time it’ll make the end product better and easier to produce. This was the case with this London film. I’d been thinking about it for months nearly every day, gathering information and collecting and recording my observations and experiences into potential story, dialogue or plot fodder.
I’m also, I’ll admit, a procrastinator and a little arrogant. I’ll admit it. Whenever I have an idea I plan to write and I’m in that in between period between thinking about it and writing it, first of all I procrastinate (because writing is hard, albeit fun) but I also sort of have the mindset that it’s ok, when I do sit down to write this thing it won’t take me that long. This was my exact disposition with this film.
But as I say, I was getting nervous, and enough was enough, I decided, it’s time to sit down with nothing but my thoughts and no other distractions and get the thing done by the end of the weekend. This always happens to. I eventually get so frustrated with the process of procrastinating, sitting down to write because I feel like it’ll be easy, ultimately and inevitably becoming perturbed when it’s NOT easy, and then quitting, dejected, that I say enough is enough and finally sit down and spend a good four or five hours of nonstop thinking, planning and writing and at the end of that time I’ll usually have the script at least 25% done with a clear idea of what to write next. This, sure enough, happened with this film.
I sat on my couch and talked out loud to myself, with my computer’s photo booth recording for about 40 minutes: talking about the characters, where the plot should go, how to write it, how the relationships will affect the plot and so on. I got some good stuff and found some great discoveries in that dedicated time and wrote a lot down. Then I re played the video and listened to what I’d said and wrote some more stuff down, having not remembered every bit of it.
After this barage of brainstorming, I wrote. I didn’t finish the script that Saturday, but I got pretty far. Far enough to go out and get a bottle of Jameson to celebrate Jameson being on sale and the fact that I had a clear idea of where the script should be going and what exactly I needed to write in the next scene. I went to bed content but lonely that night, the other six of my roommates being away.
The next day was Sunday and I got up and started writing again. By the time my roommates got back from Ireland in the mid afternoon I had about six or so pages left. I didn’t get much else done that day because even though I missed them and I was lonely, I find it extremely difficult to be creative in a cramped space with so many people like that.
A few days later, as I had more time to think in class, before bed, on the tube during my work commutes, I finished the film. It was a first draft, and the coming weeks would prove it would be the first and only draft. I was and am very proud of it.
I started shooting right away, enlisting help from my roommate Josh and some other people. The film was shot in and around London and Paris, where I met up with Dan Doran, who helped me out and played a role in the film. I spent a lot of my final days in London organizing, worrying over and shooting the film, but I got it completed with maybe one or two days to spare before my flight left on April 30th. The next step is editing the picture together, and then spending a very good chunk of time in Ithaca doing dialogue replacement for the main cast, the audio quality on the camera I shot on being poor (though the video is good). This being said, the film won’t look like Billy Shears and it won’t represent what I can do visually to the best of my ability. There’s a chance it might look amateur and there’s a chance, even after extensive ADR, that it might not sound as good as I’d want it too. But I truly believe that due to the quality of the writing, the story/content and the fact that it is about an American student studying abroad coming to terms with his future and the discarding of his past being made by an American student studying abroad coming to terms with his future and the discarding of his past will make up for its technical insufficiencies. I really believe that.
Anyway, I’m excited for it and I’m excited to share it and it will be my next film and hopefully one of two films that I’ll be coming out with this coming winter.
As for the title, from January until about three weeks ago I could not, for the life of me, think of a name for this thing. It was always “Untitled London Film,” and that’s what it still says on the cover of the script. I heard a song for the first time on the radio, though, when I got back and though the lyrics don’t support what the story is about, I really liked the song and the title of it inspired me. It was one of those “of course” moments and now I can’t imagine calling “Young Americans” anything other than that.