Met up with Ed, my script developer in London at the Wellcome Trust Cafe near Euston Station for a second development chat about the script. It was a good idea to have a face to face meeting away from home. I love writing on the go – taking in new ideas and getting new insights just from reflecting on the story and looking at different scenery away from my desk. After the 2h meeting with Ed, we agreed a writing schedule, deadline for the third draft and I was to attempt to answer the following questions about the film:
1. What is the controlling idea of the film?
What is the overall meaning of the story? Consider this to be almost like a logline about the emotional or moral meaning of the story. Knowing this controlling idea will help define whether each scene is driving towards, or at least contributing to, the meaning of the film, and will help to ensure that the disparate story strands and subplots are each unified by the same ‘meaning’.
2. The main character – Fola and his motivations – what does he want and what does he need?
What is stopping him from achieving his goals, both the external and the internal conflict – this will feed directly into the controlling idea of the film.
3. How does the film end?
What do you want the audience to understand or feel at the end of the script? How do you want the main character, Fola to have grown or developed – what does he now understand, or what has he made peace with, which he hadn’t before? Consider that the end is both made up of a climax as well as a resolution of the thematic and emotion concerns of the story.
My approach to coming at the answers was to map out the film so far using post it notes and considering the timeline in terms of
– key locations;
– entry, interaction and exit of key characters
– occurrence of iconic images/ symbols in the film – fire – water – land.
Doing this exercise and just leaving the map there on the table for several weeks meant i could just come to the table, hone in on one area, bring the film alive at that point and explore interconnections between the scenes and between groupings of people. Several days later, I realised that the film was about family and the need and constant search to find a family, a group of people that you can trust, and feel that you are part of. I looked across the map at all the attempts for the main characters and secondary characters to form a family unit and it seemed to hold true – from Fola being isolated from his adopted family at the beginning of the film, to him ending up with his girlfriend and baby at the end of the film, to Elizabeth (Fola’s sister) searching for Fola after the death of their parents and ending up staying with her aunt Madeline. The insight about Fola and his girlfriend having a baby brought an image to mind of a picture that i had from a long time ago of my mum in an airport holding a baby. I had envisaged that my dad took the picture of my mum with her new baby at the airport. With that image in my head wrote the end of the film and could then work back, figuring out from each character’s perspective what was getting in the way of them achieving their goal to form a family. Plus i also could come up with rituals that gave me actions to replace lots of mundane dialogue – e.g – a family meal – that could be worked across the film.
Great questions and great fun dreaming up the answers.