As promised, I wish to continue to talk about working with a writing partner. Judging from the response I received, this is a topic many of you are interested in. It's not hard to see why. That's because, at its core, working with a writing partner is conflict. Just not in the bad way many perceive conflict to be.
You're an artist. I'm an artist. Dustin is an artist. At their core, everyone involved in the creation of a motion picture is an artist. The conflict rests in the fact that art is very personal to each and every person. Putting your story forth is a matter of expression. It never feels good to hear someone else tell you they don't like your way of expressing yourself. Or in this case, it's never easy to hear someone listen to your expression and then try and change it. As I stated in the last post, Dustin and I have had our share of... disagreements. At first the differences might has well have been a mile wide. They seemed insurmountable because each of us thought "Why can't he hear what I'm saying?". In reality we should have been listening to what the ideas were saying.
I remember the very first screenplay we ever wrote together. It was a work of art, or so we thought (thought tickler: Remind me to do an article on why your first screenplay really does suck). We had combined two of our ideas into one story, my characters and his world. After it was done Dustin brought up the point that we really didn't have much sorcery in our swords and sorcery movie. I was like "Please. I got this". I felt the story was much more about the human elements and the politics of their relationships. I didn't think it needed to be diluted with wizards throwing fireballs. And since I had control of the writing program, my idea won out (he has since repaid me when we've had disagreements on my scripts that he has directed. So don't feel too bad for him.) Anyway, we sent the script off to be reviewed, stars dancing in our eyes as we waited for the response of "Where have you been this whole time. You need to get down here this afternoon and start making movies". Naive? Yes, but that's part of the learning process. The bigger lesson, and much harder to swallow, was when we got the report back and it said "For a sword and sorcery movie this seems rather light on sorcery..." I'm not used to eating humble pie, but I took a big old bite on this one. But in that moment we learned a lot about ourselves as a team. I gave him one minute to crow about it (literally) and then we got to work brainstorming ways to add sorcery to the script.
We have taken that lesson to heart for the rest of our partnership. When it comes to collaborating, the old adage is spot on "The truth lies somewhere in the middle". Now we listen to each other when we throw ideas off each other. Instead of dismissing them as not what the other was thinking, we process them and tweak them. After a couple rounds of tweaking we will suddenly have one that comes up and just screams "Bingo!". When you hear that idea you just know it is the one. And it is one we would not have come up with if we just decided to write our story our way.
That doesn't mean I don't still poke at him. A few months ago we were in LA for a directing class and the instructor was talking about collaborating and all of the arguments that you can expect as a healthy part of the process. Dustin smirked, looked at me and raised his eyebrows in a "You should listen to this." kind of way. I just fired back with "If you would just realize that I'm always right, we wouldn't have to argue so much and we could get down to business." Isn't friendship great?
This was a bit longer than I thought so I will end this the same way I ended my last post. Tune in next time when I talk about how exactly we break down our roles in writing the actual script.