I’m not blocked when I blog. It’s a strange phenomenon. I tend not to think of blogging as “writer” per se. It’s a brain download. It’s more like processing my thoughts. But in recent weeks – nay, months even – my creative writing has suffered from a mental clog of sorts.
Until last week.
I’ve discovered a new cure for overcoming writer’s block – at least for me:
Hang out with college-aged film school students and write a horror movie script while in the background they take pictures of people getting makeup done to make them look like murder victims.
As bizarre as it sounds, it worked.
Let me ‘splain . . .
Several of my former students from the Arts Institute of Salt Lake (I no longer teach there, but they still go to school there), invited me to be part of a movie-making team for the National Film Festival’s 72-Hour competition. The rules work like this:
At a designated time, all pre-registered participants are given access to the specific rules of the contest.
Each team must use a particular character name, a specific prop, and a predetermined line of dialog. They draw genre for their film (ours was horror), and they then have 72 hours to write, direct, produce, and edit a four to seven-minute film.
For us, the character was named Don Robinson, the prop was a flask, and the line of dialog was “What did you expect me to do?”
At 8:00 p.m. on Friday, October 23, the information was released to the teams. I had to teach class that night, so they began the story line work without me. I have to confess, I was worried. My writer’s block was hanging around my neck like an anvil, and I thought I might show up and prove to be an enormous disappointment to everyone there.
I stopped on my way to the apartment where we were meeting and grabbed a frozen pizza, veggies, and candy. I figured if nothing else, I could contribute food. As soon as I walked in the door, the energy was like static electricity, free-floating in the air and clinging to anyone who entered. The head of our team, Scott, began filling me in on the basic plot they had developed already. We talked through some of the specifics, and they sat me down at the computer and put me to work. It was 9:45 at night.
There was banter and noise in the background. Friends and fellow students wandered in and out of the apartment as some of them got slathered in Spam, chocolate syrup, and rice (all of which, in black and white, makes for amazing head wound photography).
When I paused to look at the clock, it was nearly midnight. I asked a few of the crew to read over the script and give me some suggestions. I was braced for the worst. “It sucks,” or “We need to start over,” or “Why did we invite you?” Instead, I got thoughtful feedback and deliciously evil ideas to make our horror movie even more disturbing. I went back to work. More victims arrived to be gooped up and photographed.
At 2:30 I paused again. Scott read the script and smiled. Brannon, our sound engineer and a terrific writer in his own right, took a look. He made some comments for minor tweaking. Sterling, another crew member and soon-to-be graduate looked it over. He grinned.
My heart had been pounding for quite some time, but it began to slow as I realized I’d managed to write something decent. We polished a few more items, then at 3:00, called it a night. I giggled all the way home. Seriously.
Around 9:00 in the morning, Brannon called. One of the actresses had to cancel. He wanted to know if I’d be willing to come and be in the movie.
I took a shower, grabbed some clothes, and headed out to film. It was 9:30 at night before I got home again. I was tired, but energized. For the next 24 hours, I kept texting Scott for updates on the status of the film. At 6:00 on Monday night, he let everyone know that the film had been picked up by Fed Ex ahead of the deadline. I was so excited I wanted to yell. Instead, I headed to bed early.
The 15 finalists will be posted here:
I’m hoping Scott will post our movie on Facebook, too, so I can include a link to it. I saw the rough cut the day before we mailed it. It looked pretty good.
In the week since then, that frenzied energy has stuck with me. I’m putting it to good use. I’m hopeful that perhaps the team – fondly known as Weirdos from Another Planet – invites me to join them again!