18 January 2010

Further Pontification on Collaboration

by Tyler Weaver.  Follow me on Twitter.

Collaboration has been on my mind a lot lately.  Not only am I opening up this little blog to other contributors,  but I am collaborating with the bad ass (the term comes up a lot in our collaborations, as in, "She does that to the bad guy? That's pretty bad ass!") Paul Klein (@kleinpau) on a bad ass script containing oodles of bad assery.

There are two wonderful phenomena that take place with a collaboration, and those phenomena have opened me to up to a better understanding of my filmmaking multi-hyphenate tendencies, or, my "working method."

For those of you who work solo, and have considered writing with someone, may I offer these two phenomena as something you should hope appear with a prospective creative partner.  The key, as with anything that really works, is to not try to make this happen.  Just roll with the punches.

Phenomenon the First:

I hate writing.  I mean, I really, really loathe it.  There are very few things I loathe more than staring at a blank page - or the screenplay format (I understand why it's the way it is, but it doesn't mean I have to like it).  I love coming up with the idea, and I love thinking about it.  But I loathe the act of writing a first draft.  Now, the flip side to that coin is that I love second (and beyond) drafts.  I love editing.  I love taking shit and making it less shitty shit.

And yes, feel free to tell me that "you have to write a first draft to get to the editing."  I know all of that.  I have to produce something to edit before I can edit.  Well aware.

I have no doubt that my loathing of the first draft process is tied into my directorial tendencies.  I can see the film I want to make, but grow continually frustrated with the first draft as it does not come close to capturing what I'm seeing - and though I've gotten much closer to accepting that fact, it still ticks me off.

That has a lot to do with technique.  I liken it to drawing.  I can see exactly what I want to draw.  It's just the brain - hand communication isn't there, and my technique isn't where I want it.  Except with writing - no one writes a great first draft.  And the film script is, be it the first or forty seventh version, the first draft of the film.

However, with every draft, you've written another script.  And you get better at it.  And so on and so forth.

How does this tie into collaboration?

I actually LIKE writing with a collaborator.  All of the bollocks mentioned above is null and void.  Let the first draft suck.  My confidence grows, and I grow more willing to screw up.  I manage some modicum of zen about the whole process, knowing that eventually, through having four eyes on the process, we'll get it where we want it.

Phenomenon the Second:

There is no personal tie to any one idea.  In fact, I can't remember which idea any either of us had, beyond the first, which was one of those mythical "eureka" moments I had heard about, but had yet to experience for myself.

After that, it's all in the ether, and neither one of us remembers who came up with what.  As the index cards grow (yes, we do the card thing, mainly because it's easier to have a thought, scribble something on a card, tack it somewhere on the board, and then riff on that idea) it becomes a blur of chicken scratching that makes up a cohesive whole.

There's no ego involved.  There's no marriage to a single idea.  It's a sense of synergy of the "script" (be it film, song, story, book, whatever) taking hold.

Our working method is not "sit across from each other and debate."  It's more of a, "bring six pack, sit down, talk about anything but the script, and maybe something will come out of it."  The "Que Sera, Sera" method, I suppose.

There's no sense in making it "business."  Have fun, hang out, and exchange constant "wouldn't it be cool ifs."  That's not to say I couldn't work with someone I don't like - I probably could, so long as I respected them.  I'm fortunate that in my collaboration with Paul, I both like the dude and respect him a great deal.  Anyone with the salt to do law school and still write bad ass stuff immediately gains my respect.

Speaking of which, expect to see him writing here in the near future.

When it comes to collaboration, I live by one hard and fast rule (which I know I heard somewhere, perhaps something from Kurosawa, though I can't recall the exact source) - if those who I collaborate with bring my original vision to life exactly as I saw it, I'm not happy.  It must be better than my original vision - otherwise, what's the point in collaborating?

Tyler Weaver is an independent filmmaker, currently writing two feature films, producing two music videos, prepping two short films, and is the founder and EIC of Multi-Hyphenate... which you're reading right now.


Maria said...

I think you've nicely summed up the essence of a successful collaboration.

In my experience, I have enjoyed many collaborations - but you've hit on the main ingredient - the original idea has grown into something better than you originally conceived because of the collaboration.

Tyler Weaver said...

Many thanks for reading, Maria!

What was really great about it is that I would never have come up with this idea myself. It took the two of us blending our two interests into one.

Quite the groovy eureka moment.

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