Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Parthenogenesis*

Lately I've been living a very active dream life. A few of the people who read this blog have heard about some of these dreams; most haven't. Suffice to say that they've been particularly conflict-laden of late -- there's a lot of frustration and turmoil expressing itself in my dreams, and it's been making me uneasy. Where is it coming from? What is it that's bothering me? I know I've got a couple of readers who don't buy into the assumption that any psychological insight can be gleaned from dreams, but I tend to pay attention to them, especially when they're as vivid and sticky as mine have been recently. When my mind starts talking to itself, I try to listen and pay attention if I can.

This morning I had an interesting experience -- something I've come close to in the past, but never quite fulfilled. I awoke out of another vivid, conflict-filled dream, and the first thing I thought was, "I have to write that down." I managed to hang on to the basic outline of the dream and a few key images long enough to get to this computer, and rapidly tapped out enough in the way of key phrases and ideas to bring the rest back into focus in my waking state. Having written it down, and reading it over and considering what I'd written, my next thought was, "this would make a good film." (Hey, Kurosawa did it, what better example do you need?)

Just like that, the whole thing was there: characters, relationships, themes, a story arc, a few pivotal moments and vivid images... my brain quickly filled in a few gaps (motives, some embellishment of major plot points, additional images and thoughts on underlying narrative layers) and I ended up with, for all intents and purposes, a film treatment. Obviously, I'm not ready to talk about it much yet -- still needs some time to simmer, you know -- but this is the first time a dream has ever produced a complete film idea. (I've gotten fragments of ideas before, but never anything whole and mostly complete in itself.) And only once before have I ever had a whole film come to me in a rush like this, and even that was only a little short (though it is, on the other hand, also the only complete film I ever directed myself.) I assumed that after a few hours I'd decide the idea was crap and toss it aside, but if anything I've become more taken by it the more I think about it. It's already seen some modification, but nothing major, just some filling out and development; given some more time to figure out not just what it means in itself, but also what it means to me personally, there could be quite a lot more still floating just under the surface that I haven't become fully aware of yet.

This all presents me with a small dilemma, though. I've already got a project (an academically important project at that) that demands my attention for the time being; I feel compelled to get this idea out on paper as a rough draft as soon as possible, but that would detract from the work I've already set for myself. I absolutely can't (and won't) let it interfere with the preproduction process I've already got underway. On the other hand, I worry that if I leave it for a few months while I take care of other things, my enthusiasm for it will fade and I'll be left with just another unrealized idea sitting in my notebook with all the others.

Still, I suppose it's something of a luxury problem; if I make adequate notes, there's nothing but my own drive (or lack thereof) to prevent me from coming back to it later on when time permits. It's extremely important that I finish what I've currently got going on first -- I'm already good at starting new projects, but I need a lot of practice at seeing them through. And it's incredibly pleasing to have an idea just present itself so easily -- normally the idea-generation process is an extremely painful one for me, involving a lot of self-doubt and self-criticism that usually leads nowhere. Which isn't to say there isn't still room for that to happen in this case, just that somehow I've ended up with a head start this time. And I can't help but notice that this particular film idea is very well suited to a low-budget first feature, more manageable than most of my ideas but still interesting and potentially complex. A bit bleak, perhaps (and, as mentioned above, full of conflict on numerous levels), but accessible... will I still love it in six months?

* not a reference to this, but rather to this.
4:23 PM ::
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