The Indie Mind



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  • The Indie Mind

    For you art house indie writers, how do you decide if an idea that breaks from the norm is clever and creative? Are there ideas you've discarded as just plain weird, and how did you decide to get rid of them? What are some things you've done to develop and hone your Indie Mind to distinguish between exploring new and interesting ground and material that is so far out there that it falls off the edge of the earth?

  • #2
    Re: The Indie Mind

    This board tends to be Hollywood-centric, and for good reason ... that's where most of the money and jobs are. However, too often around here "indie" is defined as "not good enough for Hollywood". While I do think that "indie" is also a nice way of saying, "You've written a character driven script that could use a punched up story", I also think it's perfectly acceptable to intentionally write indie fare. I know I do.

    As I mentioned in another thread, I've got indie sensibilities. As a rule I enjoy indie and foreign films more than most Hollywood movies. I appreciate the artistic expression that film affords and I consider financial considerations to be secondary to that expression. That's not so I can make films that are so obtuse, nobody understands them (I've seen a lot of undistributed indie films that do just that). I hope my films are seen by as many people as possible, because without engaging an audience, artistic expression is largely a waste of time.

    That's enough about my indie philophy, probably more than enough.

    To answer your question, I've got several levels of preparation that go into any script I'm thinking about writing.

    First, does it appeal to me cinematically, thematically, and viscerally. I need to see it in my head as a movie, identify themes that appeal to me, and care deeply enough about the characters and story to spend several months writing it and possibly several years trying to get it made. If it passes that test ...

    Second, I write up a logline or paragraph synopsis to get the meat of the story down in my head. Once that's done, I vet the idea with trusted writers and filmmakers and friends who like movies. Throw it at the screen, see if it sticks. I've learned with experience that unless I can engender a great deal of enthusiasm from most of the people I discuss the story idea with, it's probably not worth writing. Those few scripts I've written anyway have proven to be less than stellar, either because the story was never too good to begin with or it had not marinated enough to become something worth writing. If it passes the friend test ...

    Third, I begin developing characters, work out a treatment, story beats, outlines, etc. I continue to bounce ideas off people, see what works and what doesn't. Sometimes at this point I'll stop working on a project, because I've lost interest. Even though the idea might meet the first couple criteria, that still doesn't mean I should write it. If it doesn't come together, I don't force it until I've arrived at a story that I absolutely love and must write on pain of eternal disappointment. Okay, so that's probably overstating it, but I've got to remain excited about the story throughout in order to get to the point where I actually write the 100+ pages.

    I think the first and second steps are the ones that most apply to your question. The third is mainly about preparation. If you can see the movie in your head as you talk about it, that's a really good sign. If your friends can see it as a movie in their heads as you talk about it, that's an even better sign. If you're met with blank stares or puzzled expressions, you might be too out there for your own good. I've got a script idea I've been mulling for several months. I definitely want to write it, but I know the story isn't there yet, because the only people who seem to "get it" when I discuss it are the most artistic/indie/foreign cineastes I know.

    Of course, virtually all of this applies whether you're writing indie or mainstream spec scripts ... I think indie folks just trust different types of friends to vet stories with.