by Jane Clark
Having been an actor, in my experience, the craft of writing is not that much different than the craft of acting. Like the actor a writer need to use their own experiences, memories, thoughts and feelings to bring the story to life. Regardless of genre, the best films, the ones that influence and endure, are the ones where the characters are rooted in reality and stir an emotional response. And the best way to accomplish that is to (as they say) write what you know.
Exposing yourself can be scary. The world isn't always kind. But in truth, when I am writing I don't think about it. At least in a conscious way. I let it flow. It's only later when I am in rehearsals or on the set, when I hear actors speaking the dialogue, that it reminds me of the time or moment those lines, feelings, moments were pulled from.
Of course there is always a ton of research. Just a ton of it. If I got falsely accused and arrested for some terrible crime, I'd be in trouble. They'd look up my google search history and see that I researched things like:
How hot does a fire need to be to melt a body?
What is the process of decomposition for a human body and over what period of time?
How do you make crystal meth?
What happens when you shoot meth up your anus?
More than once with my film, METH HEAD, someone would say how did you write this scene or these words - they are so ___________. Fill in the blank with dirty, dark, ugly or any adjective like that. They look at me and see me in the period of life and state of being I am in today. But there was a time in my life when I was taking reckless chances and hanging with, let's say, edgier people. That didn't define me. I was the same person then that I am now in my heart and soul. But those experiences do live on and that phase of my life, along with all the others I've moved through, are the main resources I use to bring my characters to life - to put a voice to the thoughts in their heads and drive their behavior.
Many script writers write with a method. They write an outline, perfect it, maybe they do their research at that juncture as well, then start tackling the script. They might use index cards to help structure and restructure. Most have learned their craft from a teacher, books or school. But I fell into filmmaking in a circuitous way and I am self-taught on everything. I have learned simply by doing and doing and doing. Yes, I've read articles and studied the art form along the way, and I continue to ask google for tutorials and edification. Everything helps in writing a good script. However, ultimately, I started working in a free flow sort of way and while I have tried to conform to a more structured approach I have found it doesn't work for me.
The downside is, that I tend to write dozens of drafts - I am constantly writing and rewriting. I get an idea on my walk and come home to find that one idea has driven a whole serious of changes or enhancements. I have in the past tended to take a bit of time with this method of working. WITCHY WAYS is special. WITCHY WAYS has been evolving very quickly.
I started with parameters - I knew I wanted something fun - not too dark or serious. I wanted to try my hand at a rom com (I lOVE a good rom com and new ones are really hard to come by these days.) I knew who my lead actress was going to be. I knew I wanted to make the film this year, which means being realistic about how much money I could bring on quickly. I needed one location (primarily), small cast and the ability to make the movie with limited money and a tiny crew. Then PING! witches jumped in my brain. Is there a correlation? I doubt it. But there was the initial PING! which is how my stories always spring to life. So I followed it.
From there, I just started watching movies. I watched old-school movies with witches (it's very hard to find a current witchy movie in the tone I was going for. I watched rom coms. It came to me that the witch would have a sister who was haunting the house. So I watched sister movies and ghost movies.
Which led me to researching all kinds of things that inspired me! I know more now about:
the moon phases and how they affect us
moon rituals (I've now done a few and recommend!)
witches - all the different kinds of witches, different philosophies, real powers, potential powers, believe in your heart powers
ghosts - all the different kinds of ghosts and how they affect our bodies, interact with their environments, how to control them, rid yourself of them, live with them
crystals and their meanings
indigineous to california - plants, bugs, birds
the spiritual meaning of different birds and bugs (Evie - our heroine is a photographer who has focussed her camera on to those little and important bugs we walk over and on)
how to make a piece of pottery
how to make a candle
how to read tarot cards (I bought a pack - it's not as easy as it might appear!)
sourcing different spells (strangely hard to come by written verse)
the legalities behind a wrongful death suit.
(There are many more things - from potential wardrobe and locations to sundown/sunup etc., but those are the deep dives!)
And then I started writing and I allowed all the information to feed my brain, spark my imagination and generate a story.
And I LOVE this script. I'm on draft 7 written over 3 months and it will continue to develop as I go on my hikes and spend quiet time and again when I work with my actors and my key creatives. But it is already so good, so romantic, so sexy, so spooky, so witchy, so fun!
Now comes the hard part - Finding the money. And the hunt begins on Monday in earnest! Wish me luck.
Follow us and we'll take you through the whole process of putting this film together. It will be an adventure.