Did you ever once believe in something so much that nothing could fault it? A favourite film or TV show, an item of clothing or even a partner in a relationship? Then slowly as time ticks over the passion fades and your rose-tinted glasses slowly lift to reveal the ugly truth lurking beneath. We’ve all been there. I’ve got a leather jacket the 80’s keep ringing for and a catalogue of guilty pleasures that make me question my integrity as a film fan. And now, to add to the list, is every writer’s worst nightmare: one of my scripts.
Every script that a writer produces is not going to be Oscar worthy; we know this. Some scripts are written for practice, some because the idea strikes and won’t leave you alone even though you don’t get that excited tickle in your belly, and some – well some are written because they are the crème de la crème of ideas. To the writer they are a contender for the genre, the story they just have to write because they believe in the characters, the concept and the story. I’ve written some turds in my time for practice, for purpose and even for passion. I’ve also written what I once considered to be candidates for the ‘next big thing’ of that genre. I’m writing two now that are at the height of my creativity, the ideas that fuel my burning passion to bring my characters’ world to life and I strongly believe that they are exactly the films that will define Inertia. I once thought that about World’s End… but not anymore.
I’ve written about World’s End before and I’ve talked about it extensively on our Facebook page. It’s an idea I had back in 2010 when I had a few drinks with some proper down to earth blokes at a working men’s club in a rural village. The idea just hit me square in the face: this is the perfect location in the perfect setting with the best set of characters for a zombie outbreak film. I set to work on it researching, developing characters, building their world, constructing the type of zombie’s I was going to use (fast or slow – a big conundrum these days), plotting on beat cards, building scenes, developing relationships. It’s an exciting part of the process for any film but this was made all the more stimulating because I had first-hand experience of these types of characters and environments (minus the ravenous blood-thirsty zombies) and I was excited to bring them to the screen. I wrote the first draft, struggling a little bit with certain plot points but ultimately battled through, and shelved it. As I wrote in my Hemmingway inspired blog post, when I came back to it – it was shit. Really shit. At first defeated, I eventually felt that initial spark I had when the idea first came to me and I set about tearing it apart. I removed one character completely, separated the main characters and made their stories weave between each other, concluding with a brand new ending. I shelved it, returned a few months later and had a much better feeling about it after reading the second draft. My final draft was my last butchering and I covered it in blood. I realised that I’d written a horror film – it contained the suspense, but not the horror that it needed. So I turned it up a bit, spilling some blood and killing a character off. I finished with a film I felt proud of, one that I would be happy to see on screen. I believed in my characters, felt their emotional turmoil, their fears and anxieties; I believed in the zombie scenario and that something like that could actually be plausible because of the world it was set in; and I believed in the story, the pace and the suspense. I really felt it could work.
My final draft was submitted to the BBC Writersroom and though unsuccessful, it didn’t deter me from pursuing other avenues with this script. As I was preparing to band it around various production companies and agents, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright released their film The World’s End. Though its antagonists were different, the setting and the characters were incredibly similar. It felt too much like the film I’d written and anxiety set in straight away. I believed in my idea but the overarching influence of movie making is the audience, and if a film is released with a similar title and theme, it looks like a film direct from the catalogue of The Asylum Production Company. I thought about changing the name, but despite my best efforts to find a pub name that also mirrored the events of the film (The Lion and the Lamb being the best that I could come up with) I was unable to find anything more pertinent than World’s End. Feeling deterred but not defeated, I shelved it again for a couple of months in order to focus on my other ideas that, at the time of writing, are still unique to the film world (fingers crossed it stays that way). Then about a week ago, I brought the script up and had a read through.
I was gutted. I seriously could have cried. I know that might seem a little far-fetched, but when you have an idea that has gestated for three years and has gone through drafts and edits that take serious time, to end up with a script that you no longer feel the burn for and are unable to see light at the end of the tunnel for it no matter how you re-wrote it – that hurts. I read it from start to finish and I loved it, I genuinely did. The characters were just as I remembered and I had that fond feeling of familiarity when I was reading them that you get when you catch up with an old friend or relative. It felt like I’d never left them, but I felt like I missed them. I laughed at their jokes and I winced at their difficult moments; my heart raced during the scenes with the zombies and I felt proud of the story that I’d constructed. I just didn’t feel when I read it that it was worthy of being made. It’s a unique take on zombies and it has relatable characters that the vast majority of the British public could understand, it just doesn’t have what it takes to be made in to a film. I can’t exactly equate this feeling, I think it’s something that is intrinsic to a writer – but when you feel it, you just know it. It’s a harsh realisation and it hurts to know that something you once felt so passionately about no longer stirs your imagination and the passage of time is the familiar beast that devours this hunger for creativity. I love the idea, but it’s not marketable and it’s not filmable. It’s good – but it’s not good enough.
I’m keeping the script still; I’m going to use it as an example of my writing because despite it not being a marketable film it is still an example of characterisation, plotting, suspense and the like. The full script is going to be on the website soon – it’s copyrighted but I have no worry about it being plagiarised as I think anyone will be able to see that it’s not a film to publish. It makes sense to keep it not only as a calling card but also as a reminder to myself that though it might not work out for the best, sometimes that in itself is the best thing. Just like my leather jacket that still hangs on the back of the door, it’s a reminder of something I felt once upon a time and that feeling is nothing to be ashamed of. Just don’t wear it in public again…