It All Starts With An Idea
First off, I just want to give a shout out to everyone who has checked out the first teaser trailer for The Last Guardian! The support is very much appreciated. If you haven't seen it yet, then what are you waiting for?! Go check it out right now or risk Lord Kalma's wrath!
This week I want to touch on what I tend to find the most painful and yet also one of the most rewarding aspects of working on any film project. The writing! I am one of these people that gets a story idea in my head and then I struggle getting it to paper. I've had to come up with a process that works for me and even with that process, sometimes it is still a struggle. So today, let's break down my process and who it related to The Last Guardian.
I started writing stories when I was 10. I drove my elementary school teachers crazy cause we would be told to write a short story. Something like 5 pages but I would end up with 20 to 30 pages. Worst of all was that it wasn't always in order. Ok I was 10, organization wasn't really a thing. But by the time I was 13, I had it down and wrote my first 100 page story. While my writing needed improvement still, the ability to write a story with a complex plot had developed and I had learned a lesson in story writing that I still use to this day. Plot it out! So the very first thing I do when I get an idea for a story is I write down the points that have appeared in my head. Generally just as jot notes then I will fill it in from there. But this gives my a guideline to follow as the story grows and gets fleshed out. I won't lose my way now cause I have a map.
For The Last Guardian that road map came to life at Disneyland in 2019. Specifically in the evening while walking through the streets of Batau in Galaxies Edge. I had this idea of a very grounded Star Wars story. One that was populated not with pure heroes and villains, but with characters all in gray. The character of Cal and Aaylia appeared almost instantly. A great struggle between two perfectly matched characters who were once whole. At my hotel room that night I jotted down a few ideas. On the flight home the whole series was plotted out. I knew now where I wanted these characters to go. What I didn't know was exactly how to get them there.
This is generally the part of the writing process where I get stuck. I have the idea. I know where I am going, but now I need to make them go there. This is my writers block. But I also have a way of breaking that too and in this case, Covid 19 was my savor. It's very weird putting Covid 19 and savor in the same sentence. When the world went into lockdown I was given the gift of extra free time. I spent that free time out in nature. Walking, exploring and as I did so the creative juices would flow. It's a process I have always used when I get writers block. I go for a walk and play the scenes out in my head or literally act them out on my own. To an outsider watching, they'd assume I'm crazy, but it works so well. The pandemic gave me time to do that on a daily basis and the story just flowed from there.
It was during this walks that the heart of The Last Guardians story was broke. It wasn't what I expected it to be, but it was what ended up feeling right. In the end, it wasn't even the character combos that I expected having the greatest impact, but the relationships that no one expected. Even I didn't expect it. To say any more would risk spoiling story bits so I will leave it at that. But the point is, that you never know where a story might end up taking you, so long as you are brave enough to let the characters take you there.
Perhaps that's the most important take way from this weeks post. Yes, it's important to have a process when writing. Yes it is important to have a plan. But it's also important to let your characters guide you. Sometimes they can show you things that are far better then what you originally thought. I just recently went through that with a script and because I went back and let the characters take the wheel, I ended up with a much better story then before. And that's important to. Don't be afraid to step back and read your own work not as the writer, but as someone who will be watching it. See how it feels. Does it flow smoothly? Is it confusing? These are all important questions. While I like to give actors a 95% set script, sometimes scripts are changing all the time. Even on the day of shooting. So don't be afraid to make changes either. Just make sure they stay true to the characters.