Sunday, November 10, 2013

my first (uncredited) film credit: One More Pill

The first thing I ever wrote for film was a treatment that became the music video for the song "One More Pill," by the band Stabilo.

One day back in the mid-two-thousands, I was hanging out with Stabilo's lead singer/songwriters, Chris & Jesse, and they were complaining that all the music-video proposals they were getting from directors were painfully bad. They knew I liked to write, so they suggested I try and come up with something. That night I banged out a one-page treatment. I emailed it to Chris & Jesse, who loved it and sent it on to their label, EMI. The A&R people at EMI loved it, the director they chose loved it, and BAM! I was a produced screenwriter.

No credit, though. Because... I'm not sure. Maybe they don't do credits on music videos?

Whatever the case, a few months later Chris brought me into his barn-loft apartment to show me the freshly-cut video. He was nervous about pressing "play," and once the music video had rolled through, I knew why.

It was still, in many ways, what I had written. But suddenly there was this eye-candy nurse, the story line had been scrunched, and important parts had been replaced with close-up shots of Jesse's face, singing into the lens.

I was shocked and hurt, unable to understand why they hadn't faithfully reproduced exactly what I had written. My treatment was perfect, right (insert sarcasm)? So why hadn't they followed the script?! Chris explained that they'd had some issues with some of the footage, and that the label had mrphrg slrmnk prfffglitt... but at that point, I was no longer listening.

I should have listened, because that was my introduction to writing for film, and Chris was teaching me an important lesson: namely, that a screenwriter has very little control over the final product. Other people's intentions, the practical constraints of shooting, and technical difficulties can take the best intentions of everyone and turn them into something quite different.

For my subsequent two produced film credits, FORK and LOCKER 212, I have had the pleasure of working closely with directors that I know and trust. Together we refined my initial stories into something better than my initial drafts, a thing that was then further changed and developed by the cast and crew that came together to bring it all to life.

I have learned in the process that the lack of control that is the great risk of film-making can also be one of its greatest joys. I have learned that when you can tap into the creative abilities of a lot of people, you can achieve something far beyond the capabilities of just one, finite, scribbling writer.

And the world is just full of creative people!

Eventually, I was able to look back on that first, mangled treatment of mine and realize that, ho-whoah-wait-a-minute, the finished product actually wasn't half bad. It was a departure from what I'd written and intended, but it did follow the spirit of what I was trying to say, and perhaps even the spirit of the song.

That music video has recently re-appeared on the internets. So here, in case you've not yet seen it (and before it disappears again), is One More Pill:

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