I had a meeting this week with R., a big shot local director. We each drank our own volume in coffee and talked for three hours about Byron, the film, storytelling…
It was really encouraging, invigorating. Except maybe for the part where he basically told me that I should move to the states where they value youth and freshness, rather than stay here where it’s all about age and experience. But anyways…
R. had heard about Byron a little and I filled him in on the rest. He’s of the opinion that it’s a fantastic story. Which it is. I’ve had a few meetings with producers before, where we chatted about story telling but I felt like R. really got it, really understood what this story is about. Which made it a little scary when he suggested a tack that is pretty much diametrically opposed to what I had been thinking. Worse, I completely agreed with his reasoning!
The idea is that for an audience to engage with your story, they have to fall in love with the characters. This is a true fact! Think of your favorite tv shows. You LOVE Picard, you LOVE Starbuck, you LOVE LOVE LOVE the entire cast of Firefly.
Love is the key to everything. This isn’t some hippy-dippy Lennon induced craziness. If you didn’t love these people then you would go have tea with your mom instead of spending hours with them! I don’t need audiences to love Byron the way I love Kaylee, but I do need them to love him a little. Love is what keeps people in their seats and paying attention.
Byron is a very likeable guy, I’m confident that he’s charismatic enough to carry a film, but R. is of the opinion that I need to spend a good chunk of the beginning of the film establishing what a great guy he is, before I get into what a weird/geeky/shit-disturbing guy he his.
My plan was to get right into the meat of the story. I’ve got this great dramatic arc all planned out in my mind, it’s dynamic and exciting and it really, really doesn’t start with 15 minutes about how Byron is really tidy, and does a lot of volunteering and loves kittens. (All true!)
But fundamentally, I agree with R. I’m going to have to make people fall in love with Byron first if they’re going to care about what’s happened to him.
Shaken by this knowledge, and by particularly low levels of blood in my caffeine, I explained to R. how I planned to tell Byron’s story. I was worried that he was right and I was going to have to throw it all out and start over from scratch. But you know, he liked it! He agreed with all my ideas on how to tell this story!
So. Now we’re in agreement on two contradictory ways of approaching the story, but I think it’s going to be ok. I might have to squeeze in a scene about kittens, but I think I can find some middle ground and keep the story exciting and dynamic while making sure there’s still enough room to fall in love.