film editing

Recognizing my Denial in Trying to Write this Show for Television

I have a problem with denial and I'm sorry, dear reader, that with this blog, I drag you right into that pit with me.

In my ‘post-story conference’ blog last Friday, I neglected to mention that one of my co-writers had initially pronounced the most recent draft “very good” (emphasis on the ‘very’ ... and said with feeling). Naturally this went to my head. I’d forgotten just how kind and diplomatic he can be.

So it came as a bit of a surprise that after the two hour conference, I heard the words: “You’re looking at a major rewrite, kiddo.”

With my huge capacity for denial, I shrugged that right off: “Oh I’ll knock it off this week!” Who wants to be bent over a keyboard and reams of scrap paper with my Writing The Natural Way doodles for even that long!

In heavy denial

In heavy denial

So here we are, one week later and I’m realizing why I spent my childhood walking on my hands and climbing trees. Constitutionally and temperamentally, I’m better suited to physical labor than to working at a desk. Give me a physical challenge and I can usually figure out how to tackle it. The same is not true for the non-physical. I feel lost, out of my depth and both frantic and lethargic.

In a blinding insight on exiting the supermarket, I realized that I’d had the same reaction to cutting the highlights reel and to writing the pitch. I start off with great enthusiasm and a wildly unrealistic idea that I’ll ‘knock this off’. The highlights reel ended up taking almost a year and a half. I can’t even bear to figure out how long the pitch took.

Fortunately, while dragging my heels back to my desk, inspiration alighted. Nancy Baker, the brilliant film editor who did the unimaginable job of lifting the movie Harlan County USA out of the hundreds of hours of 16mm footage shot in the hope of making it, once shared this simple tip.  (paraphrasing) << A lot of the job of film editing is sitting watching the footage go forward and backward, forward and backward … until you get an idea of what to do.>>

Impatience is not my friend in tackling mental jobs. To sit at a desk feeling lost and frightened, asking questions and waiting for answers is harder for me than digging a ditch.

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