Lately I’ve been subjecting Project Mirror to a process that can best be described as “re-thing-ing”. Okay, maybe it can be described a little better than that.
Mirror began as a very vague idea for a short musical film, which I developed into an actual plot while on holiday in France in the summer of 2010. Through my usual process of overambitiousification, this turned into a script that would probably take up an hour of screen time and be insanely difficult to make, due to it requiring: several acceptably photogenic and talented actors/singers, numerous hard-to-find locations, a multitude of elaborate props and costumes, a bunch of special effects, at least a handful of musicians, and a Herculean effort on the part of more people than I actually knew. I could tell this was happening as I was writing and rewriting it, but at the same time I was becoming so obsessed with the story and its characters that I didn’t want to be brought back down to earth by practical concerns.
So this script has been sitting there for a while doing nothing, and looking like it’s going to keep doing nothing for the foreseeable future. Rather than accepting this as a well-adjusted person might (though a well-adjusted person wouldn’t have written this particular script in the first place), I’ve been thinking it over and over. While studying a certain text for university earlier this year, I suddenly had an idea for a way to adapt it into something relatively easy to make. All I’ll say is that it’s more or less a radio play, but with a few stylistic twists.
Vague, I know. But the process of adaptation is interesting and quite liberating. Reading the first Song of Ice and Fire book recently, I’ve been trying to vaguely reverse engineer how it was adapted for TV. While the show seems fairly faithful overall, it’s interesting to see little bits and pieces of story and dialogue lifted from one place to another, sometimes (in my opinion) more effectively positioned in the show, sometimes in the book. It drives home the idea that there is no one right way to tell a story, and that adaptation can often reveal hidden potential for dramatic moments that would otherwise have lain dormant, or at least underplayed, in the original text.
The trouble with adaptation – or any kind of rewriting, in my experience – is that it’s tempting to just copy and paste whole chunks into your new draft. When I do major rewrites on Project Snails (as I am beginning to again now), I force myself to type everything again, so I don’t end up just copying and pasting the whole document and going “Yay, I did another rewrite!” In a sense, accepting that Mirror can’t be made into a film right now is a good opportunity – in the same way, I suppose, that getting fired might be. Thinking a creative project over from a new angle is rarely a bad thing, and no rewrite should ever make things worse, as long as you’re paying attention.
But is re-thing-ing the project from a film thing into an audio thing a compromise? In some sense, of course, but at the moment it doesn’t feel like one. Possibly because I don’t have a very visual mind, so I never saw the visuals in my head anyway. And because in making the audio version we’ll have to compromise considerably less than we would in making the film version. Locations, props, costumes and special effects are instantly removed from the equation, the recording time and cost of equipment needed are drastically reduced, and the actors can be as hideously ugly as they like as long as they have nice voices.
Another benefit of doing it as an audio thing – over making an embarrassingly low budget film version – is this doesn’t really diminish the possibility of remaking the story as a film at a later date. If, that is, the audio thing turns out to be universally accepted as the best thing in the world ever, as in my more deluded moments I’m sure it will be. 😉