I woke up early again. Seems to be becoming a habit that I’m not entirely sure I approve of. But it seems to be getting more work done at least! Rhys and I had agreed to get up at about 8.00am in order to start the walk up to the villa at 8.45am. As I was already up and showered by 8.15am I thought I would pop into the garden to write my lovely neglected girlfriend an email which I could later send with the wifi up at the villa. Email finished I wrote out the previous days blog post and then started to work on some lyrical ideas for the moments we had been discussing the previous day. At around 8.45am Rhys crept sheepishly into the garden and offered to make some tea and coffee. It was fairly clear at that point that we weren’t going anywhere soon, this became transparent when Rhys mentioned that he would like to tidy up the synopsis before sending it through to Ants and George. Now, the delightful Rhys is not only a wonderful writer and actor and general good guy, there is a dark side to this man of many talents. Essentially he is very ill. It’s a little known disease that experts refer to as a “Format-oholic”. Common symptoms of the disease include an inability to send anything to anyone without first turning names of characters into “small caps” making song titles “bold” and “italic” and generally obsessing over the minute detail of paragraph spacing. I don’t blame Rhys, as I said it’s an illness and can’t be helped. I just hope that he can get the help he needs to move past this terrible affliction. Call 0800 RHYS BRAIN to donate to Darren’s sanity fund.
To be honest though, once he’d finished the document, it looked pretty sweet.
At 9.45am, after an hour of formatting. Rhys and I set off at a powerful stride through the woods, up the hill towards the villa. After an elevation of about 200 feet* our powerful stride slowed to a leisurely lope. After 400 feet* the leisurely lope slowed further still to a lazy shuffle. At an elevation of 800 feet*, sweat pouring down our backs, the lazy shuffle came to a complete stand still. Cursing our inappropriate choice of footwear (flip flops). We gradually found the strength to continue and finally arrived at the villa with T shirts a considerably darker shade than when we set out. We were greeted once again by a very excited dog, Ants and George and with a breakfast laid out on the patio, fresh local fruit, yoghurt and croissant. Lovely. Whilst George popped off in the car to pick something up from town Rhys suggested that once we had finished, he should do a storytelling and read our new synopsis to our mentors to see what they thought of the changes we had made.
*Elevations may be enormously exaggerated or completely made up due to altitude delirium.
When George returned, we all gathered on the patio. Ants and George had copies of the new synopsis printed in front of them and Rhys began to read. As he progressed through the story it was encouraging to see both George and Ants nodding approvingly at the various changes that we had made from the previous day. I even saw George putting ticks next to several paragraphs. When Rhys had finished it was brilliant to hear that they thought the new work was a vast improvement on the previous days work. We had decluttered, simplified whilst still maintaining and in fact strengthening the three dimensional character and story arcs that we had worked so hard to complicate. Essentially the feedback was extremely positive, with only a few more minor (but still extremely helpful and pertinent) suggestions regarding certain crucial moments. Inside my head, my brain breathed a sigh of relief. It really felt like we had made a huge improvement the previous day, but it was great to hear that George and Ants agreed. Following further discussion over the final story points that we needed to clarify and bring out, Rhys and I jumped back into the synopsis to clean it up and add the suggested changes. As we worked through it we came across a couple of other moments that we realised had become extremely important and that had been skirted over, so in addition to the other changes we came up with some detail about those in particular.
One interesting part of this process has been that very early on in the writing process we actually had a synopsis that looked similar to this one we had finally created two years later. Over the years we had tried desperately to make the characters come to life and bring out the themes in such a way that we overcomplicated it until it became a beast. It was, however a very necessary part of the process for us as now we have finally come full circle to a synopsis that maintains the simple storytelling but reveals fully realised and detailed major and minor character arcs within that simplicity. Ants said that good actors will work with a good story arc and create moving stories from very few lines. He also said that it is always good to go back to your first instincts in storytelling and in this instance, having strayed from the path for so long, it felt brilliant to return, but to return changed. Oddly enough we, as writers, had gone on our own miniature “Hero’s Journey” without even realising it. We started off as naive fools believing we had a handle on this story, blindly we headed deep into the woods and got horrifically lost, we met the mentors, learned some truths, we conquered the beast and returned to the beginning, as changed writers.
After having congratulated ourselves suitably, we were fed more delicious local bread and cheese. In the afternoon, we decided to continue working through the proposed structures of some of the new songs that the synopsis demanded. We spent an hour or so at the piano working on The Basketmakers song, bashing our brains together to discover the angle, perspective and the journey of the song which fortunately we think we found and, having sketched out a rough version of it including a tune and very basic lyrics we put that aside and moved on.
It was still lovely outside so we took the guitar, sat out on the patio and attempted to crack the structure of one of The Ugly Girl’s most important song moments, called Have You Seen My Husband. This is one of the darkest and most desperate moments in the story and we really wanted to find that desperation in the structure. Again, through discussion and me playing through bits and pieces on the guitar we eventually bashed out a rough structure including The Ugly Girls emotional beats that she had to hit in the song. We were working quickly because Rhys would be leaving at about 6pm and we wanted to create as much stuff in a loose form that I could then work on for the rest of the week with George, Ants and our director Charlie when she arrives on Wednesday.
By about 5pm we had moved onto another big change, which involved the removal of an entire character from the story and the rewriting of an essential song moment as a result of that change. We discussed the new function that the song had to fulfil and that it’s current lyric was not entirely reacting to that function and it would require substantial rewriting. Again, we talked though what the song needed to do and how it might say it and I came up with a few draft lyrics that started to fit the bill. Then suddenly it was 6.00pm and Rhys had to go to the train station to go home.
It was a real shame that he was unable to stay longer, especially as it felt like we had achieved so much in so short a space of time. I can only imagine how much more we could have done together. However, it does mean that for the next few days I can focus on the specifics of these songs and ask for guidance from Ants and George regarding the function, drama and structuring of some other numbers. I’m sure there will be a lot that will be acheived. Indeed, without Rhys attempting to format everything, I might get even more done…
I worked for a little while longer on lyrics whilst George cooked yet another amazing meal. Then I threw the ball for sixpence which she was often reluctant to let go (Arethra Franklin popped into my head once again: “You just try and take my ball you muther*$%&. See what happens!”) We ate and talked, conversation ranging widely once again and I finally tried a red wine that I liked. Apparently it has to “breathe”. Who knew? After dinner I popped back to the piano to continue working on The Basketmakers song which I worked on until about 9.00pm whereupon I thought it would be a good idea to pop back to the Gite for an early night. I also thought it would be a good idea to go back down the path through the wood in the dark. Ants very wisely supplied me with a torch whilst giving me a look that said: “I’m not entirely sure this is a good idea, but you are a grown man, you can make your own decisions and if you get eaten by a bear at least it will have been in the pursuit of art.” Ants is a sophisticated guy. He can totally convey all that with a look.
It turns out he was right. It wasn’t a particularly good idea, it was pitch black and I was rather on edge as I stumbled down the path. I did however, eventually stumble into the light of the village where I swear there was a man on a balcony who gave me a look that said: “That guy is a little bit nuts, I hope he’s not staying anywhere near me, perhaps I should bolt the door tonight.” (This guy was clearly sophisticated as well.)
So I made it home, watched a little french TV in which sexy couples touched each other erotically, had a blazing argument and then continued to touch each other with increased erotic ferocity. I later discovered I was watching Euro News.
Another brilliant day with great strides made. I’m looking forward to sleeping and to more work tomorrow.