Dispatch from The Quest: Emma Millions

January 9th, 2013 by

This marks Emma’s final Dispatch from The Quest:

The Quest is over. The first drafts are done. We have all typed FADE OUT. So it’s time for some thoughts on the experience of being on The Quest. Actually, it’s still somewhat hard to believe I was even one of the chosen few. I never expected my logline to get selected. And even when it was I never expected to get past the shortlist. So to find myself now a fully fledged Quester with a shiny new script is all a bit ‘blimey, how did that happen?’ A bit like how I imagine Frodo must have felt when he, tiny hobbit as he was, managed to get that one ring into the fires of Mount Doom. I’m sure ‘blimey’ would have been the first word out of his mouth. Even hobbits swear sometimes. But although I didn’t have any massive evil spiders to escape from or Orcs to fight along the way or greedy, ring-obsessed tricksters like Gollum hassling me, there were plenty of monsters of my own. I conquered procrastination, doubt, the difficult second act, to name but a few, and sometimes those monsters felt as though they were Oliphant sized. But I had the fellowship on my side. My fellow Questers all fighting their own battles with their scripts, sharing the load, providing inspiration and actual ideas, and without whom I doubt very much I’d have my completed first draft and a whole new way of working that I can take with me into all my future work. And I’ve said it before but I like it so I’ll say it again, Scott was our script wizard Gandalf and how awesome is it to have a Gandalf in your corner? Wouldn’t we all love a Gandalf? Where can we all get Gandalf’s from? Someone should make some kind of website.

The reason for all this Lord of the Rings nonsense, is because I have been playing the Lego version of the films on the Wii almost constantly as a way to get as far removed from my script as I can to give me lovely fresh eyes when I come to tackle the second draft. The Quest was pretty intensive. Delivering 10 pages a week in a state where other people can read them and give notes was a new thing to me. It’s a great way of working, and gives good discipline. Previously I was fond of the ol’ placeholder dialogue way of working. Basically, I would bash out scenes and not bother to wait around for the best dialogue to magically appear on the page. Instead I would write things like;

Says something funny about chickens here.

Says something funny about people who make jokes about chickens here whilst mentioning some plot point that will be important in the next scene.

Then, at some point, I would go back and add ‘proper’ jokes and lines as and when they came to me. But you can’t do this when you’re delivering pages so you have to stay with your scene until it’s actually done. And this has a knock on beneficial effect for all your following scenes. It means you get to know your characters’ voices more. It’s much more effective if you want to set up great gags and pay them off later or have good running gags throughout. And you have solid completed scenes to build on as opposed to shakey, vaguely blocked out, skeleton scenes which can collapse later. That’s just one of the things the Quest has taught me. There’s far too much other stuff to go into here. The Quest has shown me what I can do when I put my mind to it. It’s reminded me how much I love writing movies. It’s made me want to change my life in big ways and go on my own real-life journey, not one I’ve just made up for a made-up character. And with more than just Lembas Bread in my back pack for second breakfast. One day I’m sure I will look back and say the next big chapter of my life started with the Quest.

Sorry if this post has been a bit rambling but I’ve been distracted by wondering how I’m going to rescue Frodo from Shelob’s lair. I’m not joking. It’s quite a concern.

Tomorrow: Ben Odgren with his final Dispatch from The Quest.

About Emma: British based writer of ‘the funny’. Lover of cats and bad TV. Often found in pyjamas a bit drunk or a bit hungover. Occasionally does burlesque. Twitter: @emmamillions.

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