It’s hatching time again. Creative projects have different phases. The stakes for this one are big. I’m comfortable with that, and the intent is to create a television series that could occupy a good chunk of my attention for several years.
One reality of that is I’m in no position to actually script it myself. Professionally, I don't have the credibility to head up a project that someone would invest a ton of money in. But I can at least conceive the story, and write my take on a pilot episode, to give a feel for how I want it to be in case anything does happen with it. Right now, the task is just do it, regardless of outcome.
What matters more than anything about all this is honouring the idea I’ve found. Sometimes, it seems the idea has found me. I don’t express that kind of thinking in some quarters, but that’s pretty much how it is on occasion. Stories are of various sorts. There are those I can bolt together by bringing together a mix of research and prior examples, the sort of work I’ve often done when commissioned to write by someone else.
My own ideas tend to be something else. Often their identity isn’t clear to me at the time I write them. It wasn't until I wrote a script about army bullying that I realised I was writing about experiences much closer to home. The short film White Lily wouldn’t have been possible without a particular relationship. But knowing that’s where they came from wouldn’t have helped me write either, and realising beforehand I was exploring my history with reference to bullying would have probably deterred me from going anywhere near that script. And, White Lily has ideas about identity and memory and language that owe nothing to any relationship though do figure in my fascinations. The bullying script was the start of a longer investigation into masculinity.
This is all bubbling away while I’m mulling over stuff to do with King Arthur, Brexit, and - since yesterday - the utter joy that is SPIDER-MAN: Into The Spider-Verse. Trust me, it’s an extraordinary animated film that casually brings together multiple versions of the same character from different realities, allowing them to occupy a shared space with their own distinct visual styles. The one the story is most concerned with is Miles Morales, whose dad is African-American and mum Latina, with a knotty family situation every bit as compelling as that which drove Peter Parker to don the Spidey suit after his selfish actions led to the death of a beloved uncle.
Each and every one of those Spider-characters has an equivalent drive to put the world right. Never mind the costumes, the powers - what matters is characters striving to do what’s just both despite and because of the history they bring to the outfits they wear as they swing around town. Deep in the soil those characters are planted in, emotion and morality connect in powerful ways. That grounding allows the film to be visually playful to the point of joyous absurdity, because it’s always in the service of a coherent narrative the viewer is committed to seeing the outcome of.
Actually though, it’s not even that.
We know very well that Spider-Man will win because of course that’s what going to happen.
What counts is whether that victory is earned.
Somewhere in all this - homelessness and Excalibur, Spider-Man and story structure, deep character foundations and whizzbang visuals, remorseless logic and the importance of surprise - a script is finding its way into the world -
A million people are thinking the same as they hover over the keyboard right now.
Maybe you’re one of them.
Here’s to getting it right.