The Final Countdown

10, 9, 8, 7…

We all chanted in a tone that was partly smug, partly encouraging. From the glass lobby of Te Whaea, we could see the cars pulling in and the poor souls running for the doors. I was craning to see, would they make it? And my stomach churned with the strange elation that it wasn’t me and the two free beers that I had downed since our arrival an hour or so before.

…6, 5, 4…

He made it. A whoop of joy from the crowd barely punctuating the chant as the seconds ebbed away. I wondered what it would be like for those outside, those that could hear us – but were still too far away to make it. Would you keep going, or admit defeat?

…3, 2, 1.

The 48 hours were over, and we had pulled it off.

5 minutes later as we pulled out of the carpark and they were still arriving. To late to compete, so why did they still come?

A body in motion stays in motion and it felt like we had been running since Friday night.

I arrived for the ferry an hour early. I should have known that Terese would have built in some time so that we would all be there in time for the last ferry. Me? I read that we had to be there at 6.45 so thought I should get there by 6; I hate being late. It stresses me out. Although being alone with my thoughts probably makes me just as stressed – apprehension about the new people I’d be meeting, the genre we’d be given, whether we’d finish. What I have dried up of new ideas? What if my writing isn’t up to snuff, what if, what if, what if…

Luckily Cam came and rescued me, and we waited together in a nearby pub with beer and wedges to soothe my mind until it was time to go.

The ferry and our genre came at almost the same time – we had drawn “Animal movie” and we were heading to a mammalian free island (sheep don’t count I guess…at least not in NZ eh? Part of the furniture if the stereotype is believed).

After we had searched our bags for rats and Argentine ants we made our way up the hills to the houses that would be our home/set for the weekend.

The first couple of hours we had a general brain storm with everyone. Brainstorming can be great…and not so great. There is always a danger that there will be someone who will usurp the whole process, or has their own agenda to push. Luckily, the brain storm was like the whole weekend – friendly, engaging and hilarious. The writers (Alice, Matt, Sopa and me. Later joined by Peter and Terese) then left to write all night at Matt’s house.

And it was all night.

Just to be up front about this. I’m not going to give you a spoiler about our film – I’m just going to talk about the process of writing our script.

I know the cliche is of writers who work alone, and for the most part I do. But there is something really exciting about writing with other people – the ideas that are generated by discussion, the debates. Oh! The debates! We talked about our film a lot discussing whether our idea was true to the genre, what we needed to show the audience and what we could trust that they would get. Whether a joke was funny or if it was 4.30 hysteria…

I also got to try out my post it variation on index cards. I’ve been using index cards to map out my structure for a while (akin to this post), and a few weeks ago I went on a training course where post its were used for brainstorming. I thought: “I’ll have that” and by gum I did. It was a fast easy way for us to nut out the structure without having to cross things out or end up with a big mess. My thought on the writing process is that we should concentrate on the story – the sexy stuff like dialogue is pretty easy comparatively.

Many, many cans of V later we presented the rest of the crew with the script at breakfast. They laughed! They understood the things that we worried may have been missed. It worked for our first audience.

The rest of the weekend was a bit of a tired blur to me, and I am mindful of letting anything slip about our film. Something that sticks out in my mind was Saturday lunchtime when Hamish, a film maker who was following our progress for C4, arrived to find us enjoying a BBQ and a couple of beers. That characterised the whole weekend for me, it felt like whanau. We could relax into the process because we all knew how to work together, even though a lot of us hadn’t before.

The last few days I have been catching up with sleep ( Saturday, 30 hours without sleep. A personal best.) and in all my dreams I have been making films. If nothing else comes of the weekend (meeting some choice people aside) it feels bloody good to have something finished, with my novel and play hanging over me.

Fingers crossed for Sunday night when our filmed is screened!

Only 3 sleeps to go…


Filed under On being a Writer

7 responses to “The Final Countdown

  1. Ooh exciting! Good luck!

  2. littlegemsession

    Fingers crossed!

  3. Good luck Whiti! I have wanted to take part in this for the last few years, but I always seem to be somewhere else. (In this case, the Auckland Writers festival)

  4. Whiti

    I read your post about the festival! Perhaps one day I’ll trade the insanity of the 48hours fest for that insanity. If you have a good crew and you’re in it for fun (rather than glory) it is so much fun. Sometime during the weekend, you’ll swear that Dickens was writing about the experience in the Tale of Two Cities…It is indeed the best of times and the worst of times!

  5. Oh wow, sounds awesome! I was involved in a 24 hour play project as a writer in Australia and that was a fabulous experience – and certainly not as tiring as this sounds!! Good luck!

  6. Whiti

    What is it with writers and lack of sleep? I have also been involved in a 24 hour play project too, a couple of years ago. Not as much fun as this project, but still well worth it.

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