Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. Come inside, come inside.
Today, after about a month of brainstorming other aspects of it, I start focusing on creating the story of my next film. Since I don’t have much of anything to say about that, I’ll ramble about how and why I took so long to get working on the story for The Next Thing (a codename ’til I get the script copywritten). Long for me, anyway.
Swearing to an artist’s career of using mostly women, it’s very important for me to not make characters who are arbitrarily women. The only things that make them feminine are pronouns and them being played by actresses. I also love rich characters, rich storytelling, and worldbuilding. Because of those, I have pages and pages of notes about characters and where they exist. Many people forget that each movie could create a language specific to itself instead of just being a movie. Think of something made by David Lynch or Michel Gondry versus something typical. The medium is FAR more malleable than people think. For instance, The Next Thing will be a horror movie, but I’ll explain later why it won’t be what you expect.
Those pages of notes were written stream-of-consciousness, so it was a bit of snakes in the pet shop when it came to making sense of them before focused brainstorming.
Something interesting happened after that. I had a character who existed for one very intense scene… but I felt bad for whoever I’d cast for her because she’d be there for that and would be gone. So I decided to give the character more to do and she’s become one of my favorites in The Next Thing.
As I was putting together my villainess, I remembered something I read about lady killers in horror movies. They don’t get the same range to be evil as fellas and tend to have a sympathetic edge instead of being pure evil. I saw that I was falling into that trap with mine. She originally did what she was doing out of a sense of longing, but now she’s an unrepentant psychopath. The Next Thing is much better for it, too, and whichever actress gets to play her will have a special kind of fun. I’m not making her do things for the sake of them and using her psychopathy as a reason to be random as fuck, though. Everything she does has meaning, just not empathy. Think Heath Ledger’s Joker, not Jack Nicholson’s.
Being a director with one film under his belt (but WHAT a film!) and knowing how odd it will be, I understood that I had to start thinking of how to sell The Next Thing while I was preparing it. Not making it cater to a wide audience, but knowing how to present it to them and the money people. They love simplicity, so I boiled everything down into two references:
I’d see that. Twice.
In taking inspiration, I stayed away from horror movies: just because I was making one didn’t mean that I needed to take from them. I felt that throwing things into the soup that aren’t the usual suspects would make a much more interesting and richer meal. The horror’s gonna take care of itself (and how!), so it was important to me to explore other things. I noticed that I was gravitating towards movies about bands, for some reason. Maybe the group setting? I also read Patty Schemel’s autobiography, “Hit So Hard.” She talked about being an addict while being a drummer. The big “ah HA” moment came while rewatching THE DOORS.
I mentioned earlier that I didn’t want to make a typical horror movie. I love American horror movies and splatterpunk, but I’m not at all interested in the tropes of them. Guillermo del Toro said the same thing about his films, but I didn’t understand what he meant ’til The Next Thing. American horror movies and international horror movies are so different because the latter has a broader sense of what counts. Very few Americans would consider David Lynch a horror director (including himself), but his work is so horrific. That’s partly because Americans tend to not bother pushing the genre outward, and their work that does gets co-opted by the intelligentsia who rattles off a series of adjectives to beat the genre unconscious with. See: GET OUT and SHAPE OF WATER.
So, back to THE DOORS. Every time I watch it, I’m amazed at the tempo. This time, I thought that I never saw a horror movie like that. Before I started brainstorming for The Next Thing, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted it to be long or short. If it was short, it’d be a great punch in the face to the audience. If it was long, it’d be the slow knife into their hearts. When character stuff kept coming, I realized that it’d be such a disservice to the characters if I blitzed through everything. THE DOORS was the push towards madness I needed.
If I could make the BOOGIE NIGHTS of horror, I’d be fine with that.