Ahhh… FADE OUT. Those two glorious words. Those words that make a screenwriter finally let out the breath they’ve been holding in, that breath that has been tearing up their gut, piercing their heart, and rearranging shit in their soul. Okay, maybe if you write… Hangover IV or some sweet romcom, the story might not hold you captive like this last draft of mine has done to me. Maybe I’m just sharing more about a psychological problem I have but hey, I’ve got a shrink and we’re working on it.
But writing for me is a fierce exercise in digging deep, challenging my skills and trying really hard to honor wisdom from my amazing USC thesis teacher, David Howard, [paraphrase] “For God’s sake, don’t be boring…”
SHIPSIDE, my latest feature has been living with me for a long time. I know these characters. I have a relationship with them. And with each revision, I attempt to deepen that. This last revision, though, was about deeper development of the antagonist. Giving him flesh. And because that was new and hard… (have I mentioned he’s the spirit of a notorious slave owner?) when I got to the end, when I hit FADE OUT… I sat back from the computer and felt a bubbling of emotion rising. I went to my husband, curled up on the bed and cried.
For two days after sending the script off to my director and producer, I had to work through the emotions of what I was forced to discover to do this revision. That this horrible man was once a human with feelings, betrayals, wishes and dreams. I gave him parents and a home, all to understand how he could become the awful evil man he was. And for me, in my process, i had to let this character ruminate in my head, and hold him in my heart, and that meant i had to let all his dark evilness come hang out, too.
FADE OUT was relief. FADE OUT meant “breathe, Stacey”.
i will be writing more about Shipside, as our pre-production ramps up. I will be writing more about creating this character and telling this story about a haunted poor young single mom. I plan to document the full production, the trip down south to tour plantations, to see the manacles, to look to the Atlantic Ocean and envision the ships coming over the horizon and then…because i need to see this too, envision the ships of everyone going home.
i will be searching for FADE OUT in a lot of places, I’m sure.
And maybe…just maybe in your own work, in your day, you know what this feels like? Do you?