Just a short post to firm up something in my head. I was asked again recently what my screenplay was about. I often give people the logline; when the government targets junkies for genocide, a self-righteous policeman fights to save his drug using sister. This time I said “it’s about the cruelty of prohibition.” I realised today it’s not about the cruelty of prohibition, Carrion is about the fight between freedom and security. The fight between freedom and security is at the core of the war on drugs. Think about the rhetoric of prohibition. War. Protection. Threat. Danger. Safety. They all frame drugs and their users as dangerous. A threat to our way of life. We have to protect ourselves. At the core of peoples desire to take drugs is rebellion. A desire to reject the values of the wider society. To be free. I’ve mentioned this dynamic before when writing about the conflict between Adam and Reiner. Deep down the two men are fighting over the kind of world they are going to live in. Reiner demands a world of security. At the end of the story Adam is fighting for a world of freedom. He doesn’t get it. The fight for freedom has only just begun but the realisation is what brings the end of his journey.
Working on Carrion today I found myself asking the question; why is Adam against drugs? In the story world of Carrion the drug user is the enemy. As a distinct social group they are to Reiner and the prohibitionist what the Jews were to Hitler and the Nazis; “if we did not have them we should have to invent him. It is essential to have a tangible enemy.” (1) They are the outsider. The other. The enemy. The threat that people can be united against. Defeat drugs and the world will be a better place. From Reiner’s point of view the choice to do drugs represents a kind of desire for freedom that poses a direct challenge to the security he craves. This makes Adam’s animosity for drugs more about his desire to be part of something bigger. Which raises the question; if you strip away that belonging would the animosity go with it? Adam wants to be part of something bigger. The price to become part of that something is his sister. Unwilling to pay the piper he is exiled, forced to experience the world thusly. That makes Adam’s animosity towards drugs environmental. It is a learned behaviour that has more to do with his relationship with Christine than some innate hatred of drugs and users.
I’ve been going over yesterdays post trying to figure out the ten minutes of story that follow the inciting event. At its simplest the sequence is about Adam escaping. This prompted me to research individuals escaping arrest. The scenarios for escaping arrest seem to fall into three main categories. The first involved intervention by a third party. Two bank robbers escaped custody when a prison van they were in was attacked by an armed gang. The gang forced the van to stop, threatened the guards with shotguns, freeing the two men. The second involves meticulous planning. A murder escaped prison by scaling the walls of the prison with an improvised rope. He first hid in the prison gymnasium, then made his way onto the roof, before climbing down the wall using a rope fashioned from discarded netting. The final scenario can best be described as an opportunistic escape. While guards were not looking, an arsonist slid under the van that delivered him. He managed to escape custody by clinging to the undercarriage as the van drove out. The second of these scenarios is the least likely to work for Adam. There simply isn’t the time for him to plan an escape. The first scenario is also unlikely. All of Adam’s comrades are prohibitionists; who would come for him? Which leaves the third scenario, the opportunistic escape. Refusing to kill Christine categorises him as a junkie in the eyes of Reiner and the prohibitionists. While the punishment for this treason could very easily be quick and final, Adam’s punishment is to be treated as a junkie, suffer the same indignities the drug taking community has to suffer. Outcast by the prohibitionists, thrown in with the quarantined users, Adam is reviled by both sides. This scenario is rife with the possibility of violent confrontation. Confrontations that have the potential to get out of hand and create opportunities for escape. There is more to come but that’s it for now.
Some time ago I mentioned throwing out the first act. While working though various ideas about Adam, Christine and Reiner I came across a much stronger inciting event. Basically Adam is forced to make an impossible decision. He is given the opportunity to join the party and progress within the prohibitionist cause but to do so he has to kill Christine. It’s the most provocative inciting event I have managed to find. The problem is choosing it has forced me to reassess what follows. Specifically the events after the refusal. Technically this is the start of Adam’s desire line. But to save Christine he first has to save himself. The problem is the refusal to kill Christine makes him a combatant deep behind enemy lines. He is now a prisoner of war. Which makes the question for next ten minutes of story; how does Adam escape? One way is to have Reiner release him. But Reiner is so hurt by Adam’s refusal, so committed to the prohibitionist cause, that this just wouldn’t happen. A second way is to have Adam fight his way out. But this option is just too obvious. Adam’s character is not combative enough at this point in the story. He has not yet learned to fight prohibition. It contradicts the “not fighting back” immoral actions that underpin his character. A third way is to have him take advantage of events happening within the story world; swarming insect, a riotous mob or sympathetic aggressor. But all of these scenarios have the potential to dilute events later in the story. Overall it needs to be something of relatively low intensity. But what? Time to finish. I will return to this issue in another post.
Reading through Christine’s desire (1) I found myself going over one section repeatedly.
At its essence she has a destructiveness about her at the beginning of the story. The question then becomes; what is she at the end? In purely technical terms she needs to achieve the polar opposite. Put simply if her weakness is destructive she needs to create something.
Thinking about her destructive weakness and creative need it dawned on me that this binary polarisation of destructive and creative impulses is at the heart of the story. The clash between the will to destroy and need to create is the point at which all the characters intersect. Adam and Reiner are fighting over the kind of world they are going to live in; one of security or one of freedom? Each character wants to destroy the others version of the world and create their own. Another of the things this understanding allows is to broaden destroy/create dynamic into one of damage/heal. For example, the destructive weakness that compels Christine to rebel against Adam brings with it the creative need to heal the rift between them. I said this was a “short note” and it is. That’s it for now.
By the end of yesterdays post I had to reassess my understanding of Adam and Christine’s relationship. Truthfully I had an inadequate view of Adam that benefits from being reversed. I had this idea of him as a basically decent character. A victim of circumstance obliged to look after his sister. I understood his self-righteousness towards Christine as desperation but didn’t really understand how despicable his behaviour is at the beginning. For some reason I viewed Christine as a problem he must solve. Her behaviour drops him in the trouble he has to get out of. None of that takes into account Christine or the influence she exerts. I guess what I’m saying is that their relationship lacked depth. Yesterdays post made me articulate very specifically Christine’s desire, what she wants, in a way I hadn’t done before. A less passive Christine makes Adam’s job that much harder. The contrast between the two becomes that much starker. If I view him as a complete cunt at the beginning the change at the end is more powerful. It is also interesting if you consider Christine’s need is hidden from her until the end. It is only at the point of self-revelation, after the crucible of battle, that she realises what she is asking of him. Best of all this revised dynamic is rife with dramatic potential.
I ended my last post with a question; what does Christine’s desire line look like? It would be easy to say Christine’s desire is to escape prohibition but I don’t think that adequately describes what she wants. To truly understand her desire we first have to understand her need. What must Christine fullfil within herself to have a better life? Need is about overcoming her moral and psychological weaknesses. The knee-jerk reaction to this question identifies her drug use as her weakness but as I tried to explain in my previous post Christine’s drug use is not a negative. That understanding just doesn’t fit with the moral vision or theme I have for the story. As I understand it Christine’s weakness is her rebelliousness; that impulse she has to resist authority, control or convention. In the “Character Web by Archetype” chapter of “The Anatomy of Story” John Truby notes that the rebel’s strength is the “courage to stand out from the crowd and act against a system that is enslaving people.” The weakness of this archetype is that they “often cannot provide a better alternative, so end up destroying the society.” I think of the link between the two sides of her weakness like this. If Adam’s self-righteousness is a product of a positive pushed until it becomes a negative; his responsibility, taken to the extreme, is oppressive. Christine’s weakness is a product of her bravery pushed until it becomes destructive. At the beginning of the story her rebelliousness is the wellspring of the conflict with Adam. Her defiance exasperates Adam. He reacts with self-righteous indignation and arrests her, which reenforces her will to resist. At its essence she has a destructiveness about her at the beginning of the story. The question then becomes; what is she at the end? In purely technical terms she needs to achieve the polar opposite. Put simply if her weakness is destructive she needs to create something. An insight that brings me to the conclusion that Christine’s need is to change the society she lives in. Ironically, a need she is only able to fulfil through Adam. When he chooses freedom over security at the end of the story Adam is fulfilling Christine’s creative need to free society. He is doing it because of what he has learned through Christine. A conclusion I wasn’t really aware of until now. Christine’s desire line is not to escape prohibition, it’s to change Adam. This insight changes the way I look at Adam and how he relates to Christine. But that’s the subject of another post.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Christine Leigh. Who she is? What she wants? Why she takes drugs? Christine’s relationship with Adam is the cornerstone of Carrion. She is the reason he goes up against Reiner. Without her Adam would remain inactive, Reiner’s actions would go unchallenged and our view of prohibition would remain inviolate. The story only gets under way when Adam’s desire to save Christine kicks in. But there is a problem with characterising Christine as something that needs to be saved. Certainly it allows Adam to justify arresting her at the beginning of the story but in story terms it has the potential to make her incredibly passive. There is another thing. “Characterising Christine as something that needs to be saved” underestimates or more accurately misrepresents her drug use. Overall it presupposes she is victimised by drugs. Certainly she is persecuted by prohibition. But when I think of her drug use I don’t see her as a victim. The understanding of drug user as victim relies heavily on the popular perception of those who take drugs as damaged individual running away from something. While there are undoubtably a percentage of individuals who fit this profile. I know the vast majority of people who use drugs take them for entirely different reason. If the truth were told there are probably as many reasons for using drugs as there are people who take them. There is also another misconception at play here. One that presumes everyone who takes drugs is an addict. I view this as prohibitionist propaganda. The truth is less hysterical. Just as not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. Not everyone who takes drugs is an addict. Which brings me back to the question; why does Christine take drugs? The short answer; she is looking for something. If I had to pin it down I’d say she is actually seeking a state of grace. But I don’t think of Christine as a religious person. I think what she seeks is less devine grace and more secular enlightenment. In an earlier post I outlined something of Christine’s character.
Born in 1995. She was two when her brother joined the army. In the years that followed she saw him occasionally. His absence from the family home meant she actually grew up an only child. The sole beneficiary of her parents emotional, physical and financials resources, the constant attention lead to a strong willed girl sensitive to disapproval. Denied competition from a sibling she exhibits a certain possessiveness with her time, space and belongings. Perfectly happy to spend time alone and fiercely loyal, she prefers the company of a few close friends to the superficial connections exhibited by her extrovert peers. (2)
I view Christine’s drug use as her way of connecting to others. It’s not just that she has a small group of friends who are united by a common activity or the feelings of empathy that comes with the use of a drug like ecstasy. I think she uses drugs because she has a deep-rooted need to short circuit the barriers between people. At the core of that need is the barriers she feels between herself and Adam. The flip-side of this need to connect is her great weakness, rebelliousness; that impulse to resist authority, control or convention. All of which raises a question for my next post. What does her desire line look like?
I set up a YouTube channel a while ago with the intention of shooting and uploading some interviews. I haven’t done that yet. What I did today was uploaded Bert Jansch – Dreamweaver. I put it up purely for promotional purposes. I long since gave up hope of getting anything but the credit from this project. I think it’s enough now just to have something that adds to my online tattoo. Dreamweaver was made with no money. Shot on borrowed cameras and took more than a year to make. Late in the production we managed to get a meeting with the head of 4Music. On the back of that meeting we were given a slot on Channel 4 and enough money to pay the cost of post-production. Dreamweaver aired 28 June 2000.
It’s definitely one for the fans. There are full performances from Bert. No talking heads getting in the way of his playing. Not my choice. Personally I think that was a mistake. I think it detracts from what could have been a more fluid telling of his story but that was the agreement the producer made with Bert and those were the parameters I had to work within.
For a couple of weeks now I’ve been trawling the themes section of the Worpress.com dashboard. I was bored with the way LessBeauty // MoreBrains looked and wanted something new for the site. I also felt I needed to establish better links between LessBeauty // MoreBrains and DarrinNighitngale // ScreenWriter. I was giving serious consideration to importing all the content from // MoreBrains into // ScreenWriter but didn’t really want to fill // ScreenWriter up with digigraphs. Hopefully what I’ve managed to do with the new layout is give each activity its own section while making them both look like they’re part of something bigger?