The dreaded blank page


When I sat with Stephen Rea and he suggested the work of Robert Altman, I was thinking of The Player and M*A*S*H. He was thinking Short Cuts and Nashville. I spent months revisiting the works of Robert Altman to determine the structure. It was a challenge.

The Ballad of Des & Mo is a simple Golden Fleece story. Two protagonists have to overcome many dilemmas and challenges to be reunited with their luggage. Whilst it is comedy, it isn’t satire. And there lies a problem.

Robert Altman’s satires are sprawling pieces, with ensemble casts and multiple ideas all working at once. They are enclosed by a ‘frame’, such as country and western music or fashion. Sidney Lumet’s Network is framed by television. So we need a ‘frame’. But I’m not comfortable leaving it just at that. Whilst I’m happy to stretch out into the area of satire, I’m not happy with the randomness of it all. In fact, I found moments lagged in Robert Altman’s films which may have been tolerated in light of his genius or the time at which he was making films, but I’m not sure we’re going to get away with it. So I think the story must still be driven by necessity, keep the story moving forward in a way that keeps the audience interested. In Des & Mo (and in my section for Keys To The City), this is driven by a scam, which the audience is keen to see the resolution. Whether I’m forced to return to this is uncertain at this stage. I’d like to not have to.

One thing is for sure, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Robert Altman’s movies consumed ideas at an incredible rate. Many story strands of his films could be separate films in their own right. This makes the blank page all the more daunting, as coming up with one idea and running with it isn’t going to be enough.

As always, we’ll share how we crack this conundrum as an when we learn how to crack it 🙂



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