Writing a feel good film

My husband does PR for the Feel Good Film Festival. And my friends at the festival, as well as my husband, often joke about how they will never see me submitting as I am best known for dark comedies, horror and the occasional tear-jerker with no hope. I am not a fan of the feel good story.

Strangely enough, the only time I did a feel good storytelling was when I wrote my autobiographical piece, Overflow. We performed it over at the Hudson in Hollywood and I will never forget the standing ovation closing night. Oh theater, how I miss you (and don’t miss you when I am forced to recall the nights when the cast outnumbered the audience or when a reviewer walked out glaring at me…how did he KNOW I’m the writer?) But it was feel good because I didn’t create the story. It was autobiographical. I didn’t stray from the original concept that much and I knew the ending. I knew the characters.

Usually, I start a story with no idea who my characters are and knowing that the ending I thought up will not happen. It is my ego that makes me think I am in control of my stories. My characters always take me on trips and I just document it. My characters start out sweet, quirky, and utterly charming. Next thing I know, that same character is gutting an innocent man like a cow and venting about her roommate situation. My characters are fucked up people. I can’t stop them. I’d be afraid if I tried.

But this FGFF comes up every year and every year I vow to make a feel good film. A short one. One where my characters don’t have time to go postal. And I start one, and it devolves into a dark, dark place. However. This year. Will. Be. Different.

I know a good feel good film. I know the feeling. I have seen it even more in plays. It’s something you feel in your chest and head. The standing ovation after a tear jerker is one where I am pushed from my seat, my agony from what I’ve seen literally drops me and then lifts me. If one could be truthful in their physical reaction to a tearjerker, we’d all be clapping on our knees like supplicants in a Catholic mass. But a feel good play….oh, that feels different. Because for ten to twenty minutes, you’ve been wanting to stand…to cheer on the character…you’ve been holding yourself down out of sheer etiquette. But that character is almost there….almost to success…..If only I could stand up and cheer him on….he’d make it….sure this actor rehearsed this scene…sure a writer wrote it….but really…..my well wishes…my prayers will make this character conquer..

And then the character does succeed. oh! Can I yet? No….final words…concluding scene with another character…lights down. And you, I, the audience, we rise up like a swelling tide and clap, cry, laugh, relief overtaking us. The good guy won.

Okay. That sounds good. I want to make this. Ten minutes or less. Maybe I should watch some feel good stuff to get me motivated.

So I do. And let me say this…not a lot of feel good on the internet. But today, I stopped looking at fiction and decided to research some reality feel good. And i just watched eight different versions of the Derek Redmond story and cried out of control each time…

When a writer sees what they’ve been trying to write, when they see it perfectly executed, there are only two reactions. Either the writer is motivated to do it because now they know it can be done or (and I think this is more common) the writer decides there is no point in continuing. It’s been done. Why do it again? Reality did what I wanted to write. And reality did it perfectly.

So now what? Do a five minute film on a….girl? who does a…swimming race? and pulls a….bicep? and her..sister? helps her finish with a…vest floatie? Yeah. See?

So often when I write, non-writer friends ask me how many pages I got done. I usually say I did x pages and deleted y pages. Sometimes y is a larger number than x. But even described like that, it is so difficult to quantify a day’s writing. A lot of it is watching videos and reading books and mapping plot points and perusing lists of names and cities and occupations. And then, all of that data fills up the brain and the actual process of typing words to the screen is what turns it into a story. The processing of all of that data happens as the story unfolds.

Writing is such a delicate craft and yet, if there is a God, He wins every time as being the better storyteller. His characters may even surprise him like mine surprise me. But He chugs along and keeps going with the story. So I will keep writing, just like I hope this God keeps writing, too. Feel good….if God can make a story like that with a pulled hamstring, so can I.

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