Tuesday 1 February 2011

Choosing Wisely

Last night, I finally got round to watching The King's Speech - and was relieved and thrilled that it was as good as the hype suggested. Colin Firth's performance really is stunning, and his on-screen relationship with Logue (Geoffrey Rush) was electrifying. This is a film with no fireworks or special effects, camera tricks or plot gimmicks - just characters talking. The power of the words really is stunning.

Here's one thing I take from this movie: What a great choice of story. David Seidler could have written about any number of things - and struggled to make it cinematic or shootable. He chose a story that lends itself to a strong central relationship with a clear climax. Bertie, the Duke of York, has royal duties but cannot speak in public. There is the toe-curling opening scene in which this is made obvious. His quest is simple and comprehensible. We know he will be king because of his feckless brother, and he will have to overcome this disability. And it will be obvious to us when he does. The radio broadcast at the end is the clinching victory. And because the story is so straightforward, we can revel in this fascinating and extraordinary relationship between King and Speech Therapist, Logue. There is, of course, the extra moment when Logue calls Bertie 'Your Majesty' and offers him the approval and respect that Bertie craves - and has truly earned.

In a way, it seems like the writer is cheating. The story almost writes itself. (It doesn't, and never does, but you get the idea). But how many of us beat our heads against a wall trying to tell a story clearly and simply, when it doesn't want to be told? There's something inside the story that attracts us, but sometimes the nut is too tough to crack. In which case, look for another nut.

A while ago, I read a management book for research. It talked about some people in business whining that their competitors are cheating. Big airlines whinge that the lo-cost airlines are making easy money because they are cheating, with cheap hubs, cheap planes, profitable routes and luggage restrictions. If someone talks like this, ask them this. "So why aren't you cheating?"

It may be genuine fascination with a story, a relationship or even a fact. But it may be that you've invested so much time in it that it simply has to be made to work. If you're in a hole, stop digging. Move on. Choose another story or character or situation.

I have a number of scenarios and ideas for sitcoms that I keep coming back to. I'm sure that they should work, or can be made to work, but they're just too complicated, require too much explanation or have other related problems. I need to stop digging and move on. Maybe you do too. It may be that a light is switched on and the idea is transformed and I know how to tell that particular story. But until that moment, I need to spend my time elsewhere, finding characters and stories that can be beautifully and wonderfully told - like The King's Speech.

1 comment:

  1. Very timely post for me - I've been struggling a bit with a spark that I've not really found the story for, if that makes. It could well be that it is an idea without a story. Food for thought anyway, thanks!