I’ve been ill for a couple of weeks – firstly i was struck with some weird virus thing that i probably caught on the plane back from Venice and then last week with possibly food poisoning or the return of the goddamned virus. Anyway getting fever on both occasions presented the opportunity for delirious insights to creep into my mind as i sweated my life away day and night. One of these insights was about my approach as a writer.
Essentially, and this may sound strange, its to become invisible from the work – to disappear – to have been able to have stitched together a web of connections that create a world garnered from remembrance, observation, reflection and imagination, embodied in people and places other than me and elsewhere from where i’ve lived and to not have a noticeable trace of me on the finished piece. Essentially its important to have recreated another reality that is as authentic as possible. I think this is why i love working with archives and also watching archive films and documentaries in particular. There is a certain truth to be told, to be found, that must be greater than your own take on the work.
I recently enjoyed the documentary ‘Bobby Fischer Against the World‘ about the rise and fall of self-taught US chess player Bobby Fischer told using archive footage and interviews and also the book ‘Zeitoun‘ about a father, a syrian muslim, and his experience staying behind to help people during the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I managed to finish Zeitoun during my last fever – and it was a great companion to be reading a book that was taking place in sweltering heat. Both pieces of work i happily got lost in and with the Bobby Fischer movie – the concept of chess was quite fitting for considering writing – and imagining all possible moves way way ahead of them happening, envisaging the shape of the game.
The same for the movie, Senna, which was made entirely with archive footage – i could just watch it again and again – an incredible but believeable story has been crafted from this personal and public archives.
Of course the trouble in getting close enough to this authenticity is putting aside my ego and its drivers. Writing is something that helps with this – and essentially listening – listening and writing what i hear – watching and absorbing – and when the time is right, appropriating into some kind of momentum that creates an order. I love working in this way – although its also a little scary because its like creating one big puzzle and you don’t know where the edges are. Its the observation, the noticing of small details and how they accumulate over time to create feelings, moments, themes, drama and that a way can be found that the story can almost tell itself.
For films that are made of my writing this means i need to find directors (and in turn actors and crew) who also work in this way. At the moment i am fortunate to work with a director who also works in this way. We are looking to make our first short drama together – a fiction, called IMMUNITY hopefully using archive footage of viruses, the insights of some immunologists and maybe some delusional experiences of fever.