Recently I revisited the Stop/Eject script. Yet another advantage of delaying a shoot is that you can get some distance from the project and come back to it with fresh eyes.
I’m still very happy with the script in most respects, but one thing stood out to me. The shopkeeper, one of the three main characters, appears out of nowhere on page six. (I took great delight in being able to write the stage direction, “As if by magic, the shopkeeper appears.”)
This now seems extremely convenient. It’s deus ex machina. Where was the shopkeeper when Kate and Dan first came into the shop and looked around? Where was she when Kate started experimenting with the tape recorder?
Because the shopkeeper is a magical character, I felt like I could get away with her being mysteriously absent from the first few scenes. Subconciously, I was thinking, “It’s a film.”
“It’s a film.” As in, “It’s only a film.”
If you’ve ever been involved in a low budget movie project, you’ve probably heard this phrase more than once.
A well-meaning crew member asks, “How come John didn’t notice when Susan was writing that text?” The director shrugs his shoulders and replies, “It’s a film.”
A producer asks, “How did Anne know when Bob was going to walk by?” The harassed writer replies, “It’s a film.”
It’s a film, so we can accept massive coincidences. It’s a film, so we can accept logic problems and the odd plot hole. It’s a film.
I have come to loathe this phrase in recent years. Because what it means is, “I’m a lazy filmmaker and I do not respect my audience.” And if you don’t respect your audience, they will not engage emotionally with the story, and your film will fail.
I want people to watch and enjoy Stop/Eject more than once. I don’t want them taken out of the story by wondering why the shop is completely unstaffed for the first five minutes.
So I’ve written her in. It took a bit of effort to come up with reasons why she wouldn’t interfere with what Kate’s doing, but that actually led to a richer and more believable characterisation. Win, win.
So next time you’re tempted to answer a legitimate logic query with “It’s a film,” ask yourself: if you don’t care about this movie, why should your audience?