Choosing Lily is a film that has challenged my mind and lazy nature for quite some time. Whether I was in the shower, doing laundry, or brainlessly day dreaming, ideas for this movie came in like a flood and grasped my mind. It has been a work in progress for quite some time now. I came up with a simple story that evolved into a not so simple one (for more on the genesis of Lily read my former article, “Writing Lily”).
There I was. It was all systems go. I was done writing. Then the dismal reality set in. Under all those pages, a rewrite of rewrites, the story had disappeared. The story was silent even though more than a hundred pages tried to shout it out. It was terrible.
Basically I had a script that could in theory make a movie but the movie would either come out dry and lifeless, corny and laughable, or something else entirely different that of which I don’t know. What had gone wrong? Hadn’t I spent hours and hours on the story? I had, the script just didn’t know it. The story was there somewhere; I just needed to find it.
Lily could be used as evidence for evolution. In it’s beginnings it was a short film that simply had naivety painted all over it. It had stupid, silly conversations between characters and fairly artistic dream sequences that for what they are worth aren’t too bad. Years later, the script was entirely different. The simple story about teen pregnancy had evolved into a long story with a love triangle and lots of strife. To that teenage soap opera, an anti-cheesy vacuum was applied which sucked out all the corn but also the script’s life-blood. Now I had the shadow of a story. What next? I thought I was done!
I knew another rewrite was in order. But how? I knew that I needed to get a story into it. Lily is a Christian movie and does have a strong moral message; however, even if a movie has a strong message but no story it’s not considered very viewer friendly. The thing was I knew the story under the story. I knew what made the characters tick and not just tick… breathe. There was a story somewhere but the script was lacking it. So, I set my fingers on the keyboard once again. I was ready to take some of that soap opera version and even some of that artsy version and inject it into my lifeless words.
Almost every movie follows simple guidelines. Take a character, throw the character into a bad or difficult situation, throw bad things at him, and then take him out of that bad situation in the end. Most movies are supposed to be A) enjoyable and/or B) thought provoking (in Lily’s case both). Heart set on getting a good story I began to rework the film.
I decided I needed to focus more on the substance story-wise. I began plotting. The pro-life message needed to almost be the movie's sub-conscious. It needed to be subtle and strong, which was a challenge to say the least. That being said, the final product still needed to say pro-life all over it and yet not overpower the story. I needed to get the priorities straight. The newest version attempts to follow the simple idea that a movie needs a story. A movie’s job is to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and an end.
The film’s basic story follows a girl’s search for love, her relationship with her family, her friends, God, and her child. The love triangle was reincarnated so the movie would have more life, the dream sequences of years ago were renewed, so to speak, as flashbacks. Now the rewrite tries to show the soul of the characters. Lily was getting its' story back!
However, it isn’t over. Not yet. Now I have the challenge of fiddling with my movie. Was it ever broken? I think so. It may have had that story I thought it lacked; it may have worked and worked well. The process now boils down to the fact that I need to pick out the best ideas I have and assemble them into a likable story. The difficulty comes when picking between goods and betters. This climax or that? This way or that? Sometimes when you get so close to your work it’s hard to see it clearly. Does every artist suffer in such a way?
My worry is that I need a perfect script. Filming with amateur actors, very few crew members, little time, and practically a zero budget is something that is rarely done (if ever). It needs to be well planned. It’s scary but very exciting. The funny part is that a movie always changes in post production, so the film will have major changes then too. Will the changes ever stop?
Someday, I will just have to stop and film the movie as is. No more tinkering. Hopefully that time is soon. I seriously need a kick in the butt, or perhaps, someone to tell me to stop. God willing, Lily will come to realization and hopefully a realization that isn’t deprived of any semblance of a story.