On my last blogpost I wrote about my collaboration with scriptwriter Gerry de Hoogh. I had asked her to send me her own thoughts about collaboration in general and ours in particular. For her, co-writing can work – and be inspiring, and result in better stories – if two conditions are met: that the writers respect and trust each other and that they place the story above their ego.
Writing means putting yourself in a vulnerable position. You risk doubt, despair, rejection, not because your geniality may be misunderstood for rubbish, but because your rubbish may pass exactly for what it is, in other people’s eyes and in your own’s. Writing in going one step forward and two steps back, as Gerry puts it, and you must be willing to share all those setbacks with your partner. You must be willing to get naked in front of your partner, and cherish his or her own nakedness too.
Story must come first, and egos are best left at home. My idea, your idea – what matters is what is best for the story. It can be hard to let go of an idea you have fallen in love with. Gerry recalls insisting that the cause of death of a certain character be a strike of lightening. I disagreed, but allowed her to have her way – it was a detail, it felt like a waste of time to fight over it. But now she wants the cause of death to be an ordinary disease, having realized that this serves our theme better (at last! J). I am, too, guilty of slowing us down by bringing up the same idea over and over – this magnificent scene of our main character erring in town along with the cow he had just rescued from the slaughterhouse. I remember how Gerry started our skype conversation right after I included this scene in the treatment once again – (stern voice) “I think we have a problem”. Looking back, I also identify moments in which one of us did point in the right direction but allowed the idea to be discarded just so that we could both get there, or somewhere else, when the time was ripe. Again, as I stated below: in co-writing you may lose some sparks but you gain solidity.
In the particular case of our tandem, Gerry defines herself as more “mainstream” and me as more “arthouse”. I guess I agree: I did contribute the most original ideas, and also the most dead-ends and nonsense. Gerry kept us and the story down to earth. Our complementary skills and drives are an asset in our working relationship.