“Stop Overthinking Your Sci-Fi” was a tough lesson that I learned the hard way after a very long road of trying to be the next mashup of Jim Jarmusch & David Lynch. I made many a black and white thirty something angst dramas, both long and short form. They are competent and mostly feature a struggling artist character. They are watchable but in the end not my authentic voice. I should have been looking to kevin Smith & Robert Rodriguez but as they say hindsight is 20/20.
My filmmaking tastes were film school high brow but yet my watching habits were anything in space or with a sword slaying Dragons or the occasional western. My top three go to movies to this day are Excalibur (1981) Director John Boorman, The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) Director Clint Eastwood and The Three Musketeers (1973) Director Richard Lester. So why was I making art house films? Because I loved fantasy and sci-fi in a child like fashion therefore I overlooked them as a basis for my artistic expression. I ignored my passion, please do not do that. I’ll say it again, I ignored my passion. Thankfully I’m evolving.
When I first considered creating a fantasy or sci-fi I immediately fell into the same traps of over thinking from my previous endeavors. I went way down the rabbit hole of the Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s journey. I won’t go into detail here but at the time to better grasp it I actually made a video with examples from Star Wars and The Matrix. You can watch that video here. Admittedly I still follow that formula but not academically and that for me is key. It is more of a basic map when I am developing a story. Simply I list the steps of the monomyth as bullet points or road markers and when outlining a story I loosely follow it. If my characters at point A – he/she must get t to point B, great I need to fill that in luckily its sci-fi so I make something up. Here goes – our hero a humanoid with Blue Skin and Ruby red eyes named Sellanon (A) must leave home, he/she heads to the pink shores of Delnore (B) – At C a stranger is encountered – boom I invent the stranger Sellanon comes upon and old Warrior tending to his equally old Buk-Buk mount. A smelly but beautiful beast (C). then we need to get to D, a woman appears, a spark, a sexual tension or if it is a girl a man appears or they are perhaps LGBT, basically a love interest. Sellanon hesitates before the old warrior in the road Sellanon is startled as a woman from behind barks, “ are you going to help him or just stand there looking stupid?” She is from the Green Skins but she is beautiful, Sellanon says … etc etc. and they have a road block, they deal with it – It just gives me places to go without thinking too much. Further Dan Harmon made it very accessible and humorous in his post: Story Structure 101: Super Basic Shit
To be honest i’m not sure how I did push through at first but I recall sitting in a coffee shop one day to write and I Just started Free Writing a sci-fi story. I gave myself over to the idea I would just have fun, not worry about being amazing out of the gate and to just allow myself to go on a simple journey of creation. And in doing so the world opened up. Rather than talking or thinking about sci fi I was in it, I was the sci-fi guy making sci-fi. That suited me much better then the Art House guy. And people reacted more strongly to my sci fi work because although my stories to date are coded in the shorthand of the past 50 years of sci fi entertainment they are original and unique because they come from my imagination. I am simply asking you to stop overthinking your story and just get it out in the world. Once its out there, once you give birth to it, exercise it from your brain, pull it out onto the paper on the desk or into a computer program you still will have to work it and re work it and tighten it. But once it is out of your head and in the world everything will change for you.
Just admit to yourself you are just trying something that maybe you don’t quite understand yet. Think of the first day of a job, it’s hard and uncomfortable at first but in a week you’re making coffee chatting at the water cooler. Figuring out ways to get your job done easier, faster. Don’t have unrealistic expectations on your first day of your sci-fi writing job. Lose yourself in creating the world of your story and then take on the production bit by bit. Just keep checking in with me, I’ll get you there one step at a time. it’s a long road but one worth traveling when you are creating the road from your own imagination step by step, stone by stone. Give yourself permission to be Bizzaro and not feel foolish, just be uniquely you.
Be sure to watch my video channel for more Sci Fi filmmaking giddy-up.