It’s been a VERY long time since I’ve updated the “news” section of this site. Partly that reflects the stretchy timey-wimey nature of the COVID years (2020-present). It’s also partly because I’ve spent most of this time writing – a new script (Starmaps), a rewrite on two other scripts, another rewrite on a novel, and now draft one of a novel. Meanwhile, Cosmic Playtester took a while to take off on the festival circuit – it largely got rejections in 2020 and 2021. This got me thinking: why now? I have a hypothesis:
Cosmic Playtester uses several split-screen edits, and a few shots of characters addressing the screen directly. A few folks who’ve seen the film recently asked me if this was a commentary on the Zoom world we’ve all been living in the last few years. The funny thing is, I wrote the script in 2016, and we shot it in 2019. No, I really wasn’t thinking about it. I was trying to posit the opposite, if anything – that there was a deep connection between these characters, and between the characters and the audience (I find when characters address the camera directly, it’s intimate in a very specific way.
A still from Cosmic Playtester, featuring Jennifer Sklias-Gahan (l) and Stephen Bradbury (r)
Perhaps, though, the “zoominess” of the film is why it started getting picked up by festivals later on? Festival programmers, and festivals themselves in some cases, have moved into the virtual realm. Were programmers more used to this visual device? Were the theme (of grief and existential questioning) more resonant in 2022 than they were in 2020? It’s hard to know.
If there’s a lesson here, it could be this: don’t give up on your projects. Sometimes a script or film or show or book isn’t right for the market at that time, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect on its worth.
To quote the poem that partly inspired Cosmic Playtester, “A Throw of The Dice Shall Never Abolish Chance” by Stéphane Mallarmé:
Every Thought emits a Roll of the Dice
There’s many ways to take that line (the whole poem is magnificent, a still-interesting experiment in typography and poetry over a century old), but one way is this: the work (the Thought) you put out there is intentional, a result of careful design and sweat. But its “commercial/career” success is often a roll of the dice, which means that it’s not pure chance or chaos because the die itself is part of a system (the die only has six sides with unvarying numbers, has a consistent shape, and short of some extraordinary feat it will never land on a point). If you don’t find an audience at first, keep rolling with that same project. Work on the next one. Work on other people’s stuff. Keep those thoughts rolling.
The poem is so much more than that line, and I recommend it heartily. There’s PDF copies floating around on the intertubes, and this edition isn’t terrible: Bookshop.org.