I have been reading scripts recently and wanted to bring a certain thought to our readers attention. What constitutes as originality?
The answer to that question varies from person to person and for a writer becomes a hurdle in a world where so many thousands consider themselves writers, where it be screenplays, books, or simple poetry. Now can we consider all these self proclaimed writers worthy of their title. Well thats an issue I've been fighting for, for years now. Almost every literate person can write, but to be a professional writer it takes quite a lot more. One of these major facts is originality. Then there is plagiarism and simply tributes as well. We've seen Romeo and Juliet adapted into a million different films and that isn't a stretch since it was once called Tristan and Isolde. The tradition of star crossed lovers goes back beyond generations. Everyone wants to believe that their love is forbidden by society.
Yes there are those that copy the story to the teeth and fail at achieving anything. Then there are those who change certain important aspects of it to make it an entirely new film or any piece of literature. Now you put Romeo and Juliet at opposite ends of the Palestinian and Israeli border, working at competing fast food chains on the border and you have an academy award winning short film. Or was the film a rebirth of Westside Story. Which in turn was a beautifully mastered reiteration of the Romeo and Juliet story.
Make a priest an evil entity and you might achieve the same originality, that was until the Catholic priest scandals of recent history. Now it almost seems that the profession is somewhat tainted as is. However, the trusted local priest being a serial killer is one for the books. Now since we are going that far, how far is too far? Or is a better question; how far is not far enough? If you want to push the boundary than please do so, but do it completely and convincingly. A family film about a Rabbi that edges on psychosis but in the end turns out to be a nice guy, is neither a family film nor a adult drama.
Here is where originality comes into question more so than anything else. The limits need to be pushed, and when they have adequately been demolished, the audience can look back and say this was a great film and not just a good film. These things are not easy to understand or implement as the case may be. A writer is to close to his/her work to simple say "Hmmm… more perversion would help this priest." The writer is merely capturing his reality and the rest takes place as it may. Workshops and such help, but in the end it is the writer that wrote the piece and only he/she has the ability to change it drastically.
So we come back to what is originality. well originality has a lot of names and faces, thats what makes it original right. It is too easy to be comfortable in your ideas and depictions. The boundary of expression needs to be pushed and pushed and redefined a million times to create a million hits. That is not to say that sometimes it isn't pushed too far or simply exploited. But that is exactly the mystery factor in making great films. If there was a formula the studios would have already paid a billion to acquire it, but to the fortunes of writers, directors, and other creative individuals there is no one answer. Art is in the strive to reach the obscure an unknown.