Tarantino, Copywriting and Sleeping on it.
Hey. You’re (insert) f****** (name). Don’t you forget it.
A couple of weeks ago I watched Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. As a Tarantino fan (for the most part) who’s never actually watched any of his films on the big screen, I was keen to catch this one at the cinema.
OUATIH, an ode to 60’s Hollywood with a backdrop involving the Manson family murders, has been adored by some and disappointed others.
This isn’t my review of the film though. After all you haven’t clicked on this blog post to read another nerdy white male’s opinion on a film that came out almost 2 months ago. I wouldn’t expect you to read on if that’s what it was.
No, this is simply my attempt to crow bar or in Tarantino’s case, throw a heavy tin full of copywriting related dog food, at my experience of watching the film. Because what else was I going to write this week?
And I think I’ve just about pulled it off.
Indulge me for a moment…
My initial response to the film, which has a hefty (although fairly typical) run time of 2 hours 41 minutes, was pretty mixed.
I definitely enjoyed it first time around and there were parts that stuck out to me. You can’t help but love Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters and their performances are unsurprisingly excellent.
Also the line at the top, a little pep talk directed towards Leo’s character Rick Dalton, has been stuck in my head ever since.
It’s a warm moment between the two buddies at the heart of the film. If you’re feeling down or you can see a friend who needs motivation maybe it’s one you can pull out of the bag.
Having said that I was pretty convinced I wouldn’t bother seeing it again. It didn’t blow me away and there were times when I was checking my watch, to see how long was left.
The meandering, indulgent nature of the film meant that there wasn’t much to grab on to on first viewing. Tarantino is clearly having loads of fun and just hopes that you’ll come along for the ride.
Then out of nowhere in the last 20 minutes there’s an explosive and gratuitous fight sequence that leaves your head spinning. Then it’s over. A lot to compute.
I find writing a blog post or other large piece of copy a bit like this. You meander through ideas and write lots of words. The tone of voice is consistent for the most part but then out of nowhere a new idea hits you.
The tone changes completely and you splurge some ideas on to the page. But you’ve been writing for 3 hours and you didn’t start until mid-afternoon.
You try to look back over what you’ve written but it’s all blurring into one. It needs work and a good proof read but even scanning over it makes your head hurt.
Often in moments like this I feel a sense of helplessness. Like I’ve wasted a load of time on something that is far from complete and there still seems like a mountain to climb to make sure it’s right.
Sleeping on it.
Fortunately, something valuable I’ve learnt is the art of sleeping on it. There is nothing like a fresh pair of eyes, re-invigorated from a night’s sleep, to go over something you’ve written.
After I’d slept on the Tarantino film and scanned back over it in my mind, I had a greater desire to see it again. A fresh perspective emerged.
I wanted to spend time with the characters again. I remembered scenes that I hadn’t fully taken in when I watched them for the first time but realised there was more beneath the surface.
The thing about OUATIH is that it’s full of ‘moments’. There are many scenes in the film that I wanted to re-visit.
Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate gleefully watching herself in the cinema. Rick beating himself up in his trailer for a terrible performance and his redemptive turn as a Wild West villain who strikes up a friendship with his young co-star. Cliff Booth driving through LA at night, from Beverley Hills to his own home in a beat up van and later, a tension filled visit to the Manson family ranch.
A fresh perspective is everything and it’s certainly true with copywriting. No writer has the superhuman ability to write and proof at the same time.
There is something comforting about being able to leave something, safe in the knowledge that when you return to it, the challenge ahead won’t be quite so daunting.
Even if what you’ve written sucks, at least you can rewrite it. It may be that the little burst of randomness at the end was a mistake but you may also find you’ve stumbled across the very thing that was missing all along.
So, take a breather. Stop for the day. Do something else. Maybe watch a Tarantino film if that’s your thing. Get a little inspiration. Fall asleep and let all the ideas buzzing around in your brain settle and fall into place. Then get back to it tomorrow.
And hey, you’re a flipping writer. Don’t you forget it.
Images: Sony Pictures