Have you seen The OA on Netflix? (Oh man, I just realized my blogposts are sounding a lot like water cooler conversations these days.) My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed it, warts and all. But, in truth, one of the main things which compelled me about the show were its opening and closing credits:
Written by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij
Starring Brit Marling
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
When was the last time you saw a film, let alone a series, written by, directed by, and starring the same people? This used to be far more common in the days of low-budget auteur cinema, but almost unheard of in the mass scale production of most Hollywood-centric film and media.
So, after completing the series, I fell into a bit of a YouTube rabbit hole of interviews with Marling and Batmanglij to find out how people can possibly co-create a complex Netflix series to this extent, especially as it interrupts my own assumption that writing is a solitary act. I’ve been learning a lot about collaboration from listening to them.
We write together. That’s a beautiful, collaborative phase. It’s fun because we all know each other so well. We come to the writing part with all the stories that we’re just living in our lives. We talk and we share, and eventually, somewhere in the centre of that hurricane, an eye comes that is the story for right now. Then we spend some time writing it together…
We have a very formal writing process. We set up four-hour chunks in the day. OK, you have to turn off your cell phone, you have to shut down your email, and, for these four hours, we have to focus on writing. That was a really good way to begin. That sense of discipline. Otherwise, it’s really hard to create something out of nothing…
But once we’re finished, it’s actually a great part, too. We really draw a line in the sand. Zal goes away and directs, and I go away and act. It’s actually really nice; how close we get in the writing, and then how we have to separate, then come back together again in the editing. It’s a beautiful process.
You can view the complete interview below. It’s obvious to me that great storytellers even describe the process of creation as a compelling story in and of itself.