Thursday, September 6, 2007

Confession #11

I have to find a really amazing D.P. and mate with him for life.

I enjoy writing films. I enjoy envisioning camera shots. I enjoy actors. I enjoy editing. I do not enjoy lighting.

I mean, I want to enjoy it. It really is a fascinating art of its own I think. I can grasp the basic concepts of it. But once you have to start relating it to the camera and numbers become involved I totally lose it. I can read my light meter, but I don't know have a clue how to put what I read into use.

I guess that's why I'm in film school.

My professor tries a little too hard to make sure we understand. Which is good that she really cares. But she can belabor the point until we can't listen anymore and our brains shut off to everything else. Or mine does. The others seem to get it okay.

Technology is just not my thing.

So I have to find someone whose thing it is.

And form a lifelong creative bond that never dies.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Confession #10

School started Thursday.

I have to turn in a 5 to 10 page short script on Tuesday.

So, of course, I'm blogging instead of working on it.

In the intervening years since the beginning of me education saga, the film program has improved quite a bit.

Leaving me rather rusty and out of synch.

A lot of the classes are structured in a way that my advisor didn't warn me of. Most people write their scripts for my film class in a different class they took the previous semester. Thanks. So now my professor says "Can you have a script by Tuesday?" So, of course, I say yes.

I have a few ideas. Ideas that are way better than the other crappy ideas my classmates pitched and that I dread having to work on.

I don't mean to sound vain. I know my idea will undoubtedly be crappy too. They're student films. That's what we do.

But really, kids. You can get an A without including a suicide in your script. I mean I hope you can. Because I know my script won't have a suicide and it would suck if the professor only gives As to suicide stories. But you never know.

Maybe I should write a suicide script as a backup if she doesn't like the one I turn in.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Confession #9

I have two nephews. We will call them Steven and Wade. Steven is on the verge of turning 14. Wade is 12. They're stuck in a time warp I think from a bygone time when children were still children at that age. They still play with lightsabers and wear cowboy hats and don't care about being cool and sex is the farthest thing from their minds. They're refreshing after a year in NYC where a 10 year old solicited my girlfriend for sex on the street.

They recently discovered my huge DVD folder book whatever you call it. Its fun to watch them flip through it. They really wanted to watch "Big Fish" and I couldn't figure out how to explain to them it isn't about fishing. They really want to watch "Titanic", but they're parents won't let them yet. Which is silly because I saw it at 14 and my cousin saw it at 11 and we didn't become raging sex maniacs over Kate Winslet's breasts. They want to watch all six Star Wars movies in a row in one incredibly long sitting. I told them we would without thinking, but now I'm like 'Yikes!!!!' and keep finding other things to do. Tonight I distracted them with "Jurassic Park" which they have never before seen.

It was then that I discovered one of the ways in which a movie can makes it mark as a truly great one: you can share it and the act of sharing it expands your own love for the movie. I watched "Jurassis Park" for the first time at my younger cousin's "Jurassic Park" video release party. He dressed up like Dr. Grant and the house was decorated in lots of plants and there was a tent we all sat under to watch the movie. And it scared the crap out of me, and it was FUN.

Tonight it was even more fun to watch it scare the crap out of them. They couldn't sit still. They were screaming at the characters and laughing out loud and repeating lines and they freaked out when they thought Tim was going to get electrocuted. They were on their knees screaming at him and when he fell off the fence they both fell back and went "OHHH!!!!!"

And suddenly I didn't think so poorly of that teenage boy demographic that magically controls so much of what we get to see in the theaters. If I could make somebody react that passionately about something I think that'd be pretty rewarding. Emotionally and monetarily, lol.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Confession #8

Why do I hate "Chinatown", etc.?

1.) I have only one real criteria for whether I like a movie or not. It has to make me FEEL. This means my collection of DVDs is incredibly varied and includes some acclaimed films and some that I'm too embarassed to name. A film can make me think about something deep or make me laugh at something stupid, but still not make me FEEL. Technically, it could be perfect as most would argue that "Chinatown", "Citizen Kane", and "Pulp Fiction" are. And I don't argue with that. I don't think they're bad films by any means. They just don't do anything for me. And that is why I simply dislike them. No harm done.

2.) What I hate isn't really the films themselves. Its people who always turn to the same old movies to teach in film school. Sure these movies have their place in the classroom. But there are other movies. Thousands of other movies. Hundreds of great examples of filmmaking and screenwriting. When you obsess over a few "perfect films", you just end up with a bunch of film snobs who try and copy these movies instead of writing from their own hearts. Kids in film school are usually young and dumb and haven't seen much of the world yet. I can say this because I am one, lol. Chances are you're not going to get another "Chinatown" out of them, and by showing it you're encouraging them to try to write something like that instead of something they might actually know about. In a screenwriting class especially, the technical aspects of the film don't have to be mindblowing. Show them a film with a really great story that lands some kind of strong emotional punch they can relate to. Show them books, show them great TV shows, show them plays, show them movies. Teach them how to tell their own story in a meaningful way, not regurgitate a few "perfect" movies back to you in seriously substandard ways.

So in conclusion, I don't honestly HATE those movies. I just say that for the shock value. I don't care for them and many others because they just don't to do it for me. A good movie is a matter of personal taste in my book, not a matter of living up to some sort of standards of technically good filmmaking. So I harbor no hatred for people who do genuinely enjoy those movies. If they mean something to you, then its a good movie. I do harbor a hatred for people who SAY they do just to sound like smart film people, when in reality their favorite movie probably stars Will Ferrell. I don't hate the movies, I hate the pretension that often surrounds them.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Confession #7

I am a Hollywood cliche.

I am an uptight guy in love with a free spirit girl.

Its not that people never write about uptight girls being changed by free spirit boys. I can think of a few examples. "Titanic" being the most obvious. "The African Queen" is one of my favorites, and I think half of that if from watching Kate Hepburn play the prudish woman who gets set free by a charming rogue instead of the woman who sets some charming dork free. But it doesn't compared with the number of stories that come to mind about a lovable nerd being transformed by a woman who is borderline insane.

There's a song called "I Love You Because" from an off-Broadway musical of the same name. You could change the character names and insert this song into anything from "Bringing Up Baby" to "Stranger Than Fiction." If my own life were a musical, this is the song we'd sing to each other.

But the interesting thing - to me anyways - is that its the romantic theme of almost every story idea I've had, many of them long before I was with my girlfriend (or not-girlfriend since she's demanding the cliched break that all free spirits demand at some point or another in modern romances.) In fact, one of them started out based on an entirely different girl I liked at an entirely different time in my life, and yet the end result came out a lot more like the girl I ended up with then the girl it was meant to be about. I'm not sure I even follow that sentence, so don't worry if you don't, lol.

I've assumed for some time that I write girls like this because that's the kind of girl I fell in love with. But now I wonder if I fell for her because I was destined by my own subconscious needs to want a girl just like her. Do I like movies with this sort of coupling because it mirrors my own? Or did I couple myself in such a way so as to mirror my favorite movies? Is it really such a common theme in the world at large, or is it just a shared common theme in the lives of the the dorky guys who write the majority of Hollywood screenplays?

Or maybe its just the rule of magnetic opposites hard-wired into our own souls to keep us from intellectually sensible relationships that would assuredly result in disaster (and boring movies). Two free spirits end up dead like Bonnie and Clyde. Two nerds end up... well, I can't even think of a movie that tried this because its so boring just to think about. Its why we love Buffy with Spike or Angel, but never Riley.

And... well, that's all. I feel compelled to wrap up blog posts like their articles in a magazine that need to make perfect sense. But most of what I think about is just musings. This often keeps me from blogging because I feel I have no real point. But I guess that's ok.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Confessions #5 & #6

I am a comment whore. I desperately want to know if people are reading this so please leave comments if you do. You can tell me I'm a retard if you want. That's cool. My blog map is showing signs of life out there far from people I know so speak up! I don't bite. No need to lurk.

Also, I feel the need to warn anyone reading that I often make spelling and grammatical errors in posts. I am not a retard. (But you can still call me one, see above.) I just type REALLY fast, as fast as my brain thinks. My fingers make mistakes I don't catch a lot of the time. And I'm not a good spell checker. So really I'm a very smart guy with great spelling, just my fingers spiral out of control when I'm into writing something.

This concludes this PSA.

Confession #4

Its probably time to give a little explanation for the whole I <3 Titanic thing.

Titanic was the movie that made me want to make movies.

I used to insist to people that it made me want to make movies because I was a Titanic buff, and I knew I could have made a better Titanic movie than that.

Which is partly true. In the year or so following the release of Cameron's film, I wrote a 400+ page novel on the subject. While I did most of the actual writing, key story points were provided by my 11 yr old cousin. It was pretty impressive given our ages. I mean, if you don't count the unknowing bits of plagiarism, the naive handling of romance, and the illustrations we made in Windows Paint and inserted into our manuscript. But my parents got it into the hands of a local children's book author who assured me that I was quite talented. Someday when people trust me with billions of dollars, I will dust it off and prove Cameron's isn't the definitive take on the subject.

But that isn't really why Titanic is the film that made me want to make movies. Its not because I was wowed by the special effects. Its not because I was swept off my feet by the love story. Its because "Titanic" left me feeling things I didn't understand. I had been saddened by movies as a child, of course. Who didn't cry during Where the Red Fern Grows? But this was something new.

I saw it with the aforementioned 11 yr old cousin who had already seen it once, and who had to convince my Southern parents for me that the nudity was all in good taste. I was 14, lol. After the movie, we spent that night at our grandparent's house. We gushed and gushed over all the cool parts. We laughed about the way Jack's frozen body sinks into the ocean. We couldn't stop going 'Oh!' and tossing imaginary Hearts of the Ocean over the side of our hide-a-bed.

Later that night, after he had fallen asleep, I laid in bed for what seemed like hours at the time listening to my Titanic soundtrack. It stirred something in me. Some of the lyrics of the song are quite moving if you read them instead of hear Celine Dion screech them at you while she pounds her chest like an enraged ape. I can't say it was really about love. I was still a little too young to be the romantic that I am now. I wouldn't really care much about girls for another 18 months or so when The Phantom Menace introduced me to a certain Miss Portman.

Its hard to say now for sure what it was that kept me up that night. I don't want to rewrite history for the sake of a good blog post. But what I remember is for the first time feeling SOMETHING so strongly that it effected my entire being. I felt like I was going to choke on this lump in my chest every time I thought too hard about what I had just seen. Not so much Jack and Rose, but the rest of the story. The real people. It was the hints of reality weaved around the Hollywood love story that haunted me that night. The heroism. The chivalry. The sacrifice. The terror. It had all really happened. Somewhere out there that ship was really lying in the black depths of the sea. It boggled my mind. It tore my heart up. I suddenly had bile rising in my throat.

That wasn't the moment when I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. It was a slower realization, but ultimately born out of that moment when I felt something so damn strong that I tasted vomit. I had thought before this that I wanted to be a writer, but now I wanted to tell my own Titanic tale. It became my obsession. My cousin's too. It was the focus of our every moment spent together. And we spent a lot of time together back then. There was nothing we couldn't tell you about the real Titanic. Our parents became concerned. (Though now they should be grateful our morbid obsession did not express itself through eyeliner, spiked collars, and girl pants.) But as slaved over what we thought would be our magnum opus (not that we knew what one was, lol), we became concerned when we realized that publishing this masterpiece would mean that someone could buy the movie rights. My cousin - having read the novel of Jurassic Park (Yes, before age 11. Not all kids need Harry Potter to learn to love books.) - knew they would surely butcher our art. Lol, as if anyone back then would have been remotely interested in another Titanic movie. That was when we realized the only way to keep our work safe was to become filmmakers.

I could bore you with all the details of our growing interest in film, but they're so boring I don't remember them myself. As we matured our styles and tastes in film diverged, but our dreams remained steady. We'll both be going to film school this fall; me returning to my small film program at a regular college, him to a large rather respected film school in Florida. We're not the inseperable duo that we once were, but we'll always have Titanic.

And that brings me the two things that Titanic showed me that are my main reasons for my grown up dream remaining basically the same as my 14 yr old one. The first is that realization that a movie can move someone so much that they want to puke. That is the kind of movies I want to make. That is THE most important reason for making a film to me. To make someone - anyone - even just one person - feel something as powerful as I felt that night... that's my ultimate goal in writing and filmmaking.

The second reason I only recently figured out looking back at my teenage years and what my cousin and I shared those years post-Titanic. Two little dorks in queer Jack and Rose t-shirts with matching Titanic hats lugging backpacks full of Titanic books to our small private Christian school, pouring over them at the end of the lunch table while all the other kids talked about how weird we were. It was us against the world, chasing our common dream even if we never made another friend in the world. Watching Titanic together that night (and way too many times after) was the beginning of an era that lasted until I left for college the first time. We're still friends, but its not like that anymore. Those were the magic years.

And that... that is what movies can do. What I love maybe most about movies. The shared memories. The fact that you can push play on your DVD player and not only can you be taken to another place and time through the action onscreen, but you can be taken to another place and time in your very own life. Now that I'm older, I have lot of these movie memories, many of them my most treasured memories of all. Good or bad, watching a movie instantly take me back to the first time I saw it. From that night with my cousin at Titanic to the moment The Fountain rolled credits and my girlfriend and I sat in akward silence, each of us afraid the other one had understood it, only to realize in a glorious moment I'll never forget, that neither of us understood the significance of bald Hugh Jackman floating through space. And we still don't. And no matter what else in life we may disagree on, we will always be able to sing, "Then I said, 'What about The Fountain?' And she said, 'I think I remember the film.' And I said, "As I recall, we both kinda fuckin' hated it...."

Yes, that's what movies are for. That's why I love them. That's why my soul feels like it will just die if I don't get to make them.

And it all started with Titanic. It may not be cool, but its mine. So that's why I proudly declare on this blog that I heart Titanic.