Friday, May 21, 2010

"Things I Don't Understand"

I’m known to have once said, “beginnings are tricky, and they set the tone and pace for what’s to come. The most important part in telling any story is knowing where to start”. I’ve also called myself a “shit story-teller” so bear with me as this, being the first, will probably all over the place.

So, I made this movie once a long time ago, almost three years to be exact. It's been a journey from that time to where I'm sitting as I type this right now. There was the expected financial fall-out from taking on such an endeavor, self-financing a highly personalized autobiographical film and love-letter to NYC on 40 credit cards (no, seriously...) at the dawn of the worst fiscal credit crisis and recession in our times. Then there was the unexpected financial fall-outs, the bad or non-existent sound mixes, the second chances, the angels, the underground fighting, the giving away of the movie to protect it, the deep and dark depressions, the leaving the city for Sunny LA, the house of 30 people, being "uncle David", taking new chances, forging new relationships, coming back to NYC, toiling in a hipster Vatican, summing up the last ten years of my life since first moving to NYC and my film, getting out of debt and now.... making a new film.

"Things I Don't Understand".

If "...Around" was autobiographical in it's story and characters, then "Things" is 10x more personal in a different way. "...Around" was a love-letter to the city of NY, to the people I knew and to myself at a certain age. It was my ode to finding oneself and the idea of what "home" is to people in every way. To all that it could be when we allow ourselves to have it... to take chances on others and ourselves. To love unconditionally and go for the things we aspire to even if and especially when hey are firmly out of grasp of achieving.

"Things" is different. In a lot of ways it’s almost a spiritual sequel to “…Around”. It’s characters slightly older, slightly more jaded and fucked up, still dealing with the financial uncertainties and social awkwardness of finding the balance between growing up and giving up. Some who have read it thinks it deals with death, and it’s a fair assessment. I see it as dealing with life. What it means to truly be alive.

It’s an obsession into the darker parts of our lives, the things we don’t care to talk about in public for concern of the looks we’ll get and the notions that will be debated.

If my first film was about “home” then this one is about what happens when the idea of “home” we’ve built for ourselves is threatened. When we lose or feel ourselves losing the things that are familiar and dear to us, whether they’re a person, a place or thing and how that affects us. Do we fight, do we flight and who do we become when we’re standing amidst the ashes of all that we knew and cared of? Are we a stronger and better people for having fought the good fight and gone through this experience, littered with souvenirs and fond memories of things past or are we resentfully venomous and with contempt, wishing we’d never had in the first place?

The film is also a story of faith and spirituality during personal crisis coming from a pretty hard-lined atheist and whiskey and women fueled lapse Catholic altar boy who’s obsessed with notions of devotion, forgiveness and rising to the occasion in the face of adversity. Christ, that would look ridiculous on a poster, huh? No wonder even those in Hollywood who loved it gave me the silly rabbit look…

The story of Violet Kubelick and her motley group of roommates as they are forced out of their protective and self-destructively private worlds to confront what they’re most afraid of, to save themselves and each other and know what it s we truly have as we’re on the verge of losing it… and dancing vaginas. Large, plush dancing vaginas.

Oddly enough the earliest version of this story started out a long time ago after an experience with hospice care. The original version featured just two characters from this script and mostly took place in one room. I scrapped it, not really having a clear vision, story and also feeling not up the challenge financially or had grown spiritually enough as a person to give it any gusto.

Time passed and “…Around” became my first feature-film idea. It was during a time of exhaustion and personal loss a year after wrapping the film that “Things” called to me again.

I gave up my film on October 11, 2008. Seriously. In order to protect the film from the mounting debt that would eventually swallow me and prevent it from ever getting any kind of distribution, I signed away any rights to the film and it’s copyright or financial gain to two trusted friends, thus also signing away my very identity.

I can say all this now because I've settled up all debts with debtors making me a "free" man in the financial sense. This won’t come back to haunt me or those who were kindly enough to take the burden of carrying my baby across the finish line while I got nailed to a cross and they were prepared to “Judas” me if necessary. All for the greater good.

I gave away my movie to protect it from the financial anarchy surrounding me, thus cursing me to a kind of limbo state where I could not be “David Spaltro” for over a year. I had to live off the grid, ducking creditors and unable to simply file for bankruptcy, all the while still striving and pushing my film for those who worked so hard on it and those that I loved dearly. I believed in it and I believed in them.

I was beaten up, broken, without a film, and any light in the tunnel was simply the train on its way to crush whatever remained. I was not in a happy-go-kitty kind of mood at all. I’m pretty sure I wrote an angry hate letter to NYC, it’s inhabitants and imbibed a lot of alcohol… a lot of alcohol. Lost in a brown, slushy and deliciously aged hazed of alcohol. So much alcoh—well, you get the point.

In the midst of all that I began writing “Things” again, fleshing it out and adding characters and arcs. I wasn’t planning on producing or even showing it to anyone when I started. It was simply a way to let out the pain I couldn’t vocalize or deal with internally… I was using it as my release. I was writing…

Something until really tonight I’d truly missed doing…

When I was a small child and my family had no money I still took pleasure in the simplest thing. Having a blank notebook or some sheets of paper and some markers or pens. That's all I needed. I could entertain myself forever, endlessly conjuring comics and character, scenarios, stories, doodles and ideas.

When I was in school a lot of teachers weren't huge fans of me. They'd catch me writing or doodling and not simply admonish or punish me for it. They'd bring me up to the front of the classroom and read whatever I had written out-loud or show off whatever drawing I was doing. They mocked it front of the class and told me it was awful, that it had no merit or skill.

I could almost write them a thank you note. A very bitter and acidic thank you note, but one none-the-less. I wasn't discouraged. I wrote and drew 10x more than I ever did and each time they'd do the same thing; make a spectacle of whatever my production for the day had been and me. But I'd write more and draw more than I ever would if they didn't. I got better. I practiced.

One day in particular a piece they had me read a loud.. They couldn't even mock it. They simply told me that I should be focusing on my studies and to sit down. Call it a small personal victory.

I continued writing as a ritual. Outside of sleeping through classes and working a night job at a convenience store my senior year of high-school, while looking across the river on the hood of my car during breaks at a future that lay head in NYC, it was my only other activity.

I remember staying up all night to write with fervor stronger than any creative bursts or insomnia. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote... just to write. For the sheer love of writing. For myself. For no one. Just to write. I loved hearing the click of my fingers on the keyboard set up against any background music swirling around the thoughts and images in my head. The wrist cramps from scrawling on endless yellow legal tablets were pains of joy and creativity. I'd often set up some coffee and chain-smoke and get lost. I didn't even feel like I was writing. I felt like I merely a spectator as something else happened, a communion between the page and the some bitch goddess muse above.

Somewhere along the way I just sort of stopped. I didn’t have anything left to say or just didn’t feel like saying it. I was consumed by other things, bit by the travel bug and swayed by the fight of the making of a film.

And I miss it. I've missed it a long time but I've hidden from it and made excuses. I don't want to do that anymore. I don’t want to mistreat my gift.

It goes far deeper than just not feeling like a master of the “comma” sutra. Writing was my therapy, my catharsis and my outlet. I’ve been hiding from it and the things gurgling up inside, even in private because of the fear of what might come out. It’s been choking me and eating me up inside. I’ve had a strange sense of an emotional rollercoaster beneath the surface, a pendulum swinging to and fro, picking up with intensity and speed until it’s become a bit destructive.

I wasn’t sure why. And then it simply made sense.

A wise woman drunkenly said an inherent truth, “don’t right something down that you don’t want anyone to remember”.

Well, maybe it’s time to remember. To share.

So, this is my chance to try and get back into it, to capture the making of a film from the ground up. Raising funds. Casting. Producing. Shooting. This blog will be me chronicling the making of “Things I Don’t Understand” from this day forward until our first screening and all that happens to me in-between it. At it’s best it’ll be an entry and day or no less than three a week, no matter how crazed or horrific it gets…

Things will be brutally honest, unedited and unfiltered. I type this while sitting completely stark naked... well, no. Not really. But you get the idea.

I also warn those with sensitive reading proclivities that my spelling and grammar has always been atrocious, even when I was a more frequent key-pounder. If anything those muscles have completely atrophied and I'll probably be writing in some sickly bastardized have normal King's English and post-modern computerized text type. ROFL! ...well, no. Not really. But you get the idea.

As I finish this I’ll be working on a new draft of “Things” tightening some stuff up, digging into older drafts and working on a dreaded 3rd act that slam bangs to a finish when it should organically breathe into it. I’m also reviewing actor submission tapes, corresponding with DP’s and preparing the initial fundraising events and ideas. I’ll try to keep all further entries more one-track and concisely coherent now that we’ve become acquainted or reacquainted. I’ll event share some adventures from my days in Hollywood and taking meetings with earlier drafts of “Things”.
Don’t be a stranger. Stop by anytime. I don’t sleep.
The good fight, yeah?


  1. This is why we love ya, Mr Spaltro.

  2. Keep fighting the good fight, Good Sir

  3. Thank you. And I say that you because you just inspired me to do all the things that I hide from every day. I don't think you should EVER stop writting, because even though I don't know you... I can feel that it's such a huge part of who you are.

    There is one part in particular that I love about this entry...

    "One day in particular a piece they had me read a loud.. They couldn't even mock it. They simply told me that I should be focusing on my studies and to sit down. Call it a small personal victory."

    .. That is epic. lol I would like day dream about something like that happening to me. lol