Sunday, June 3, 2012

Family Albums and Waking-Up In NY

It’s been awhile again…

I’ve seen more than I remember and I remember more than I’ve seen in my time in this place, but I wrote it all down.

Well, I used to write everything down….

I had a journal book that had more than scribblings of thoughts, journal entries, jokes and dirty limericks. It’s had napkins and nick-nacks, photos and cartoons, business cards and strange souvenirs.

In the Spring of 2009 during one of my many “transitory”-living periods, a locker I kept that “memory-book” in was broken into and the contents, including a box of photos and other things, were destroyed. All the moments and memories would exist only in what I had committed to my mind, which while in many ways a steel trap as only a writer can recall, isn’t the whole story. Many things were lost or altered and I couldn’t get them back.

I haven’t kept a journal or book like that once since that time. If nothing is permanent then why begin and try to keep it? The closest I’ve ever come has been this production blog and, lets be honest it’s been pretty spotty at best, especially in the last year.

A few years ago I made a proclamation to start this blog and about the year of pre-production through post on TIDU. I thought I was ending a journey with making this last film and instead I was just passing through an awkward middle.  This journey and process doesn’t end with Violet and Co. riding off into the Greenpoint sunset having grown, changed and processed the meaning of life and death for themselves after all. It turns out there’s actually a whole lot more left in the well.

I have one more story to tell.

I mulled over the idea of hanging up the gloves after finishing “Things”.  I sacrificed many things to bring to fruition the two films that came. I’ve pushed myself and I’ve pushed those I work with to the brink of exhaustion in the pursuit of something greater. I put in jeopardy or sacrificed friendships, relationships and other life opportunities in the determined battle to see each one of these missions out. I’ve put the stories first and the last one took more than I ever thought I’d have to give. As much as I love the final product and many of the experiences, some I’ve even yet to have with “Things”, there’s a lot of dark and pain tacked onto it that I hated ending it with but at the same time was far too war torn to conceive of doing anything after it.

I was going to take a back-seat, sort out my life and my future and any filmmaking or storytelling would either be as a hobby or I’d be consulting others on how best to get their babies off the ground and stay sane (as much as one can) during the process. I was going to drink beer, watch hockey, do some traveling and let things come as they may. I was going to be a David on the wind and find serenity in every second of it as a civilian.

Besides there are so many ways to express one self creatively that isn’t making a film and a lot of them I enjoyed. I could always write, could always doodle or find a different way to tell the stories that might come to me. I had nothing left to prove to anyone and a majority of those I hadn’t were never going to offer it. I’d made peace with what I’d accomplished and how I had gone from A to B, side swipes and zig zags included. I also realized that, ambitious as I can occasionally be, topping taking on the meaning of life and what happens when we dies in the spectrum of my work would be a bit of mountain to climb and would take the right kind of story nipping at me.

Then it called. It screamed. It clawed.

I’ve been working on something the last few months and in a lot of weird ways it’s been working on me.  Writing has always been, even at it’s most difficult or blocked, a therapeutic and cathartic experience for me. This was something different altogether I had never experienced before. This was the refilling of my soul and my purpose. It started as I began working on a draft of a half auto-biography, half-how-to-make-an-indie-film book for a potential publisher, with little sparks, niggling of ideas and overall concepts as I walked around the city running errands or drunkenly stumbled late at night. It echoed behind music from a bar jukebox or in every sip of middle of the night “miracle wishing” scotch. It’s been keeping me up at night or literally waking me as I try and write and sharpen it and make it cohesive. And it’s only been in this last week that I’ve gotten a real understanding on what story I’m actually telling.

I’ve always affectionately referred to my previous work as “valentines” or “love-letters” to New York City and they have been. They’ve also been to the people I’ve known and to my own experiences in this place over the last ten years and change, whether that is strictly autobiographical like “…Around” or emotionally and philosophically so like “Things”. I watched both of them recently, in succession and I saw what they truly were for maybe the first time. Far removed from the creative process, the pressures, the memories and the films themselves I could finally grasp that they were my new journal and memory book. They were my personal feelings and creative ideas captured but also the memories and passion shared with every single person who ever had anything to do with them both onscreen and off.

They’re my true family albums.

I can tell you this is truly and completely the final chapter in a process that started with “…Around”.  In many odd ways, while it’s light years from that first film it’s also very much in that vein and it’s energy. It’s about the desire and innocence of youth and first coming this place, the almost nuclear creative energy that surrounds it and those who are lucky enough to inhabit.

At least that’s where it start… and goes beyond any growth that made its way into “Things”. It’s more than just the final tale in a trilogy, but it’s coming full-circle to everything I’ve been trying to say for the last seven years.

 It’s a sequel, it’s a remake, it’s a reboot, it’s a reimagining, it’s a spin-off, it’s--

“Wake-Up In New York”

I’ve been asked a few times in the last few weeks just exactly what the new story is…

At it’s core it’s a love story, but as anyone who’s ever really been in love before—whether it’s a person, place or thing--that means there’s going to be pain, there’s going to be transition and there’s going to be a lot of midnight reflection.  It’s a love story over ten years between two people and between two cities, between the art of storytelling, writing, and a quest for home and family. It’s about soul mates and muses, sometimes hostile and toxic and how that changes, about how relationships affect and alter us for the better and the worst. It’s about the moments we keep deeply in our hearts, replaying over and over as well as the ones we can’t wait to bury or spend hours trying to rewrite or wish had never happened. It’s about the words we can’t take back and the actions that define everything we’re about to become. It’s about growing up and how everything, every feeling makes that change from having many layers and possibilities to sometimes being very black and white. It’s about creating and destroying and finding the balance between our dreams and our realities. It’s the passing between friends, lovers, surrogate family and important strangers. It has a science fiction and narrative twist to it wholly different then any of the other two films but complements them completely.

It’s also about “that moment” for all of us in our lives. We all have one.

There’s a moment that happens in the thick of it all when you start to wonder when you began living someone else’s life. In April 2011 I was sitting in a dark bar wondering just, “what the fuck had happened?” and on the completely opposite end of the spectrum I found myself standing on an auditorium stage in April 2012 in Colorado Springs asking myself the exact same question.

I’ve never won an award for filmmaking or anything really. I’ve been lauded personally and professionally, received a few honors, pats on the back and critical favoring but have never been presented with an award. I certainly didn’t see the honor that I humbly received at the Indie Spirit Film Festival coming, one that belonged not just to me but every person that helped in the smallest to largest way to bring this story to life. I stood there under the bright lights, accepting for all of us, silly grin and whatever pep-talk cum acceptance speech-“go out and fight”-thing I usually babble about…

I got back to my seat, smiles and nods from those in the audience I’d gotten to know while at the festival over the last 48 hours, and stared at the strange award in my hand. I could tell you I was trying to figure out how I’d get the potentially flight risk and sharp glass object through security at two international airports and I wouldn’t be lying… but I had a more honest thought going through my head.

I was back to the evening of my 23rd birthday, sitting alone in front of a pint in a dive bar and a blank page of the lost memory-book. It was the night I made a vow to be in production on my first feature film a year later never knowing all the winding roads and faces that would await me. Never believing I’d really be able to successfully do it or be sitting in an auditorium in another time zone with an award for my second one. I just wanted to know that I gave myself the chance to have an “at-bat”.

That same reflection and returning to the place we started, truly knowing it for the first time and using it to move forward. That’s what the soul of this new story is really about.

It’s the most complicated thing I’ve ever tried to do narratively but more so after banging out a very raw and rough and long first draft in March it’s been the hardest to work on of any of the previous screenplays. It’s personal. It’s extremely personal, uncomfortable, revealing, honest… and these things and the feelings are all the signs to me that maybe I have something special again. Something worth fighting for and telling. Something I haven’t done before.

So, Summer 2013 I’m ready to get the band back together and go into the fray one more time.  It’s chance to reunite with just about everyone I’ve had the joy to create with, some I’ve been meaning to and brand new faces to family alum. I’m going to bring every last drop of me to it and make something that no one has ever seen before. I’m going tell a truly original New York story (this time with a slice of LA) one more time with the people I care about and believe in. I’m going to make a valentine to the previous valentines by upping the ante in the production value, the storytelling and the set experience. I’m going to go out with my fists up and my heart full and some old but refined tricks up my sleeves. It’s my real swan song because even if I make another film after this one… it’s going to for someone else, by someone else but never like these three.  This is how I say “goodbye” and “I love you” one more time.  This is how I make something not just good, great or that holds up years from now. I want to make something that gets better with age and has more meaning.

I'm going to complete a draft of the script later this month to send off to a few people and start the process and a year long and change journey.

And I’m going to be writing about it here. Again.