Thursday, March 29, 2007

OKAY--Here is my SECOND excerpt from my script "The Angels of Highway 7"

I just CANNOT load my script! It's so frustrating! I need to go to a friend's house with a super-fast internet connection. After I have loaded it on the net, I can register it with the Writer's Guild of America. Then send it to an agent.

Until then, here's another piece of it:

[Frustrated by the recent wave of "angel mania" sweeping the town, Pastor David meets with Father Lorenzo at the local diner to discuss their mutual concerns.]

INT. HARKSVILLE DINER - NIGHT

David and Father L sit in a booth sharing COFFEE and PIE. Both look tired, disgruntled, and bemused.

DAVID
So, how's the collection plate?

FATHER LORENZO
Sister Francesca says it's the best it's been in years. And you?

DAVID
My treasurer says the last time we had collections this large was 15 years ago --before I ever came to this town--when an amored air division's convention was held over at the base.

FATHE LRORENZO
Oh yeah! I remember. We packed 'em in every day that week.

DAVID
So ... have you been keeping track of all the angel sightings your parishioners have been claiming?

FATHER LORENZO
Like Joseph son of Jacob, it got so cumbersome I gave up keeping records. And you?

DAVID
My wife's filled three spiral notebooks with angel phone calls. And that doesn't include the hundreds of e-mails I have in my hard drive.

FATHER LORENZO
Well, if I had a wife to do that for me--

DAVID
-- I'm sorry! I wasn't trying to --

FATHER LORENZO
-- Just jokin', dude! Just messin' with ya! But, if I had been keeping track, I could probably boast the same volume as well.

DAVID
So, have you preached an sermons lately on the subject of angels?

FATHER LORENZO
Wouldn't know where to begin with one! So many parishioners wanna have the town declared a holy place. For the Diocese to build a shrine. I've been holding back on any official pronouncements because I'm waiting to hear from my Bishop.

DAVID
Has your Bishop been here yet?

FATHER LORENZO
He's driving in tomorrow. How about you? What's YOUR official position?

DAVID
I don't have one. I don't want to either encourage more hysteria or shatter people's faiths.

FATHER LORENZO
Do you even believe in angels?

DAVID
Of course I do!

FATHER LORENZO
Then what's the problem?

DAVID
The problem is .... look, forgive me for breaking one of the friendly little rules of conversation you and I first worked out five years ago, but ... from the Protestant perspective, there's not supposed to be any emphasis at all on angels. And right now, people in this town are utterly obsessed with them! It's not a theologically healthy environment. I know you Catholics are a little more lenient when it comes to dishing out small side-helpings of praise and prayer to the angels and the saints, but in the Protestant neck of the woods, we don't allow that. It's God and nobody else. The whole town's teetering on the brink of heresy!

FATHER LORENZO
So does that mean you're a deer caught in someone's headlights? Or an ostrich with its head in the sand? Why are you just taking no action at all? As for me, I'm not allowed to make a move without my Bishop. What's your excuse?

DAVID
I guess I'm waiting for it to level off first. For a break in the storm.

FATHER LORENZO
And what if no break comes in the next six months? What if it all just keeps escalating with no end in sight? C'mon, David! You're smarter than that when it comes to the good old fashioned horse-sense of leading a flock! There's gotta be something else you're not telling me here.

DAVID
(looks down, ashamed)
There is another reason I hold back.

FATHER LORENZO
Anything you're free to share?

DAVID
When a priest hears a confession, he's bound never to tell anyone else, right? Even if the confesser isn't a Catholic?

FATHER
Yes .... Is this concerning an actual sin?

DAVID
No. Not a sin. Just a ... secret.

FATHER
You wanna go someplace private?

DAVID
Your church or mine?

FATHER LORENZO
I think mine is closer.

CUT TO:

EXT. MAIN STREET - MOMENTS LATER

They walk along, heading out of town toward Holy Trinity.

DAVID
How many times in your life have people asked you if you've ever seen an angel?

FATHER LORENZO
Prior to all this, that question would arise maybe once or twice a year. But lately? Once or twice a day. And you?

DAVID
About the same. What do you tell them?

FATHER LORENZO
The truth: never seen one. What do YOU tell them?

DAVID
About ten years ago, I finally figured out an answer. I say: "I really wish I had an angel encounter story I could share with you, but sadly I don't."

FATHER LORENZO
(cautiously figuring it out)
..... But that's not the truth ... is it?

DAVID
It IS the truth insofar as I don't have an angelic angel encounter story I'm WILLING to share.

FATHER LORENZO
But you HAVE had an angelic encounter. Haven't you.

DAVID
.... I've had three.

Father Lorenzo's eyes widen.

CUT TO:

INT. HOLY TRINITY - SANCTUARY - LATER

Father L sits in the front pew, one arm slung behind him over the BENCH. David sits in the row just behind, staggered slightly off to one side, leaning over onto his own fists.

FATHER LORENZO
Good God, David! I've heard some stories in my life from other believers, but yours are just amazing.

DAVID
I don't think they're all that amazing. The sky didn't open with some thunderous voice from on high.

FATHER LORENZO
That's what makes them so spectacular: a strong undercurrent of the ordinary, a gritty sense of the mundane that just smacks of credibility. I can't believe you never told anyone!

DAVID
(shrugging)
I've told family and close friends.

Father L stands and begins to pace in front of the ALTAR

FATHER LORENZO
You never told your ordination board?

DAVID
No.

FATHER LORENZO
Never told your first Senior Pastor back when you were just a Junior Pastor?

DAVID
No.

FATHER LORENZO
How can anyone sit on stuff like that for twenty ye-- NO! THIRTY years??
(suddenly realizing)
Hey! Wait a minute! -- the jacket! What ever happened to that?

DAVID
My wife and I have it hanging up in our attic in a garment storage bag.

FATHER LORENZO
Wow! If it had been me, I would have been ordered to surrender it to my Cardinal. And then HE probably would have then shipped it off to Rome where a bunch of priests-slash-scientists in the Vatican would've spent years analyzing it down to the last molecule.

David LAUGHS.

FATHER LORENZO
You think I'm joking???????

David morphs into a sober double-take: yes, he DID think he was joking!

FATHER LORENZO
Could I ... see it some time?

DAVID
Sure. But we're planning to sell it.

FATHER LORENZO
When?

DAVID
Soon. So if you wanna see it, it needs to be right away.

FATHER LORENZO
Is tomorrow okay? --No! Wait! My Bishop's coming tomorrow! Promise me you'll call me before it's gone!

DAVID
I promise.

FATHER LORENZO
Who are you selling it to?

DAVID
Back in Philly, one of my former parishioners is a textile researcher. I had him analyze it in his lab six years ago. Said he'd never seen anything like it and offered me five thousand for it. I said no. But now I have to reconsider.

FATHER LORENZO
Does he know the jacket's origins?

DAVID
I only vaguely said my family picked it up in the Far East when I was a kid. But he knows there's more that I'm not saying.

FATHER LORENZO
So now that you've told me all of this: why do you hold such a deep aversion to discussing angels?

DAVID
Because I don't wanna get it WRONG! To stand up in front of my congregation--AND in front of God-- and screw it up! Do you hold much stock in that passage from James that says "We who teach will be judged more strictly"??

FATHER LORENZO
Yes... in fact .... I consider that one scripture to be an occupational hazard.

DAVID
Well, when it comes to teaching about angels, I fear I may be held to a double measure of liability in the event I get it wrong, maybe even a triple measure.

FATHER LORENZO
Look, David, the best advice I can give you comes from the writings of St. Patrick who said-- no wait!--skip St. Patrick. You're not a Catholic and he's not in the Bible.

DAVID
Patrick was actually a pretty cool guy in my book.

FATHER LORENZO
What was it the great Protestant Charles Spurgeon said? "The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible shall be the religion of Christ's church."

DAVID
... So help me God.

FATHER LORENZO
Let me see if I can appease your poor delicate Protestant sensibilities and think of something in keeping with the doctrine of sola scripture. Ah! I've got it! Book of Esther: "And who knows but that perhaps you have been elevated to this position for such a time as this."

Friday, March 16, 2007

An Excerpt from my Screenplay "The Angels of Highway 7"

INT. PASTOR DAVID'S OFFICE - DAY

[Deeply moved out of concern for Galvin, David has just finished telling Galvin his long-held secret: the three angel encounters. Galvin's reaction is NOT what David expected.]

GALVIN
Wow! I'm so glad you told me about all that. I can help you now!

DAVID
Help me with what?

GALVIN
C'mon, David, you can do better than Harksville. Look at this wall!
(gestures to framed diplomas on office wall)
You're smart. You're an awesome public speaker. You're a natural born leader with amazing time management skills. You've got that cracker-jack wife and three beautiful sons. You're worth far more than this. You could have one of those (what are they called?) ...mega-churches! And you look pretty good on camera, so you could even swing a television ministry. If you want, I could get you the heck out of this crummy little town in six weeks, maybe less. I could start you off on the talk-radio circuit. Then, on the basis of those three angel stories, I could get you a book deal--maybe even a movie deal. This is what I do. I'm a promotional expert. I can help you!

DAVID
What makes you think I even want any of that?

GALVIN
Doesn't everyone in your profession aspire to making it into the big time of mega-churches and TV ministries? C'mon! Admit it! You've DREAMED of your own TV show.

DAVID
No! I haven't! Being a pastor has nothing to do with being on TV! A pastor deals with people. Their lives. Their pain. I can't help people if I can't see them or touch them and if they can't touch me back! There's no such thing as a relationship with a TV screen. People can't call a TV screen for advice, or cry on a TV screen's shoulder.

GALVIN
Well, that's what makes the web so much better. It's interactive.

DAVID
(Dear Lord!) No, Galvin! I don't want any part of a media promotion of me!

GALVIN
But don't you want to better yourself? Make a name for yourself?

DAVID
MY NAME ISN'T IMPORTANT!

GALVIN
We can MAKE your name important! Not capitalizing on your own strengths is just a little crazy in my estimation!

DAVID
Galvin, before you go any further with this ..... "magnanimous offer" .... I need to ask: what's in it for you?

GALVIN
..... What do you mean?

DAVID
What are YOU gonna get out of all this? Am I supposed to cut you a percentage? Am I some commodity to be exploited?

GALVIN
No ... it's not like that at all.

DAVID
Then why are you so interested in turning my life completely upside down and re-ordering it to your liking?

GALVIN
It's just that ... you and Donna mean the world to Percy. She told me everything you guys did for her and I just wanna ... pay you back some how. I was just trying to help. I'm sorry if I offended you.

DAVID
Look, I appreciate your good intentions, but I need to ask you a question that I think I already know the answer to, but here goes: when was the last time you earned any money for yourself as a promotional expert?

GALVIN
I get regular monthly installments from prior clients who pay me on scale.

DAVID
But at the moment, you're not earning a dime. Our town contracted your consultation services for just four days, and that was a whole month ago. After four days you were supposed to finish your evaluation and then leave. And yet here it is, a month later, and you're STILL here in this crummy little town, performing services for us, even though we already told you we couldn't pay you past that four day evaluation. So you're working for free, Galvin. My question is, why are you doing this?

Galvin can't answer.

DAVID
Is it because you're in love with Percy? And you've been in love with her from the first day you met her. And you'd give up anything--even a whole month's wages--just to stay here and be with her?

Galvin still can't answer.

DAVID
Some people would say that's kinda crazy. But love usually makes you do things that seem crazy to others. And I'm here in this crummy job, in this crummy church, in this crummy town, for pretty much the same reasons. This is a labor of love and I couldn't walk away from this job any more than I could walk away from my wife. It's love that holds me here.

GALVIN
... Love of who? ... Of what?

DAVID
Of God. My love for God. His love for me. His love of the people of this town through me. And my own homegrown love of this town.

GALVIN
I really don't understand that kind of love.

DAVID
If it's any consolation, neither do I. But I promise you it's real. And I'm not the only one. Do you have any idea how many of my colleagues and classmates from Bible college and seminary are that much MORE talented than I am? More gifted? More educated? Better looking? Stronger in public speaking? More adept at time-management? Superior in organizational and leadership skills? Half of them are easilly qualified to be top executives in Fortune 500 companies. And yet the vast majority of them have equally crummy jobs with equally crummy pay. There's a whole army of us clergy professionals out there walking around with world-class educations that cost us anywhere from eighty-thousand to two-hundred-thousand dollars per person, and yet less than twelve percent of us are earning more than sixty grand a year.

GALVIN
...Then ... your entire profession sounds like a pathetic waste of an otherwise high quality segment of humanity.

DAVID
A drug addict is a pathetic waste of humanity. A prostitute is a pathetic waste of humanity. A woman whose ex-husband beats her so severely that she needs reconstructive surgery on her nose and left cheek-bone is a pathetic waste of humanity. But rescuing people out of those wastelands is what this kind of love is about. And that might seem crazy to you, but that's usually how love works.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Blog that was Taken Down -- the Saga of an Indie Scriptwriter - May 9, 2007

A blog I visited every day for a month (starting around April 5) as it chronicled the scriptwriter's perspective on an indie shoot of his script in Atlanta, has just been taken down. It was the most hilarious and heartwrenching saga I've ever read about a writer. Every day, his beautiful script just got bastardized more and more by a bizarre director with questionable talent and little aptitude for planning ahead. It was the most amazing insight into the horrors of Hollywood reality I've ever witnessed. And yesterday, he took the whole blog down, evidently because a lawyer dropped him a dime.

(If you're wondering why I have this posted with a March date, it's because I'm "hiding" this blog post in the past, ti sheild it from being discovered. The only people who can find this blog post now are people who get RSS feeds.)

Here's a rundown of all that I can recall from the blog:

1) Around April 9, An actress named Cerina V. was hired to play the female lead. The scriptwriter met ehr, liked her, got on the plane with her in LA, and when they arrived in Atlanta, she was replaced by someone else. And no reason was given.

2) The stunt director was a very hot-tempered man who was not interested in allowing the scriptwriter to play his own bit part (the role of a henchman) in the film. He shouted at the scriptwriter: "Do you WANT to die?"

3) After the first couple of days in Atlanta, while doing script meetings and other pre-shooting meetings, they told the scriptwriter that the role in the film they originally promised to him was now going to go to someone else and no explanation was given.

4) The scriptwriter had to fight for his role to be given back to him now because he accepted a role in the film in lieu of actual payment for a rewrite--so if they denied him this role, they'd essentially be getting a free rewrite out of him.

5) They came back the next day and told him what the real deal was about giving his role to someone else: the stunt director wanted a trained stuntman to play the henchman role just to be safe. So it was a safety issue. Okay. That's understandable. Meanwhile they had already promised the scriptwriter's role to this stuntman, and didn't wanna go back on their word to the stuntman. But the scriptwriter put his foot down and said this role was his rightful payment for the rewrite and they shouldn't go back on their word to him either.

6) To resolve the payment-for-a-rewrite, they had him do ANOTHER rewrite where he had to invent an entirely new and extra henchman character so that the stuntman would have his own role and so that the scriptwriter wasn't the one doing the dangerous stunts.

7) Part of the script involved the female lead running out onto an air field while a small plane was getting ready for take off (I think this was the big ending). Someone in the story had to shoot out the tires of one of the plane's props/wheels and cause the plane to crash. But the director said "Can't do it. Too expensive to crash a plane for real." Putting aside the obvous incredulity over the fact that the director initially signed on to do a film that involves a plane's prop getting shot out and is only NOW having problems with that scene, the scriptwriter explained "Here's how you can do it cheaply: you show the person on the airfield shooting the gun, then you show a close up of a tire getting shot out, then you show the guys inside the cockpit of the small plane and you jerk the camera so that it looks like the whoe plane just lurched sideways from the lost wheel." So essentially, the scriptwriter had to school the director on how to do some incredibly basic SFX.

8) Another part of the script involved a fight scene on the air field right before take off. The heroine is being attacked by a bad guy (I think it's the bad guy played by the scriptwriter) and the plane is sitting there, already revved up and ready to roll (so the propellers are spinning). The bad guy gets pushed backward into a spinning propeller and dies. But the director again said "Can't do it. Too expensive. We'd have to get a blood-filled dummy and those cost too much, and we'd have to get it right on the first take or else we gotta clean up all the blood and start again with another blood dumy." But the scriptwriter said "Didn't you see Raiders of the Lost Ark?" And so the scriptwriter explained you just show one shot of the bad guy standing inches from the propeller, then cut to another shot of something nearby getting pelted by a high-powered spray of blood droplets. So once again, the scriptwriter had to school the director on truly basic SFX techniques.

9) The whole set was very disorganized. People had bad attitudes and gave sub-par effort to their work. It was a huge silly mess. And then ... something magical happened one day. He described it as "the traveling angel" effect where a magical person (like Mary Poppins or Nanny McFee) shows up one day, and the previosuly messy, discordant lives and undertakings of all involved suddenly get tranformed into a harmoneous well-oiled machine of fun and goodwill. He said the magical person to showup was M.M. of Res Dogs fame. "M.M. shows up and suddenly we're making a movie!" The effect of having a bona fide STAR on the set was tangible. Everyone wanted to give their very best all because a REAL celebrity was there. Magic!

10) They had M.M. for just two days of shooting. He played the lead villain. The budget for the film was $250,000, and M.M.'s paycheck was... a substantial chunk of that.

11) Rumors around the set had it that M.M. had a divorce a few years back, and so he does indie stuff like this completely off the books to try and squirrel it away just for himself and keep it hidden from his ex.

12) The M.M.'s scenes mostly took place at night, so they scheduled shooting to start at 6 PM both nights and conclude at 6 AM each morning.

13) M.M.'s role was critical, and with just two days of his time (if they went over by even one minute of his time, they would owe him another thirty grand, and he unmistakable let them know he would NOT give them any freebie overtime if they didn't have it all in the can by 6 AM the second day) they decided to shoot every last one of his scenes back-to-back during that 2-day period.

14) Part of the trick of cramming all of M's scenes into just two days was to shoot him reciting his dialogue while in super-tight close-ups, and then they'd splice it all together later.

15) Another case of the director needing to get schooled in SFX ..... The central thurst of the whole plot involved the bad guys trying to torture information out of the heroine. They wanted from her the location of some huge stash of money (or jewels or something of incredible value, I forgot). So, lots of torture and rape scenes later, she gives in and tells them it's in a safe. They take her to the safe and demand the combination. She gives it to M.M. He opens the safe, and --known only to her (and maybe to the audience, but he never clarified in his blog entry if the audience knows or not)--the safe is booby-trapped. She is counting on M.M. to reach into the booby-trapped safe, spring the trap, and THEN she can hopefully get away. According to the script, a giant giullotine-type blade crashes down and chops off his hand. This is the critical turning point of the plot where she gets the better of the bad guys, grabs M.M.'s gun, and makes her escape. But the director suddenly says midway through production: "Nope. Can't do it. Too expensive to chop off a hand." So the scriptwriter explains, you can have the camera INSIDE the safe as his hand is reaching in, then swipe something downward in front of the lens--like a stick or a slab of cardboard--to mimmick the blade coming down. Then show a close-up of M.M.'s face wincing in pain, then do the bloody stump for the remainder of the film. But the director kept arguing and (according to the scrtpwriter) opted to just plain LIE and say "But M.M. doesn't wanna do it." So they had the scriptwriter do a rewrite where M.M. reaches in and gets electrocuted. The scriptwriter was plenty mad. The whole point of the script was the booby-trapped safe. That was what made this scipt unique. The booby-trap was EVERYTHING to the plot. And a chopped-off hand made more sense because a chopped-off hand is a PERMANENT injury, while an electrocution is just a momentary "ouch!" (M.M.'s character can't actually DIE yet, you see, he still has more bad guy stuff to do, so the electrocution can't KILL him, just temporarilly delay/stall him.) He also said the audience probably wouldn't understand that an electrocution was taking place, whereas with a blade chopping off his hand, they'd know in an instant what was happening. They assured him they'd clarify it for the audience later, they'd just CGI-in the etails of an electrocution. And then the scriptwriter lost his temper and said "CGI-in WHAT? His glowing skeleton??" he said he was watching them as they shot the scene with M.M. getting electrocuted, and M.M. did a pretty good job of shaking and vibrating under the force of the make-believe electrical current. And maybe with the right sound effects it could work. But he was still angry they ruined his one gimmick in the script that was (to him) the whole point of the story.

(At this point, I dropped a comment in the blog where I said I have always found the "scarred villain" very intriging. In many stories, the villain gets injured in some permanent way by the hero, and then the villain becomes obsessed with revenge for the injury. It's been done many times and always plays well. Darth Vader, Lex Luthor, and the Joker all did it, and it just made their characters more intriguing. A chopped off hand is indeed a revenge-worthy injury, but an electrocution -- unless it fried his hand off--isn't permanent and not as revenge-worthy. I would have enjoyed seeing M.M. chasing after the heroine with a bloody stump for the remainder of the film.

And ... another comment I only just thought of today is that an electricution has a comical look/feel to it, somthighe himself pointed ot in his blog by making allusions to Wle E. Coyote. But there's nothing comical at all about an amputation. So I think they're risking an unintended laugh at what is supposed to be a critical moment of shock and horror for the movie--kinda like Nicolas Cage running through a forest in a bear suit.)


16) Another side note about M.M. is he brought his assitant along with him and it turns out M.M. doesn't memorize the script. Instead the assitant reads it aloud to him and M.M. rehearses with him right before each scene, and so M.M. only has bits and pieces of the actual plot in his head and commits almost nothing to memory.

17) Then he made a blog entry about "the friggin' secret" where he explained that the director is personally into a pseudo-spritual philosophical outlook called "the law of attraction" which he claims is the secret of all things. This director is "totally into the secret." He's all "secreted out." And via this film, the director wants to try and put forth his philosophical views of "the secret." He even had the scriptwriter do a rewrite several months back where an old man does a voice-over (either at the very beginning or the very end, I don't recall which) where he says: "You wanna know the secret? It's the law of attraction." The director insists that "the secret" will be the key to getting the movie into all the festivals and will be the selling point for it with distributors. The law of attraction is an idea about negative energy and positive engery, and how if you give off positive energy, you will get positive back again (and if you give negative energy, etc). So he's trying to sell the idea that M.M.'s character is a victim of his own negative energy, and the heroine will figure out the law of attraction by film's end (so the director is trying to make this into her character arc) and so, in the big showdown scene at the end, she will resolve to hand the gun back to M.M. again, because it really is his gun afterall, and so it's the right thing to do, and she'll be rewarded with positivity. Now last year, when the director first pitched this rewrite to the scriptwriter, he was aghast at that notion and protested "She'll just get rewarded with a positive bullet in her head if she does that!" But the director assured the scriptwriter it's the right way to go. So, back in late 2006 when all this "friggin' secret" stuff was being discussed is when the writer agreed to do the HUGE rewrite that involved his getting paid via a role in the film. Anyway, M.M. is talking to the director and the writer, and the writer watches as the director explains to M.M. that she gives the gun back to him. M.M. asks "What the hell does she do THAT for?" And the director answers: "Because of the secret." M.M. is still dumbfounded: "What secret?" And the director replies: "The law of attraction." And the scriptwriter just buries his face in his hands at that point. And M.M. is rendered speechless.

18) During the last half hour of their preciously short 2-day contract with M.M., the scriptwriter realized the director was leaving out a critical detail. So the writer had to RACE onto the set and rescue this last scene. M.M. was going to punch out on the time clock as 6 AM sharp, and if this scene wasn't done right, then three months from now a editor would be sitting in an editing suite utterly unable to reconcile his footage with the script. The critical detail was: M.M. needs to shoot this scene with the gun in his hands because she is supposed to give the gun back to him. Otherwise, the heroine ends the film by kiling an unarmed man (and we all know heroines can't do THAT!) He literally races onto the set to flag down the director and remind him that he needs to get this shot with M.M. holding the gun. And they did. And then the clock struck 6 AM and M.M. was gone. And the scriptwriter essentially saved the film. He and the director had a grumble-session where the director said "You need to TELL me these things!" To which the scriptwriter replied "I DID! I wrote you a NOTE! It's called the SCRIPT!"

(I posted a comment that it's not the writer's job to remind the director of which props belong where and in which scenes. It's the job of the script surpervisor and/or the continuity director.)






And then ... the next bog entry (yesterday) entitled "Busted" said that word had gotten out all over the internet on this scriptwriter's blog. That his now "somewhat famous" blog was being discussed over coffee back in LA by enough people in enough positions that it eventually leaked its way back to the set in Atlanta. So now all the cast and crew were looking at the blabbermouth scriptwriter with the infamous blog chronicalling the misadventurs of their little movie.

And then the NEXT blog entry he made (late yesterday afternoon, May 8, 2007)) he said that he had to take it all down. The whole chronical of the shoot needed to be kept cofidential. But he promised he didn't delete it, just made it invisible to the public.

I left a friendly comment. He sent me an equally friendly personal e-mail last night in response to my coment. And I can't wait to see what this guy does next.



And THAT is what I recall from the blog that is now gone.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Frank Miller's 300 make a splash on the big screen with a huge bloody ink blot

I totally love this movie. I loved the thrills, I loved the look, and (in an odd fashion) I also loved the message.





......... What message?





Ah! I'm glad I'm not the only one to notice that!



Most war films (possibly ALL war films) have some kind of message hidden in them, either deeply buried, or hiding in plain sight (usually an anti-war message). So I watched this film last night in the same frame of mind that I watch most films (be they war films or not): running the dual-track in my head with one track imbibing the more obvious surface story, and the other sifting through the symbolism and imagery, trying to discern the hidden one.

But it wasn't there.

This was just a straightforward epic tale of heroism, bravery, and honor. No anti-war stuff. No slams on Bush. No profound treatise against taking up arms. No imagery meant to conjure associations in our minds with Iraq. Go figure.

If there WAS any sub-text to this work, I'd say it might have been the assertion that a true democracy (a form of government that Greece gave birth to) cannot properly function if religion is part of its machinery. The evil twisted priests were possibly meant as an anti-religion prop. As was Xerxes and his title as "the god-king." (I agree whole-heartedly with Russ Breimeier from CT Movies* who said: "Xerxes comes across as the Devil himself, promising him wealth, women, and power, repeatedly extolling his kindness: 'Leonidas would have you stand. All I ask is that you kneel.' " That one line from the film sent chills down my spine.) With this possible anti-religious thread in the film's subtext, the expanded role of the queen in this film was, I think, meant as an excuse to show the workings of the Council, a form of democracy in its infanthood. A bit of a Frank Capra moment for her there. We (who live in a democracy) want the local Spartan democracy to work for her that day. But it almost doesn't because one of the Council members is a traitor, liar, and a back-stabbing cheat. So her role in the story was, I believe, meant as a civics lesson for us: crooked politicians just muck up the works (just like religious interference).

The final line from the king to his servant before he dispatched him back to Sparta was "Remember us!" (That servant was played by David Wenham, the same actor who also played Faramir in Lord of the Rings --this role being quite a step up for such a deserving actor since he played the wimpy monk in Van Helsing.) That plea for "Remember us!" was repeated several times toward the end. And then I thought perhaps this might make an awesome Memorial Day film. Every last VFW post in the United States should show this film at least once a year. So another possible subtext of this film: don't hate the warriors, even if you disagree with the war. Sort of a variation on "Hate the sin but love the sinner" -- "Hate the war but love the warrior."

Focusing just on that possibility, the Viet Nam War sadly pitted the citizens of America AGAINST her soldiers. They came back home not to a hero's welcome with parades and memorials, but to hurled tomatoes and shouts of "BABY KILLERS!" It was over twenty years later before America finally reconciled itself to that war and owned up to the honor due the troops who fought in it. Ever since that reckoning, the very firmly enforced protocol in every political arena of this nation is now: "Honor our young men and women who are fighting for us. Period." So I'm kinda wondering if maybe, just as the Iraq War has been called Bush' Viet Nam, it might be possible that the makers of this film are offering a cautionary tale against a repeat of a similar strain of anti-soldier mentality amongst the civilian masses.

Maybe.

But I'm not going to firmly stand by any of my assertions here. Instead, I will point to the Ain't It Cool News** review, which I found funny as all get out (of course) and right on the money:

If you feel like taking a trip through all the various reviews of 300 that have shown up so far, you're going to notice something. It's sort of hilarious that Snyder hid an image of Rorschach in that extended trailer of 300, because I think what he's made with this film is a political rorschach test. People are going to project a lot of their own personal politics onto this one, and you'll hear people explain how it means this or it means that, and you'll read both outrage and smug satisfaction.

I don't think Snyder made a political film, though. I think Frank Miller is an undeniably political writer, but I don't think that had much to do with Snyder's decision to make the film. I think what really attracted him to the material is exactly what attracts me to this film: the image. This is a celebration of film as a visual art form, first and foremost, and Snyder has made something stunningly beautiful, a poem of war, a movie drunk on the potential of cinema to bring to life the impossible.


I have read in my film theory text books that ALL films about war MUST be "anti-war" or they're not worth the celluloid they're printed on. Films that are "pro-war" (if there actually is such a thing) or which are unabashedly patriotic, are unacceptable to the human-focused sensibilities of the art form. They are a stench in the nostrils of the craft and the industry. But this film seems to be lacking a direct anti-war message. Instead, by invoking the principles of "a just war", it asks us to side with the 300 Spartans in their decision to go to war. It asks us to sympathize with their determination to fight even unto death. And it also asks us to root for the Queen as she beseeches the Council to approve a troop escalation--oops! I mean --a surge.




So what exactly IS the message of this film?

I don't know. Maybe I'll go ask my therapist.




* http://www.christianitytoday.com/movies/reviews/2007/300.html

** http://www.aintitcool.com/node/31823

Sunday, March 4, 2007

I need an agent

I am SOOOOOOOO almost done with this script. And then I will need to......... sell it.

I will need an agent. Not sure where to begin with that.