the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

The Life & Death of a Short Film–my first short film…

In media, observations, Uncategorized, writing on March 5, 2012 at 6:19 am

OK, here’s something you’ve never heard before: making a movie is hard and it’s expensive.

That’s all I got for you.  That’s really all I need to say on the matter, and if it wasn’t for the fact that this is a blog and by nature, I’m verbose (which is why I have a blog), I would leave it there.  But well, I’m here, you’re here, so let’s talk.

I made a 9 minute movie and I got it shown at the Castro Theater here in San Francisco on Saturday.  Getting the movie to show is not as big a deal as it sounds.  I joined something called Scary Cow, which is a film collective that allows people to pitch a movie idea, find a crew, and get something on film.  You have to pay a monthly fee, but in addition to access to a crew, your money goes toward funding future projects.  Anyone in the collective can get her movie to play as long as it’s under 10 minutes and uses Scary Cow members.  If the film places (the screening is also a competition) then you get money for your next project.  It’s a good system and it allows for beginners like me to get involved in film.

I loved the process though it’s exhausting.  Not only did I pull two crazy days in January filming, I then had to spend countless hours with an editor finding out I didn’t get all the shots I needed or the sound for the shots I did have.  If you watch the movie, which I hope you will, click here for your filmic enjoyment , you will see that I ended the movie in what I would call Gray’s Anatomy style. I.e., I ended with a montage of images accompanied by music supplied by my very talented friend, Brent Newcomb.  Great song, but I sapped it of its charms by making it play along to the sappy images of reconciliation.  Oh well.  This is what you do when you have to.  By the way, what makes the good writers of Gray’s Anatomy inflict the montage-sappy song combo on us?

The hardest part of the film making process happened this weekend.  Harder than the writing of the script, the auditioning of actors, the filming or even the editing, is the screening.  Overall, it went well.  I have caught the bug of screenwriting.  I knew even in November when I wrote the script that I loved the format.  I like collaborating. I like working toward realizing a vision in concrete detail that goes beyond the page, that’s as complicated as any moment in life.  Description through words on the page only has always been my undoing as a fiction writer.  Sometimes I hit the mark, but usually, I feel myself bloating the language when I try to describe in detail and do so aesthetically.  You have to be detailed in scriptwriting, but if it’s not being said, you don’t have to be pretty or artistic.

Aside from the pleasure of writing for the human voice, there is the pleasure of sitting with an audience and having them get what you wrote.  With only one exception, I can report that the audience on Saturday laughed when I hoped it would.  It’s communication, I guess.  The feeling of connection.  AWESOMENESS!!

That’s the positive side of the experience, but then there is the competition.  I never intended for my movie to win anything.  I went in with the idea that I would learn from the experience and nothing more.  I learn best by breaking eggs, and I broke plenty on this film.  But then you get to the screening and you see the other films and you think, hey, my film is ok.  I think I can say that in my division (those movies made my unfunded newbies like myself) The Unfortunate Brother held it’s own; t’s a real story with a beginning, middle and end.  So I started hoping until I found out that I didn’t win anything.

I can’t say I wasn’t bummed.  I can’t say I was surprised either.  The story is a good one, but the execution, the technical stuff of film, sometimes got away from me.  Onto the next one.  This morning, I got up and after sulking for a couple hours and driving my poor wife nuts, I packed myself off to the coffee house and started my next script longhand.  A friend of mine who did actually place with his very pretty doc, was bummed because he didn’t win, and I told him what I am telling myself now: it’s about not giving up.  It’s about writing and not stopping, just like I’m doing with this post.

Advertisements

Young People Fighting in San Francisco & Other Ugly Things I’ve Been Thinking About…PART 2

In life, media, observations, writing on January 18, 2012 at 11:50 am

Ugly Thing #2: I’m a fan of the podcast, WTF with Marc Maron. I’ve said this already a million times, but I am one to repeat myself, and I’m getting old so there’s that. But for those not in the know, this is a show in which a comedian interviews other comedians (though there have been a few non-comedians as well) about life and the art of making people laugh. Even if this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, give it a try if you like honest interviewing. Mr. Maron is like Terry Gross on Fresh Air except that he curses and he can get into topics that NPR would never allow.

I bring this up here on a post about ugliness because on the most recent show, there is an interview with a comedian who comes out of the closet. The coming-out is not the ugly part, mind you. What struck me about the conversation was that the comedian, Todd Glass, a middle-aged man, was so at pains to be honest about who he is.  No, that’s not even ugly. The really ugly part is the part that we all play in making people hide who they are–this guy is 47 and it took him til now to feel ok admitting publicly to this important part of his life.  Maybe this isn’t ugly. Maybe it’s sad. Maybe it’s both.

Now, my anti-preachy spidey-sense is tingling. Honestly, I kind of hate it when someone–usually a liberal like myself–goes off on people about their biases. It’s needlessly sanctimonious, and that doesn’t help anyone. We’re all in this stew of culture and sex and religion together, and though I get angry at the injustice of shaming people who want to love people of their same sex, it’s kind of a facile anger for me, I think. Biases/prejudices are crosses to bear, which I think is a truth that many on the religious right don’t seem to realize.  So let me rephrase. Let me put this in more personal and less political, less accusatory terms.

Listening to the podcast with Mr. Glass, I was both heartbroken and annoyed. Yes, I’ll admit I was annoyed because I couldn’t believe that this guy was having such a problem with the word, gay. I mean he came out and yet at the same time, he barely could use the word when describing himself. I could imagine there being members of the Gay community yelling at their radios, telling the guy to get over it, to be proud. Hell, I’m straight, and I was yelling. But then I had to check myself. I had to think about what it would be like to feel like you need to keep a huge part of yourself locked away.  Obviously there’s a reason this guy felt that way, and he is not the only one by a long-shot. And though there are a lot of brave men and women who still put themselves out there and risk rejection at very young ages, that doesn’t change the fact that someone like Todd Glass was brave when he was ready.

So maybe this isn’t a post about ugliness in the end. But I’ve already written it and its title, so let’s go with it. I mean even if the story ends well for Mr. Glass, there are so many people out there who can’t face their families and friends, who can’t be true to themselves. That’s sad, obviously. But now that I think about it, my first intuition was right, it’s an ugly truth that we all have to deal with that we push away people who are different from the so-called norm.

Now go listen to the interview and tell me what you think. As Marc Maron says, “DO IT.”

What Some German Movie About Running Taught Me About Running and Writing and Why I Should Stop Eating Sweets

In humor, life, observations, writing on December 14, 2011 at 1:21 am

So, if you’ve been reading my posts lately, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling with a script that I should’ve had done last week. I’ve tried everything including writing on this blog about the problem, which should be good for something the way I figure it. I’m communicating fears, sharing my thoughts, etc. But it’s all been for naught. The truth is that I’ve been sucking it big time, and if I don’t stop, I’m going to become a butterball. Yes, I don’t know why, but somehow in my head I seem to think that if I fill my face with enough coffee and sweet things, I’ll get my mojo back and tackle this script.  Sugar and caffeine are great for a lot of things, but they don’t do fuck-all to make me write. They just jack me up, which makes my self-hate tick up a few mental decibels and no doubt, in the very near future, they’re going to make me gain weight, which, in turn, will make me angry at myself–angrier is more like it.

But then this morning, I decided to shake things up. I decided that telling myself I suck and then announcing it repeatedly on this blog was not the way to go. Instead, I said, screw it! I gave myself the morning off. I didn’t let myself look at the clock. I didn’t tell myself I had to go to Starbucks to write before starting the rest of my day. I pushed all of it out of my head. And what did I do? I watched a movie about running.

I love sports-movies—let me say it now! This, like my negative views on holiday parties, makes my wife sad, so most of the time, when I watch sports-movies, I do so by myself. I will also admit that sports-movies make me emo, as in weep-my-butt-off emotional.  Dramas don’t usually cut to my heart and comedies hardly ever make me laugh, but watching someone overcome some kind of adversity, which is the basic formula for the sports-movie, makes me weep and/or glow with excitement. At this moment, I’m trying not to think of the theme for that amazing and Oscar-overlooked movie, Rudy.  Just thinking of that film makes me…Oh no….man-tears…adams-apple flexing….

A moment…sorry, I’m just…Ok, one more sec… …..just one….

OK, OK. I’m better now. That movie was greatness. I can also recommend Hoosiers, Without Limits, American Flyers, Rocky up until the one when he goes to Russia—that one sucked. The Karate Kid (I think we can include martial arts as a sport, though I would not do the same for KK 2, 3, or 4 or Karate Girl—as with any good fighter, the Karate Kid franchise should’ve hung up the black belt before it became a dementia-laden mess.

As you can see, I like sports-movies, but of all sports movies, I like running-movies best. That reminds me, Running Brave was great. OH,  and there’s also Chariots of Fire, though I hate slow-mo scenes. AND there are some great running documentaries. (If you’d like, send me word, and I’ll make you a list.) So, it’s the running-movie that makes my heart beat fastest. Partly, it’s because I run. I’m not a runner, but I have gone out to run 3-4 times a week since high school. I love the way real runners look when they’re doing their thing. It’s so basic to who we are. It’s what people have been doing since the beginning of people.  And so this morning, without much thought, I put in a German movie called The Robber. It’s based on a real-life story about some Austrian marathon runner in the 80s who not only set national records, but also robbed banks on his free time. I don’t know if the movie is truthful to the real story, but if it is, then the reason that the runner robs is the same reason he runs: he wants to push himself beyond usual limits. As a bank robber, he wants to push his adrenaline-levels, and as a runner, he’s trying to do the same. In one scene, he pushes himself so hard in a race that he collapses at the finish line. If it wasn’t for the fact that there was 30 minutes left to the movie, I would’ve assumed that the German director was making an ironic point: a robber who dies not running from the police but  from himself. What’s the German word for DEEP? And yet, this movie is deep. It’s a F’n sports-movie, after all. So what do you expect?

I know a lot of people don’t get this—not the sports-movie thing, but the running-thing. And there are a lot of sports-lovers who don’t think long distance running is exciting. But I do. There is an adrenaline to long distance running—it’s not the adrenaline you get jumping out of a plane or kayaking down a river, but it’s a slow kind, a personal kind.  The question a runner doesn’t ask but always has to face is: can I do this, can I finish the race and do so before anyone, before the clock winds down on whatever record I’m trying to shatter? Basically, what is my limit? Runners don’t ask that of themselves but the question is always there in their minds, and that question raises the stakes. I’ve never been brave enough to go all out while running, to risk my physical health. Even as a high school runner, I’d start my races worrying that I wouldn’t be able to finish if I went all out. Like any sport, you’re dealing with physical limits, and part of me was scared to face mine—I also am man enough to admit to my fear of physical pain.  The runner in the German movie faced the same question, but both as a robber and as a runner, he chose to push through and risk himself.

I know the old joke that the only good reason to run is if you’re being chased. Maybe that’s true. Maybe runners are chased by something in their make-up. I don’t know. I don’t think I care. What I can tell you is that there is something wonderful about being out somewhere moving through space, powered by your legs. There’s something lonely about it, and brave, and maybe, sadistic. The runner in the movie certainly had a sadistric streak in him.

For me, and how all of this relates to the script, I’d say that I’m stalling for the same reason I’m not a real runner: I am in fear of finding my limits and of the pain of effort required to even get to that place. In the end, that’s what I’m left with. So I either accept this fear and enjoy my life drinking coffee because I want to and not because I’m trying to avoid something, or I get off my butt and go for it. Balls out! No Limits!

Jesus, can you hear the Rocky theme playing in the background? I can. I can. I can.

Being Defeated By a Blank Screen and a Flashing Cursor…

In humor, life, media, observations, teaching & education, writers & books, writing on December 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm

It might be a sign of our virtual times, but I’m getting a beat-down by nothingness. Specifically, the nothingness of a blank screen on my scriptwriting software. How the hell does that happen? It’s been a week, and I keep managing to do anything but write my spec script. Jesus, what is wrong with me? I know what I have to write. I have the plot lines all mapped out, and I’ve even gone over them with a professional writer who gave me the OK.

(The fact that I feel the need to mention this is part of the problem. Why do I even need that someone else gave me the ok?)

I gotta say that getting a pummeling by a blinking cursor is a humbling experience. It reminds me of some of my GED students who are tough as all get-out and yet are complete mush-pots in the way that they won’t even try a new math problem without me sitting there and giving them permission. Maybe, it’s about guts. Maybe some people are just more brave about trying new things than other people. But I suspect things run deeper–for both me and my students. The young people who come to me lack confidence in the smarts-department. I don’t know why that is–probably no one ever stopped to tell them they were capable, which is a crime but it is what it is. For me as a writer, I can’t exactly cry a river. It’s not like I’ve had crazy success, but I have had some support from generous readers and teachers. That said, I do have something in common with my students: we all are fearful of trying because we fear failure.

As a teacher, I’ve gotten into some arguments with my colleagues who also work with GED kids because their way around that fear has been to not push the students too hard–the thinking here is that if you don’t push students too hard, they will eventually try on their own. My thinking is that we should push the living shit out of them (in a nice and gentle and nurturing way) because the world doesn’t wait around. The difference is that I try to be there for my kids and to let them know that it’s not only ok to try, it’s ok to fail–whatever fail means.  I will be there for them so that they can get up and try again and keep trying until they hit the mark.

Well, those who can, do and those who can’t, …GOD, I hope that saying is wrong. I know that what keeps me from actually putting words to paper–unless those words are a blog entry explaining with other words on the page that have nothing to do with the words that would appear on my script–is a fear of failing. I can’t handle the pressure because the pressure I have building up on me isn’t just about the damn script. Just like my kids who are freaking out about adding fractions, it’s not the thing in front of us that holds us back. For them, it might be their pasts full of bad teachers and crappy learning environments. For me, it’s my screwed-up sense of the future. I turned 40 a couple months back, and before that, I never once was much about looking back. But now, trying to get myself to try to write a spec script, all I can think about is the fact that I’m trying to do something that most other people do when they are in their 20s. That I will have to put up with the odd looks and TSK’s. It’s dumb. It’s futile. And I know full well that I’m only pushing back the inevitable because at this rate, I’m going to be 41 and trying to write my first script, which is one year worse than my current situation. I tell my kids the same when they tell me that their little brothers in the fourth grade are learning fractions. They don’t admit it because they’re too tough, but I know they’re basically saying they’re stupid, or at least they feel like that. I tell them that they’re learning at their time, the right time for them and that they shouldn’t compare themselves.

Good thing they don’t read this bog. But then again, what’s that saying again? People who can, do, and teachers? What is it they do or don’t do. I forget.  I must really be getting old.

%d bloggers like this: