Friday 27 November 2009

It's A Kind Of Magic - Why We MUST Keep Creating Work Again And Again And AGAIN.

This is something I've always kind of known but last night it really hit me with clarity after speaking with my friend Steve. Although, this is an anonymous blog, so let's call my friend George. So me and George were talking-- we were talking about our careers, he's an actor, I'm not an actor, I'm a Writer and Director. George is not a Writer or a Director, but an actor. Anyways, we were talking (this is the same conversation as I just mentioned, I don't want you to think this is a new discussion) and we were talking specifically about my films, and specifically about my new one but also the older ones, so I guess specifically those too.

Anyhow, he asked me if I was happy with my new film. And I said I was, although I said it in the present tense, it was more like "I am." But he could tell from my reaction that I wasn't a hundred percent. This surprised me, as I was actually trying to pull a face like Al Pacino at the time, just for fun. Anyways-- don't get me wrong, I love my new film. It's great, the actors are superb, the production value is high and there are some genuine laughs in it. But I have this feeling that it's not my best. And it's not that there's anything wrong with it, it just doesn't have that little bit of magic. I've made like ten short films in the past, and two of them have the magic. Everyone who sees them just falls in love with them. And if they don't fall in love, they at least have self-pleasure for five minutes. But regardless, there is something about them. And my friend Steve, I mean-- sorry, George.. he told me how his girlfriend and her friend act out part of my film whenever they're on a night out (don't worry, it's not a film about rape and murder, just laughs) and I took that as a huge compliment. It's hard to say how huge, but probably around the size of a medium steak.

The conversation stopped abruptly whilst I sipped on some tea. This only lasted for about four seconds, and then we carried on. I started rambling about 'magic' in movies. About how, you never really know. You could write a script that's the best script ever written, but it won't necessarily transpire as magic on the screen. There's something else that needs to happen. When Eric Roth wrote 'Forrest Gump' he didn't know that the line about chocolates would become one of the most famous lines of all time. You just never quite know what you're gonna get. For example, Cameron Crowe created movie magic with the 'Tiny Dancer' scene in 'Almost Famous' (the cast are together on a tour bus, singing the Elton John classic...) -- for whatever reason, it's just the most perfect scene you could ever imagine. Everyone who sees that movie remembers that scene. It's golden, it's magic. But then, fast-forward a few years (or just walk there slowly) and there's Crowe's film 'Elizabethtown.' I remember reading the script and absolutely loving the scene where Dunst's character and Bloom's character talk on the phone to each other - it's about fifteen pages long and it's funny, moving, compelling. I remember Crowe talking about the scene during production, talking about how amazing it would be. I guess the plan was that it would be another Tiny Dancer moment. It wasn't. It was pretty average, in fact - the whole of 'Elizabethtown' was pretty average. The point of the story is not that you need Elton John to make a scene work (although this idea could be explored) but that - films are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.

And that's why we have to keep making them. That's why, when you show everyone that short film you did and the reaction of everybody is 'oh, that's cool' -- this isn't a sign that you can't captivate and excite them. It's a sign that, you didn't on this occasion. But there'll be others, you just have to keep searching for them. You have to keep writing. Keep creating things. This happens on a small level when you make a short film in your house with your cat and your parents, (it's called 'Kitty, I killed The Parents' - out soon on Blu-Ray) -- right up to when you're Kevin Smith and telling everyone 'Jersey Girl' is going to be the best thing you've ever done. You just never know.

"Uh well, I'll tell ya, I remember this one time - I'm in a Banshee at night in combat conditions, so there's no running lights on the carrier. It was the Shrangri-La, and we were in the Sea of Japan and my radar had jammed, and my homing signal was gone... because somebody in Japan was actually using the same frequency. And so it was - it was leading me away from where I was supposed to be. And I'm lookin' down at a big, black ocean, so I flip on my map light, and then suddenly: zap. Everything shorts out right there in my cockpit. All my instruments are gone. My lights are gone. And I can't even tell now what my altitude is. I know I'm running out of fuel, so I'm thinking about ditching in the ocean. And I, I look down there, and then in the darkness there's this uh, there's this green trail. It's like a long carpet that's just laid out right beneath me. And it was the algae, right? It was that phosphorescent stuff that gets churned up in the wake of a big ship. And it was - it was - it was leading me home. You know? If my cockpit lights hadn't shorted out, there's no way I'd ever been able to see that. So uh, you, uh, never know... what... what events are to transpire to get you home."

-Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) in APOLLO 13

So what I am realizing more and more is that there is just this kind of magic thing out there in the atmosphere, or in your work, or maybe it's in Cardiff, Wales. Wherever it's located - it's out there, and nobody quite has their finger on it.. and this is the great consolation for when you cry yourself to sleep at night thinking "I am not as talented as Tarantino." Maybe you're not as talented as Tarantino -- but that's not the point. Because you could both write a screenplay tonight. His could be incredible - his usual hilarious, crazy madness. And yours could be a little bit confused and awkward. BUT, that magic essence; who knows, it could end up in your work. This is WHY we all have secret favourite movies (like 'You've Got Mail' or 'Duets' for me) - there's just something in there that grabs you, that speaks to you - and you can't plan for that. We don't know what it is. We just know we found it in books when we were children and we find it in people we meet on our way through life.

It's a spark, it's a thing -- it's real but we can't feel it. We just know it when we see it. We know it when we see it. So if you've written nineteen scripts and no-one cared about them, don't give in. Number twenty could have the magic in it, you'll have captured something real and put it out there for people to feel.

"But when the night is falling
you cannot find the light
If you feel your dreams are dying
Hold tight...

You've got the music in you
Don't let go
You've got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don't give up
You've got a reason to live
Can't forget
We only get what we give"

-New Radicals - "You Get What You Give"

Steve Martin was a stand-up comedian for ten years. For eight of those, nobody really 'got' him. Nothing was happening. The only constant thing is that he was still working, still going to clubs when, sometimes, there'd be literally three people in the audience. I guess the magic wasn't with him yet. And then one day, breakthrough--- almost overnight he was playing to full houses of 40,000 people. You just need to keep doing what you're doing, keep creating the work - stay true to yourself and show your work to as many people as you can, because one day, not too far from now - the magic is going to be there between the lines and you're going to capture the world.

Care to share?

Wednesday 25 November 2009

I wish there were more films like The Apartment

There is nothing more wonderful than watching The Apartment. I watched this with someone recently and was completely jealous that she got to see it for the first time. I want that experience again. I wonder if there'll ever be another film as perfect as this, it's hard to imagine.

Care to share?

I wish Jimmy Stewart was still making movies.

"I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I'm comin' back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I'm gonna build things. I'm gonna build airfields, I'm gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I'm gonna build bridges a mile long... "
-George Bailey

Care to share?

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Thursday 19 November 2009

Something That All Young Actresses Should Be Aware Of

There are a lot of pretty women in the world, and there are lots of guys who are terrible at interacting with them. This is obvious, of course. Years of loneliness and bitterness and other factors can lead a man to go a bit odd. A bit desperate. You know how it goes. I mean, you girls reading this probably think it describes 300 of your Facebook friends. Luckily, women can spot a weirdo a mile off. Except for in one situation - where various factors come into play.

There is one magic way to meet women. And not just any women, but the most beautiful women you could find. It's a very simple sentence, "I'm casting a movie." This weird piece of phenomena hit me the very first time I cast a film - and it seemed crazy to me. Here is a guy who rarely gets to speak to those wonderous beautiful ones - and suddenly, I can meet ten of them in a day, and they are all desperate for work.

The worrying thing is that many guys reading this are probably thinking "cool idea!" but herein lies the problem - nearly every actress I know has a story about a 'Director' who met them about a project, didn't have a script, and had some little project with 'artistic nudity' - and for me, and luckily most men in this business, we can see it for what it is. I guess we can recognize it in ourselves in some ways - how easy it is to interact with the beautiful people by making a movie.

So here's the thing - when you're a 22 year old actress with limited film credits and you meet some man who says he "worked with Altman in the 80's," your hope begins to grow that this project will help you in some way. You justify it by thinking that there's nothing wrong with nudity if it's artistic, and when the filmmaker keeps delaying the script you tell yourself it's okay, it's an experimental movie.

I'm a Writer/Director. When I cast a project I give all actors the script. They can Google me and see my work, articles about me, if they really want they can add me on Facebook, the work I do is completely justified. I've never shot nudity - but if I did, I'd tell the actors who's shooting it, where, I'd give them freedom to do whatever it takes to make the experience a comfortable one - it would be completely transparent, like everything I do in filmmaking.

Yet these filmmakers who are doing Arthouse films with 'brief nudity' tend to be elusive, mysterious figures, who never quite have a script ready-- and often want to meet up with the actress to discuss the project. Alarm bells for all of us, I'm sure-- but for an actor in the moment, it's easy to get caught up in thinking there's a good experience to be had.

Just the other day I was talking to an actress about this, an actress who is one of the most beautiful people I know - and I'm fully aware that, if I was an accountant, I'd never really interact with someone who looks like her. That feels creepy to even say, but it's the strange thing about this industry. Luckily, I'm a good guy, and her looks aren't an important part of our friendship, but I'm aware of it. And I'm aware that men are men. All the perversion and weird thoughts are going to be in the film industry as much as in the streets, or on Craigslist.

And I just want to bring awareness to this issue. And I want young actresses to know they are talented, beautiful people who should be doing exciting short films, immersing themselves in plays and meeting directors and producers who inspire them. If you meet a Director who gives you the ick, don't work for them. Whatever opportunity they offer can be found elsewhere in a less creepy way. And here's another common one - the innapropriate comment on the first meeting. If some 'Director' makes a comment about your breasts that makes you uncomfortable, get out of there, you don't need this experience. If the director had made that comment about an actors penis, they'd get thumped in the head.

I find it very hard to comprehend why a filmmaker's first short film would require nudity, there are so many other things to explore. Keep your clothes on, save the nudity for your boyfriend, or for the Hollywood film that pays you $10million.

Care to share?