My Dad Loved Movies

My Dad passed away early in the morning last Monday. The following is what I read at my dad’s memorial service this past week.

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My dad loved movies. He loved movies before I ever loved movies. The main reason my siblings and I quote movies all the time is because of him.

There is a quote from the movie Inception that goes like this,

“I wish. I wish more than anything. But I can’t imagine you with all of your complexity, all your perfection, all your imperfection. Look at you. You are just a shade of my real wife. You’re the best I can do; but I’m sorry, you are just not good enough.”

I couldn’t think of anything that would fully encapsulate my dad, so I’m just going to share some highlights.

I was in an antique store a number of years ago and I found a set of tiny dolls from Mexico. They looked like a variation of Worry Dolls except they were all different. So I told my mom, “I’m going to buy these and hide them around the house and let dad find them.”

We got the dolls and went home and I proceeded to hide these things all over the house – in his medicine cabinet, in his office, by his bed, on the counter, everywhere. Then we waited for dad to get home. When he got home we said hi and let him do his normal thing. As he walked around he house he would pause.

Finally, I heard a shout from the bathroom – “there little people everywhere?!”

And we all laughed, dad included.

Around that same time dad found a Halloween hand at a garage sale. It was one of those rubber things that’s slightly hideous and creepy. So I took that hand and I stuck it in his medicine cabinet.

“What is this?” he said.

But he got his revenge. He hid it in MY bathroom later. And so the war began – me hiding the hand in his truck or his office or his drawers and him responding in kind. He was far better at coming up with hiding spots – sometimes it took weeks for me to find the hand.

He knew how to laugh.

He watched every single one of my films. He wasn’t always positive about them. He told me his likes and dislikes. He told me his true opinions. I trusted that his reactions were real, and when he said he loved a film or that it made him laugh I knew it was true.

My parents often helped with my movie making chaos. They offered their house, food, errands, feedback and even themselves when they fit the role. In 2013 I produced and directed my first 48 hour film – which is a competition that requires you to complete a new film in 48 hours. My parents both delivered several items and offered their house for editors to sleep at. At the end of the filming first day, both my parents told me, “I am so proud of you.”

It didn’t matter that the film wasn’t finished being edited, it didn’t matter that we went on to win absolutely no awards, it didn’t matter that the film was pretty nonsensical – they were proud. I looked back at some of my blog posts over the past year and you can still find my dad’s comments saying, “I am so proud of you.”

Dad, I never thought I did anything worth you saying that, but you did so many things that made me proud. You were a paramedic who was kind to people, even when they hit you. You were infinitely patient with your grand children even when they were being nuts. You went back to school twice. You stayed faithful and kind and loving toward my mom. I knew if I needed anything that you would come as soon as I called, and you often did.

Dad I’m so proud of you.

I was going to tell y’all the story about how my dad and I discovered Steve Irwin, but my brother said we only had 45 minutes up here. I will say that dad loved finding things to watch with us, and I think that we both enjoyed watching it together more than the actual show. I can’t imagine that he was a super fan of Veronica Mars, but boy did we get excited about that movie.

I don’t know how many hobbies or likes he acquired because of wanting to hang with us, but I know that I love movies because of him. All the midnight showings, repeated viewings, quote sessions – if I say something that sounds weird it’s probably a movie quote and it’s all his fault.

I haven’t seen Black Panther yet, but when I do, I’ll be thinking about how I would tell him all about it.

So here’s my last thing. Last spring was really harsh for me. I was talking to my dad about traveling, and we decided that in 2018 we were going to Vietnam. He really wanted to go there for many years. So a few weeks later he gave me a tiny package. He said, “this is for the trip.”

You know what it was? A tiny scorpion earring. Just one.

I don’t think that there are even scorpions in Vietnam.

But it was absolutely the coolest earring I’ve ever been given. Because it was from my dad.

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POV or Point Of View Part 2

Welcome to part 2.  I blogged about POV here, a few weeks ago.  Point of view is complicated.  Aside from the POV within the story–which I mentioned in part 1–there’s the POV of the author of the story, script, whatever.  For the purpose of this post, let’s stick with books and feature films.  I can speak with the most knowledge about those and it will be less confusing.

You can tell a lot about the author from his or her story.

First off, the education of the author is usually obvious by the subject matter and/or the vocabulary.  If I read a book and I can’t go a full page without learning a new word, I know that the writer is very educated, either because they read a lot or they had a lot of school.  If the book or movie is about a bunch of college professors sitting around talking, the writer is probably well-acquainted with college professors.  And if they aren’t, the book or movie will suffer.

I often think that education and little-known words can be a weakness.  It’s not the words you know, it’s the way you use the words you know.  Here’s some of the best book writers that I know of: Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, John Green, Timothy Zahn, Sarah Dessen, Jasper Fforde and Jane Austen.  Some of them speak at a higher level, most of them just know how to use words.

Secondly, you can tell what is important to the author, or what she is passionate about, or what is bothering her, or what she wants to change about the world.  How?  Ever notice that every single movie (aside from the Batman franchise, but even that is arguable) that Christopher Nolan has made is inherently about the same thing?

Reality.  What is reality.  What do we want from reality?  Is reality something we get to choose or does it already exist?  Does the audience ever really know what’s real in most of his films?

Nolan is captured by this idea of real vs made-up and it comes out in each of his stories.  Inception, which is about the dreamworld.  Memento, which is about how a guy with memory loss sees the world.  The Prestige, which is about magicians who can create a reality for the audience (and other reasons that are spoilers so I won’t mention them).  And even The Dark Knight, which is about choosing to let people decide the reality that they want.

Let’s get another example that isn’t Nolan, eh?  Let’s talk about J.J. Abrams.  Abrams is best known at the moment for Star Trek: Into Darkness.  It’s fantastic, drop what you’re doing and go see it.

Hello, nice to see you again.  It was awesome, wasn’t it?  Good.  Abrams is the man behind Mission Impossible 3, Super 8, Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness.  At the heart of these movies, and even including Armageddon, which he wrote and Michael Bay directed, is the idea of family.  The family you create, the family you have, and the family you want.  In MI3, Ethan Hunt wants to settle down and get married, which changes the way he works.  In Super 8, the relationship between father and son is strained because the mom is dead.  The son looks to friends and a girl to be his family.  In Star Trek, Kirk’s family is non-existent, until he joins Starfleet and acquires his ship and a father figure.  In Star Trek: Into Darkness, Kirk’s crew, and the crew of another major character, are mentioned as being family.  And what the characters would do for their families is a major plot point later on.

Thirdly and lastly, you can tell the audience that the writer is aiming to please.  This doesn’t mean that other audiences can’t enjoy the work.  It’s just the aim.

For example, Suzanne Collins wrote The Hunger Games trilogy for boys.  Stop right there and don’t hate me.  I know she wrote this trilogy primarily for boys because it is extremely and graphically violent, preoccupied with action over emotion, lacks excessive description, the main character is not concerned with girly things, but hunts and fights, and the ending is less than happy.  But there’s a love triangle, you say.  Whatever.  Just because it’s written primarily for a male audience doesn’t mean that the audience is all males.

Here’s a fun example: Stephenie Meyer.  We all know what she wrote, right?  It’s only 4 books and 5 movies.  Think vampires.  Yup, she wrote the Twilight books.  Now, I didn’t read these books.  Not interested.  But I saw 4 of the movies.  From a filmmaking perspective, the movies were well-made.  Anyway.  These books were written with primarily a female audience in mind.  I bet you already knew that.  Why?  Because they contain overly emotional relationships, complications to the plot that are relationship driven, a drawn-out love triangle with 2 seemingly perfect men, anticlimactic scenes, an imperfect and girly main character (someone to relate to), a very neatly bound and happy ending.

It’s funny, until the movies came out, the only people I knew who had read these books were guys.

Ha.

Good grief this is the longest post ever.  If you made it this far, congratulations!  You are now in possession of my POV on writer’s POVs and how you can identify them.  You can tell a writer’s education, passion, and audience from his or her writing.  And many, many other things.  Watch out for them as you read.

This list probably says a lot about me…

Webseries Inceptions

I’ve been working on webseries.  This isn’t news.  A few months ago we filmed the first episode of Things We Do in Public, which turned out great.  This is a silly comedy–really silly.

And I love that.

I have a DP friend.  He wants to make dramas.  HARSH dramas.

This makes me sad.

In ways.  Anyway, I have been working on a serious webseries for him–I mentioned the vampire aspect, yes?–and I have finished the first episode.

Yeah.

It’s not happy.  It’s not even…funny.  It makes me think of one of my favorite films:  Inception.  It’s not like Inception at all.  No dreams or totems or architecture.  But it is like Inception.

Why?

Inception is a great movie.  It’s dramatic, action-packed, has depth of story and amazing visuals.  The actors are all fantastic and solid.  The editing is beyond reproach.  I mean, you have to pay attention to that movie, but it is edited in a way that makes it understandable.

But it lacks comedy.  Almost entirely.

Don’t misunderstand.  I think this movie needs no alteration.  But I find the lack of funny slightly disheartening.  I can’t watch it all the time.

I think movies should entertain.  Also, a friend of mine once said, “Fiction a way is to help us understand life.”  When I write, I try to create something that accomplishes both these things.  But mainly, I try to give you a little bit of sunshine, something that makes you forget or let go.

I hope that in the next episode I can create some moments of comedy.  I hope that we’re not always just making sense of life.  I hope sometimes we’re letting life go and laughing.

And laughing.

Themes

What is the theme of your life?  Your career?  Your favorite movies?  Things you’ve written, whether books, screenplays, badly scribbled poetry or bathroom/empty wall graffiti?

Have had several conversations with friends this week on theme.  I made the comment that Christopher Nolan (Inception, Momento, The Prestige) has the same theme in all his movies.

What is it?

Reality.  What is reality?  What do we choose to be reality?  Is reality important?  Why is reality important?  Who decides what is reality?

If you think about his films–Batman movies included–you will discover this theme, over and over.  It is obviously the entire point of Inception and Momento.  I won’t ruin the movies for you if you haven’t seen them.  In The Dark Knight the Joker lives in his own reality, where he has made his own conclusions about the nature and actions of man.  Bruce Wayne’s own perception of the nature of man is sadly mistaken too, which is why this movie is so interesting and haunting.  If the Joker was wrong and Bruce Wayne was wrong, doesn’t that make them both right?  Humanity will ultimately choose evil or good, depending on the people and circumstance.

That got really deep for a second.

Moving on.

I have discovered an alarming theme to my writing.  It became very apparent recently, when I finished a time travel book called Paradox.  Paradox is about a girl who meets someone before she knows him, but he already knows her.  He sends her back to his childhood.  Chaos ensues.

When I finished writing this book, I cried.  Well, got teary.  I was sad.  Not just because it was over.  It’s just a very sad book.

I’m not gonna tell you my theme.  It will become apparent to anyone who reads my work.  But it makes me wonder…

What’s your theme?

Screenwriting

Screenwriting was my favorite class in college.  It was a brutal class, too.  I kept at it, and eventually I made it into a group of writers who were all Master’s students, except one.  This was a big deal for me, who was in the last year of my Bachelor’s degree.

At the start of the semester of screenwriting 3 we pitched a screenplay idea and then spent the next 2 and 1/2 months writing a feature.  Most screenwriters take six months to a year to write a feature.  If they’re fast.  (Christopher Nolan took 10 years writing Inception with his brother.)

A feature is between 90 and 120 pages long.  My teacher was kind and preferred scripts to be about 95 pages.  Mid-way through 2 and 1/2 months, we had to present the first 10 pages.  That meant my teacher read the prose out loud and my classmates read the dialog out loud.

Then everyone had a chance to tear the script to shreds and stomp on it, all with a smile.  Sometimes with great relish.  If you survived this first presentation–in screenwriting 2 we had a student get completely trashed that night–you would return to class a few weeks later with the finished script, modified per suggestions.

Round 2.

This is me after class.

At the end of the semester, I had a screenplay that no one understood except me and a deepening resolve to quit before my last semester of film school.  But over Christmas break something clicked.  Something changed.

I came back.  Screenwriting 4 wasn’t even ready for me.  I tore up that semester with a sci-fi script that succeeded in smashing all my classmates’ expectations.

And it was fun.

Next post I will share some of the things that occurred to me over that break, but until then, keep writing.  Just because you’re the only one who gets it now doesn’t mean it will always be that way.