Over the past couple of weeks, these are the films I've been watching:
"Love Actually", "St. Elmo's Fire", "The Breakfast Club", "About Last Night..."
Yesterday morning, when I woke up, I laid in bed for a long time. The menu for "Love Actually" was on the TV, and I hit play. And while the movie was playing, I wasn't really paying attention. I was more taking a survey of my life, and wondering why I had been in such a funk for so long. Obviously, the demise of my marriage and my divorce was the number one thing, but that's been so long ago, I couldn't figure out what was causing all these feelings. I wasn't the happy person I once considered myself. Granted, I often put on outward appearances, and it wasn't like I was suicidally depressed, or anything, but I wasn't "happy".
Then, I started putting some pieces together.
I had not completed a script since 2003, when I wrote "Reunion". I've started a few, and I have three notebooks full of ideas for various scripts. I spent an extended period of time in Boston, working on "Wake Up in the Breakdown" with Jason. Which, just turned out to be an exercising of demons, as my exploration into the two main characters helped me come to terms with my very new (at the time) divorce. Honestly, I liked the story and the idea, but it hit a point where I didn't have a way to get my characters from Point A to Point B, and that's when I realized that in learning about the characters, I learned about myself, my flaws, and what I did wrong in my relationship. Granted, it was too little too late and even the good character development couldn't save things.
I hadn't directed a movie since 2003. "Reunion" was the last film that I directed, and I poured so much of myself into the project that I was physically and mentally drained when the project was over. Sadly, it was during this time, and my obsessive-compulsive nature towards the project that my marriage began to suffer. So, on top of the physically challenges of working long days and filming long days, on top of constantly having to evolve certain parts of the story, based on exterior problems with cast - I was facing a situation where I was neglecting someone important to me, and causing the rift between us. I'm a passionate person, and I don't know how to make film any other way, but I believe this fallout from making "Reunion" was never really fixed.
I hadn't produced a film since 2005, when I produced "Crazy About You" for Jason and Zach - through our company. This was the most difficult, as it dealt with one of our biggest casts, and probably most professional collection of people. But, this only added more and more stress to the project. Due to the fallout from "Reunion" (between us), Kristen had decided that she wanted nothing to do with "Crazy About You". She was pretty much fed up with my filmmaking, didn't like the late night and long hours that it took, and really hated how much of my time and life was dedicated to seeing a movie through to completion. It was a rough time, and got even rougher after filming was complete. The post-production on the project was almost non-existent. And one of the hardest thing I ever had to do as a Producer was demand that a partner of mine, a friend of mine, and the director/editor of the film give me all of the footage. I was then burdened with the task of cutting the film myself. Which, Kristen would refuse to come into the office when I was editing, because she wanted nothing to do with my filmmaking. And I felt the urgency to get the film cut together and shown to our cast and crew, who REALLY put in a lot of time and effort into the project. In my mind, my reputation was on the line, so I was constantly in my office cutting the film, every chance I got. The break-up happened, the divorce happened, and then I finally finished the film in August. Probably six months after I got the footage.
To this day, "Crazy About You" has not been finished. We shot most of the film over three years ago, with some scenes added to the shooting later.
The hardest thing was the basic break-up of GemInI Films, post-"Crazy About You". Production on that movie took a lot out of all four of us. Chris decided to dedicate himself to his band. Zach was working two jobs and had no free time. And Jason moved to Boston. All of those factors made it impossible to make films together, and I always said that I only wanted to make films with those people - with my close friends. How naive of a statement was that?
I hope I've done an acceptable job of painting this picture for you: The Art of Filmmaking left a SOUR TASTE in my mouth. But, as I laid in bed yesterday, I thought over all of this and I finally came to the conclusion that its been my lack of filmmaking - since the divorce - that has taken away from my positive mental attitude. It's what I want to do. I feel good when I do it. And even now, as I write this blog, I get excited about the next year of devoting myself to one project.
So, after a long look at my life, I made the decision that I wanted to begin seriously working on a new script. Matt and I were working together last night, and it posed the PERFECT opportunity.
Let me give you a little history with Matt: In the Fall of 2005, a group of kids from Butler University began shooting a movie at my theatre. We would let them come in at night, and shoot scenes - because the film was set in a movie theatre. So, we let them use all over the building and I got to know the director and some of the cast and crew. This was the first film for most of them, and since I had made so many, they sometimes would ask for some advice. At the time, Matt was just an actor in the film. And after they wrapped up production, I was shocked a few weeks later when Matt was hired at my theatre. He started out as just an employee, but over time has become a fellow manager with me. Matt attends IUPUI and is getting his English degree, and will be attending gradute school in Michigan in the fall, to work on his Fiction Literature BA. Basically, Matt wants to be an author, and he's always been talking about wanting to make another film, and writer more scripts, etc...
So, I walked into the office last night, and I looked Matt in the eyes and said, "I want you and I to sit in here all night and create a storyline for a script that we can write together." His eyes got big, asked me if I was serious, and then it began. I told him, I want to make a film about friends with an ensemble cast of four males and three females. I want to make something like "St. Elmo's Fire" for the modern generation. Films like that don't exist anymore, films about a bunch of friends, and how they help and hurt each other. It's that lost vibe from 80s Brat Pack films.
After an hour, that idea was completely scrapped, and we had the seed for what will be become "The Band Film". Currently, we are referring to it as "The Road to the Top" - but we have both agreed that name will soon change.
In five hours, we got our basic Act I, Act II, and Act III plot points down. We understand the three stages of the film, and what moves us from I to II and from II to III. We've developed the personalities of the four main band members. Started working on their history, and on their relationships. We've addressed the struggles and roadblocks that are going to come into play through the project. We've got our climax and our falling action almost perfect mapped out - to bring out what we think will be an extremely emotional segment of the film, and the resulting downward spiral will be an interesting way to end the film.
For five hours of work, I think we accomplished A LOT. And it didn't stop there, as I was driving home from work - Matt called, with more ideas. I miss that. I miss having those late night conversations that Jason Maier and I used to have all the time when we were kicking about story ideas and plots. I was awake until after 3am, writing in my notebook. Writing the biography of the band, and organizing all of the events that we have in place so far.
I felt productive. I felt good. It's not going to be a boring, character driven lament-over-lost-love, like "Reunion" was. It's got meat to it, and it can only bulk up even more. New ideas will pour in, we will make changes. We will add things, and remove others. It's going to be a very productive next couple of weeks, and Matt and I both plan on working on this as much as we can. We're organizing our schedules so that we can find time to work together. Matt's girlfriend is going to South Dakota for the entire month of February - and Matt plans on hanging out at my place every few minute he has while she's gone. We're hoping that by March we'll be on our way to starting the first lines of dialogue in the first draft of the script.
I am so happy to be working with someone who really has a passion and desire to write, and wants to complete a script. It's going to be great energy for us to bounce off of each other, and it's going to help us create an amazing project.
We're also both blessed to know a good number of people in various bands. This is going to help us in creating our fake band, by getting people who we think will have good screen presence, and the ability to also play instruments - creating a believable "fake" band. This is also going to make my return to directing a feature film, something I've longed to do since "Reunion" wrapped. Luckily for me, Matt knows some people who are very interested in editing - meaning I won't have to be the editor on this film. Now, anyone who knows me knows I'll be spending a lot of time with the editor, and explaining in great detail the things I am going to want for each scene. But, Matt and I both agreed that having someone else edit, and add their own eye to the story would be a great thing. It's something that has ALWAYS been lacking in a GemInI Film. Matt and I know of a potential investor. It's someone we both know that has made it known to us that they would be interested in reading any script we know about, and would consider putting some financial backing towards an indie film. Matt and I have never really taken this person too seriously, and never taken a project to him. But, we've both agreed that our project might be the right one to take his way. It's a long shot, but it never hurts to ask. Finally, I'm going to have to look for some more people to help produce this. By the time we actually go into production, Matt will be living in Michigan, and this is NOT a project I am going to produce on my own. Two to three other people will eventually need to be found to help out on this project. It's going to be pretty big at times, and we're going to need a lot more people helping out in more leadership roles than on any other project. That's kind of how GemInI Films has always worked, we've always tried to get a little bit bigger with each project we've done. I think we bit off too much on "Crazy About You" and didn't have the right people helping us to make sure it went as smooth as it could. We won't make that mistake again.
So, I've made you read all this history and though process.
Do you want to know what the film is about?
Here's a short synopsis:
The film follows a garage band who goes by the name of Wyld Mongoose. It's made up for members, who spend their days drifting through their "real" jobs, while eagerly waiting for 5pm, when they can head to band practice together. Steve, the lead singer, is a partier and major womanizer. Jimmy, the guitarist, is Steve's best friend and they party hard together. Despite Tara, Jimmy's girlfriend, Jimmy is constantly having an affair. Paul, the bass player, is married to Chrissy and has a child, and is the guy who is responsible for bringing the band together. The band practices in his garage. Finally, there is Keith - the drummer - who is an Uber-Drum-Dork, and lacks all social skills with women, because all he can ever talk about is the drums and music. He's not a retard, and he tries to talk to them, but they never can relate to him and his passion. Keith always carries drum sticks in his hands.
The film follows this little band, as they begin to play shows, and start to do well in a local Battle of the Bands. As they move on, and get noticed more, an indie record producer named Vic Stein meets with the band, and wants to sign them. However, from the moment they sign with Vic, he does everything in his power to change the band, and mold them into the band he thinks will be most profitable - This starts when he renames the band to Speedometer (we've got a GREAT idea for the band logo, I can't wait to have someone design it for us!). He sees their talent, but doesn't like their sound or their look. He attempts to get Keith kicked out of the band because of his eccentric-ness, but Paul does not allow this. Vic often attempts to exercise his domineering control over the band, and often tells them "...anyone one of you can be replaced, if you don't do what I tell you to do." Act II deals with the struggle of the band, as they attempt to hold onto their own identity and their love for music, while they learn the pressures that are put on bands who are attempting to make it big. Steve becomes the biggest sell-out, and is very influenced by Vic. Steve's desire to be a Rock God propels him to begin clashing with other members of the band, who just want to hold on to their identity. Act II ends with a massive tragedy that hits the band.
Act III begins the falling action of the film, and deals with the consequences of the tragedy. How the band gets through it, and the things that they all learn about themselves throughout the process of attempting to make a name for their band, which really wasn't even their band anymore. As the tragedy has long-lasting effects, it eventually rips and tears the band apart, while they all begin attempting to discover why they ever wanted to play music in the first place.
Then, we have an amazing final scene mapped out. And I can't wait to write, but more than that, I can't wait to film it, then I can't wait to cut it together and get the reactions from the first people who watch the film. I really think its a great way to end this story.
So, over the next few weeks and months, if you see me wandering around with a black notebook, or see me writing in the notebook, or if I happen to be sitting somewhere with my laptop and I'm typing away - you'll now know what I'm working on, and what I am going to pour my heart and soul into for the next year, or more, of my life. I very much look forward to getting back into filmmaking and writing, and creating... The journey starts right here, right now. I'll see you when it's over. And I hope you'll see the film.