In order to understand what to write for this article, I was sent a number of examples of previous articles written by a wide variety of moviemakers—most of whose work I am familiar with and have in many cases enjoyed—and I was struck by the wit and energy and passion of their words. Perhaps there was a touch of charming egotism here and there, in other cases a profound and beautiful humility, but always a sense of pride, the inescapable feeling that when one talks about moviemaking, one is talking about something special, something really worth talking about. Or maybe it’s the people that are drawn to moviemaking who are in some way special. Hard to tell.
In any case, it’s intimidating, as I’ve been struggling through my ambivalent relationship with the film business and moviemaking for the last 25 years or so. When I reach into myself to find pithy words, passionate words, encouraging words, engaging words—any words at all about the process—I find myself reaching very far down indeed, into a very deep, black well, and my fingers seem to grasp nothing but the darkness itself.
I know once I dreamed waking dreams about movies; even after having become a professional at a relatively young age, I dreamed about it while I was doing it. It seemed a wonderful thing; I was filled with the beauty and energy and artistry of the work that I had taken in for all those years, and was poised and ready, filled with the energy to transmit my own ideas and passions into the world using the same canvas and techniques that had so inspired me.
Then time, and whatever it was that occurred during that time, took its toll, I suppose. As Joseph Heller titled his terribly bleak book—something happened.
I am not sure what. Perhaps it was the destruction of the feeling that I had some kind of power to genuinely shape the course of my own life. Or it could have been the struggle to come to terms with the reality of what life really is as opposed to the fantasy of what I hoped it would be, which I had somehow formed based on whatever information I had been fed or had constructed for myself in my formative years. Or maybe it was an inability to bridge and embrace the disconnect in a psychologically or emotionally sound fashion. Whatever it is was, whatever it is… something happened.
I no longer dream waking dreams about movies, or about anything in particular. If I am working on a particular script, I enjoy the necessity of ruminating over it; it reminds me, if in a somewhat distant fashion, of the person I once was. Like looking over an old photograph of yourself and recognizing in it things that are familiar to you, things that you don’t see much anymore when you look in the mirror, but remember used to be there. And every once in a while, though these moments are few and far between, I lose myself in the moment of creativity and simply forget. These are good moments for me. Whether the results they yield are edifying to others in any way, I am not fit to judge.
Whatever work a person does, in any field, it seems to me that it’s only of value if it comes from an honest place. If the work is a person’s process to bring himself into sharper focus, to bring his disparate selves closer to a single unified whole and, by doing so, to somehow bring his tiny corner of our fragmented universe into alignment, good for him, or her. Good for us all. Good for the metaphysical balance of reality.
As moviemakers, we are more often than not asked to lie. About everything. And most of those who aren’t lying have bought into so many lies that they can’t even tell that what they perceive as their personal truth is simply an amalgamation of the lies that have shaped them. It’s a tangled web and the creative people I most admire are the ones who are making the attempt to untangle it—the degree of external “success” they achieve, whatever that means, being almost completely beside the point. And it’s the explorations of such artists that have given me the energy and motivation to attempt to do the same myself.
Death in Love, the film I recently wrote and directed, and financed with my own savings, was such an attempt. I would never have been able to achieve it without the aid and collaboration of a large number of talented artists who worked for very little recompense, but who seemed to find some inspiration and even joy in joining me for a brief time as a part of the process. With their help, I believe I was able to untangle at least a small knot in the web—for myself, anyway. Or maybe I just got myself tangled up worse. Whatever the case, it’s a process, and I hope to be able to continue it. Time will tell.
Death in Love, starring Josh Lucas, Jacqueline Bisset, Adam Brody and Lukas Haas, is in theaters July 17th. For more information, visit http://www.screenmediafilms.net/DeathInLove.