Cliché though it might be, I find myself at a crossroads. An artistic/career/personal/life crossroads.
I have about four or five projects that I have been seriously working on lately; projects are a mix of new ideas and long-time developments. The trouble isn’t just that I’m genuinely fond of them all, but that, they’re all simple enough to produce on limited-to-non-existent budget (limited number of actors, small-ish crew, not too reliant on an extensive amount of gear, 1-3 days shooting at most), they’re stories that I believe are compelling to an objective audience and will allow for creative experimentation.
So where the hell do I start? Which one I do I tackle first?
Let’s break it down.
Idea #1. “Freeing Narcissus”
– Short Film, Narrative.
I have always been fascinated by the story of Narcissus. No, not because I, myself am narcissistic, but because the story in and of itself has always seemed very sad. And backwards – to me, Narcissus was not vain because he fell in love with himself, his reflection, but because he dismissed everyone that fell in love with him with such disdain and cruelty, especially Echo. Furthermore, the first time I was exposed to the story of Narcissus was in my 6th grade English class, when we watched an animated short – twice. Once without the voice-over/narration that explained the story, and once with it. The piece was very artistic (for lack of a better word); Narcissus was drawn almost as a silhouette, with very little detail as to his beauty. The idea was portrayed more that he never had time for anyone else, that he was always moving, always running, expressing his freedom. Then he saw his reflection, who moved with the same agility, the same passion as he did, and so he fell in love with it. But, unable to reach his reflection, as his hands slipped through the water’s surface and disturbed the image, he stayed by its side, miserable, until his death.
– While developing another project (a feature that I’ve been working on since I was eleven), this scene sprawled out in front of me, with no association to Narcissus or the Myth at first. I realized that it was its own story, and should be told individually. It was slightly different upon first writing it, separate from the larger screenplay, and the central character made a comment as he stared at his reflection in wonder: “I’m a regular Narcissus.” It dawned on me that perhaps this short should reflect (no pun intended) on the Myth directly. More than that, take the original story and turn it on its head.
– Currently, the story goes like this: a lone figure, a young man, with a face scarred from various past incidents, walks through the woods. He is not unattractive, but his face is almost hidden beneath his scars, so it’s hard to tell. He carries a photo of a beautiful girl (perhaps in a locket). As he walks, he hears a strange whispering sound – more than once – and each time, he stops, looks around and calls out to see if someone’s there, but he is quite alone. At one point, the indistinct whisper hisses very close to his ear and he drops the locket, which goes skidding away from him, right into a pond. He rushes after it and, though he retrieves it, comes face-to-face with his reflection – a reflection void of scarring, beautiful. Overwhelmed, he sits back and stares at the locket. Looking back after awhile, his reflection has returned to normal. Still, he smiles, stands, and walks away, knowing that he has been given a gift, one he’ll remember, always. As he walks away, and as the scene fades to black, the whispering voice from before utters the phrase, “beloved, in vain…farewell.”
– The idea here, is that, out of context the film would present the theme of, “those loved ones that we’ve lost never truly leave us,” and that the spirit of this girl – whoever she is, interpretation open to each viewer – has come back to say good-bye, giving him that brief gift; a look at how she always saw him through her eyes. In context, relating to the Myth, it’s looking at much the same thing, but along the lines of “what if Narcissus had not been beautiful? Or had only been beautiful once, and had it taken away from him?” and “what if, rather than being a tragic ending, he was able to go on, and see such an experience as a gift? One that would stay with him the rest of his life?” It’s such a short film, but I feel like, if done right (with the right make-up artist), then it would really be quite deep (if I do say so, myself).
Idea #2. “Sanctuary”
– Short Film, Narrative.
I posted the link to the Sanctuary script a few entries back; where I have it posted on DeviantArt.
– The premise of Sanctuary is that, during the Christmas season, a teenage girl, who has run away from an abusive home, takes sanctuary in an unfamiliar church. The place is empty, except for a twenty-something girl, Heather, working there as a volunteer and prepping the place for the upcoming mass that evening; finishing the holiday decorations and refreshments. Heather can immediately see signs of abuse in the runaway, but does not comment, simply offers to help mend a severe cut on her hand. While in an adjacent room off the main chamber, they both hear the massive church doors open distantly, and a man calling out if anyone’s home. The runaway panics, but Heather reassures her that she’s safe there. The man turns out to be an uncle of the runaway, and a retired cop. However, he reeks of bad energy and Heather does not tell him that the runaway is present in the other room. He leaves, bitter, and Heather returns to finish helping the runaway.
– I like stories that flirt with the lines between right and wrong, and how characters make their choices. I’ve also loved the concept of finding sanctuary in a church, even though I’m not heavily religious. Sanctuary deals with the process of following your gut instinct rather than the supposed “right” course of action, dictated by society or outside sources. By nature, one would think, this man is a relative and a retired policeman. But our protagonist doesn’t trust him and she follows that instinct. The girl clearly ran away from something out of desperation and Heather can see that and trusts what she sees. Using the backdrop of the church and the Christmas season is all metaphoric for following something bigger than the rules and guidelines we can see, hear, smell, feel. And it will make for some lovely imagery on screen.
Idea #3. Grip.
– Short Film, Narrative.
I’ve been developing Grip for years, but there has never been much of a solidified storyline until now. I’ve always known that Grip would be a feature, but I’ve been tempted from the get-go to compose a trailer-like piece for it, and it occurred to me that a short film, like a mini-prequel, might be the right way to go.
– The general idea is that this, shorter version, would consist of 3-5 scenes maximum, and would cover the title character, discovering the supernatural power she possesses with weaponry.
– It would begin when she is quite young (around sixteen or so). She’s a very thin, scrawny girl, even for her age and a victim of bullying (which would make for some nice, though minimal, social commentary regarding bullying). She’s an orphan, growing up in foster homes and very much a loner. While she’s out by herself, wandering around a wooded area (like a park or by a lake), she comes across a an old pocket knife, with some very distinct markings (initials, wear and tear, etc.). It’s only early spring, so she’s wearing gloves, but she takes one of them off to hold the thing properly and once her fist closes around the handle, the memory overtakes her – the incident that caused the knife to get left there, back in the 50’s, actually happens around her. Completely taken aback and thoroughly freaked out, drops the knife and the whole thing dissipates almost instantly; she also feels physically tired, like she’s run a great distance. She pockets the knife and heads straight for the library; from there, a montage begins as she researches weapons and combat, attempting to find some sort of answer to what she experienced, but she doesn’t really get the answers she needs. A short while later, she comes face-to-face with her bully. Out of desperation, she whips out the knife and it transforms her; her movements become faster, more lithe, and not only does she avoid every blow, she fights back with a incredible skill. Once her bully is taken out, she stands, horrified, at what she’s done, hardly daring to believe it. She turns and runs, flat-out for a great distance, and eventually throws the knife away from her – immediately, however, all her energy vanishes. She collapses, on the spot, physically drained. Like before, but much, much more, as her body reverts to her thin, frail, natural state. She actually blacks out. When she wakes in the hospital, she overhears doctors discussing the very peculiar results of her blood tests. On a close-up of her face, her eyes open abruptly, and thus concludes the film.
– Depending on the length of the final script, this might even work better as a web series.
– It sounds a lot more ambitious and complicated than I see it in my head, now, and how it’s been written (so far). I’ve put this character and her story up on a high shelf for the past few years and now that I’ve started looking at it again, I realize how much I like it and how powerful I think it could be, especially since this part of the story really plays around with reality, illusion and her perception of what’s happening. It could be really visually captivating.
………and I have no idea which of those three is the best one to do next. Of course, it doesn’t help that I have other ideas floating around in my head right now as well, which are, granted, still in their infancy, the early stages of writing and development, but nonetheless distracting.
Here they are:
Splitting the Frame
– Short Film / Web Series, Narrative.
It’s sort of like a companion show to the show “Community.” At a major, four-year university, Dana – flaky, trendy, slightly scattered, comes from a super conservative family, quite wealthy – becomes roommates with Mackenzie – a drummer for an indie-rock band, stoic, distant from her parents – during their freshman year. Their other two roommates are volleyball players and are hardly ever around (as a sort of inside joke, they would never actually make an appearance; though they show signs of having been there when Mackenzie and Dana are not around).
– These two are, essentially, the female, college version of The Odd Couple, and the premise of this “show,” if I take it past an initial short film/series pilot, would be to take the college experience (from cliché to completely fictionalized) and have these two go through it. Mackenzie’s arc revolves around the fact that she doesn’t really want to be in college at all; she’s majoring in Business as per her parents request (who aren’t even there on move-in day, just her sister) but through the long run of the “show,” she eventually changes her major to journalism, as she realizes she has a passion for writing about music (new dream: write for Rolling Stone magazine). I haven’t developed Dana’s character as much yet, but her main purpose right now is to actually become a deeper person in general; to become devoted to seeing outside the polished walls of her own perfect life, and she becomes determined to help Mackenzie in any way she can, for them to become friends).
– I have considered using first season of Friends as a template, since several of those early episodes happen entirely in their two apartments (Monica/Rachel’s, Joey/Chandler’s), without ever leaving, and they work like one-act plays. That’s sort of the goal for this show/short film. The difficulty is how do you tell a story about college life without eventually showing the classroom-side of college life? The advantage is that move-in day (when the pilot/story begins) is a full week before classes begin, for Orientation and such, so that helps. It would truly be an actors’ piece, since the two leading roles have to be played by very talented girls. Possible, but not easy.
Me and Bobby McGee (possibly just Bobby McGee)
– Short film, Narrative.
Based on the song of the same title, in its original context by Kris Kristofferson, in which “Bobby McGee” is a woman. It focuses on a pair of drifters (and musicians), Kris and Bobby, going from town to town, in the throes of young love and music and travel; along the way, Bobby reveals herself to be a true gypsy in spirit, feeling at home only on the road, nomadic and on the move. She also tells him about a lullaby she vaguely remembers from her long-forgotten childhood; only a melody, no words (the melody to “Me and Bobby McGee”), which Kris is heavily influenced by. We also see that these two truly are real lovers, in every sense of the word and that they share the zest for traveling. That is, until they find a particularly small town in which Kris can suddenly see a more permanent future. Bobby, our leading lady, meanwhile, feels more and more restless while Kris prolongs their stay, until eventually, she slips away. After she leaves, Kris ponders going after her (a decision that will be left open to the viewer), as he also composes the song (“busted flat in Baton Rouge, heading for the train…”).
– Essentially, it’s about “the one that got away,” and interpreting the song both literally and metaphorically. I think it’s a little ambitious for right now, but possible. And I do really want to produce it someday, if not now.
Family Affair (working title only)
– Short film or Feature film, Narrative
Two sisters – Lucy and Olivia Baker – have grown apart, ever since the elder of the two, Lucy, took off right after she turned 18 and dropped all contact with her mother and Olivia. Olivia is a super-smart over-achiever who didn’t dare be different from the cookie-cutter daughter their mother watned her to be, while Lucy flew in the face of convention in every possible way (ramifications for their father abandoning the family when she was very young; so young that Olivia doesn’t even remember their father, or his leaving). After a business trip of Olivia’s goes awry, she runs into Lucy in the unlikliest of places; a truck stop in the middle of nowhere. They have an uncomfortable (but hilarious) reunion, followed almost immediately by Olivia’s car, money and possessions getting stolen. Stranded, she has to turn to her sister for help, who, surprisingly, agrees without a second thought of leaving behind her supposed waitressing job at the truck stop. For one reason or another (TBD), they have to drive the rest of the way to the business trip location. Along the way, it comes out that Olivia had an opportunity to attend a wedding with a man she knew from work, a man she has feelings for and is fairly certian is interested in her right back . . . during the same time as the business trip. Obviously, she turned him down. Lucy can’t believe she hasn’t ditched the business trip entirely. However, she agrees to Olivia’s fervent demands not to, in fact, ditch their current route and for them to stay on track. But she can’t help herself; in the middle of the night, while Olivia sleeps, she takes the detour that changes their direction towards the wedding’s location, away from the business trip’s.
– I’m not entirely sure where the movie ends, or how, but it’ll wrap up during or after the wedding and there will be a resolve of their relationship; going through the ups and downs of the sisterly bond (without, hopefully, being too much of a chick flick).
– It might not be feasible as a short; it may have to be a short feature.
– Short film, Narrative.
I’m going to be working on a short film with this title (at some point); but when I first heard the title, I almost instantly predicted what the story would be about (also hearding that the whole thing would be shot in one location). Turns out I was totally wrong, but I like the idea I came up with; a man is leaving on an evening flight and he is having dinner with a woman before he has to leave for the airport. Their relationship, where he’s going and what for, is all fuzzy and undecided as of now. But, simultaneously, there are two sub-plots happening over the course of the film (which, in the story’s context, will cover about two hours, roughly); one will be between two restaurant employees (like a waitress and a bartender or something) and the third I haven’t figured out yet. Maybe the cooks or maintainance staff? Sort of like the premise of Bobby, except not so intense, or historically based.
– It would be about standing on the brink of a change, whether a small one or a tremendous one, and how savoring those last moments can go by all too quickly (full of things unsaid, final glances, etc). A lot more development needed on this one, but I’m liking the initial ideas.
So, as I say, I’m at a crossroads. How do I proceed? A pro/con list? Close my eyes and point? I have no idea.
Maybe the answer will come to me in a dream and it’ll all become clear…
Until then, I’ll keep you posted.