Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"It's All in the Movies..."

I've been getting a lot of helpful suggestions on how to adapt Praying Small into a screenplay, particularly from my friend and very fine actor, Michael Catlin. Michael recently moved to Denver and is already teaching classes and networking with The Denver Theatre Center, the big boy on the block out there. His suggestions are helpful for a couple of reasons. First, he clearly knows what he's talking about, certainly more than I do, and second, he's been down this road a few times before.

I've decided to back up and take another run at this thing. By that I mean, I'm going to throw all convention out the window and just write it as I SEE it. Because that's what film is, right? How we SEE a particular thing? So I'm gonna write it as a big Point of View kinda thing. The play is written entirely in first person. All of it from the perspective of Sam, the lead character. So I thought I'd approach the screenplay as I might approach a first person novel. Starting that today.

Also, was chatting with my buddy, Kyle Puccia, yesterday. Kyle is writing the entire score to the stage production of Praying Small. At one point Kyle mentioned it would be cool to do the whole thing much as P.T. Anderson had done Magnolia...all Aimee Mann music throughout. Only it would be all Kyle Puccia music throughout. I like that very much. In fact, Kyle sent me a song that was dead-on for it. When I listened to it (Kyle is so fucking brilliant, folks), I was re-energized about this project all over again.

Now, of course, I'm getting quite obsessive about the whole thing. I was watching Forrest Gump last night on AMC...and instead of enjoying a movie I've seen a dozen times (and still love), I was watching each scene and trying to visualize it on the page. I was thinking I really don't wanna get so close to the movie business that I lose my love of the movies themselves. This is sort of sophomoric of me, but I really don't. I love movies. I don't want to ever get to the point that I'm dissecting them as I watch them. That's no fun.

I remember many years ago, movie theatre on 33rd and 2nd Ave in NYC. John Bader, Jeff Wood, Robert Fiedler and myself. Matinee performance. A movie called Name of the Rose. Back then you could still smoke in the balcony of a theatre. You may remember there's a particularly hotsy-totsy sex scene in the movie when Christian Slater and the deaf girl go at it. We were all on the edge of our seat, not a peep from us. When it was over, I glanced around. All four of us had lit a cigarette and were leaning back, contented, in our seats.

I remember being about 12 years old, Fulton Movie Theatre, Saturday afternoon. Movie called Count Yorga - Vampire. A scene where the vampires invade a house while a dinner party is in progress. They kill all the people there. I was scared out of my wits. Dreamt about it for weeks. Still the scariest moment I can remember while at the movies.

I remember being home, sick from school, probably just playing hooky, watching the afternoon movie in the basement, rec-room of my childhood home in Fulton. The show was called "Dialing for Dollars" and at the commercial break they would call someone and if they answered, give them some money, I think. Anyway, the movie that day was called The Ugly American starring an actor named Marlon Brando. It is not a very good movie, sort of slow and dull. But that afternoon was singularly responsible for a great chunk of my life. I was mesmerized by this guy, this Marlon Brando fella. I was only about 16, had a done a few high school plays, was starting to get interested in "acting." But this guy, wow, I'd never seen anything like it. I knew, in some deep, very dark, dusty, claustrophobic section of my brain that this is exactly what I wanted to do the rest of my life, what this guy was doing.

I don't want what I'm doing now to corrupt all those remembrances. I don't want to analyze a movie while I watch it. I want to accept it all, suspend my disbelief, be scared of Count Yorga, mesmerized by Brando and vicariously excited by whatever scene I'm watching. I don't want to stop believing in movies. They've meant too much to me. They've informed too much of my life. They've taught me how to react to life. And I owe them, all of them, my trust.

See you tomorrow.