Register Tuesday | January 21 | 2020

The League of Extraordinary Filmmakers

I finally got to the end of the screenplay I’ve been struggling with. I’m not sure I’m satisfied with the way it ends, but I couldn’t go any further. There comes a certain point where you just have to throw up your arms and say “screw it.” You can only go so far before you need to show it to a few people to find out if anything you have written makes any sense or is funny or dramatic or meaningful to anyone but yourself. It’s amazing how writing can put you so much in your head that you think everything is working and making sense and then you show it to someone and they say “I didn’t get that part about…” I have to admit, it is a little terrifying showing your work to others (the only thing more unnerving is showing your film to an audience for the first time), but it’s that good kind of “terror,” like building a homemade plane in your backyard and then seeing if it flies. It’s scary and exciting to hear what people will think, and I’ve learned to embrace feedback as a necessary part of the process. I’ve also learned that there is such a thing as too much feedback, so I try to show the script to only a handful of friends and writers who I trust. Usually a mix of filmmakers and regular folks, because the filmmakers will pick up on things the regular folks won’t, but the regular folks are really who you make movies for in the first place. (It was always interesting in film school to see a short film with a bunch of film students, and then see that film with normal people. The reactions were often wildly different- film students thinking so much and trying to be critical, while the regular people would laugh and applaud and enjoy the movie viscerally).

So I’m showing it to a few folks. Some will take a day to read it, others will take a week. Then I’ll have a whole bunch of feedback and will have to sort through the comments that were helpful from the ones that weren’t. Then… more writing.

I saw a CRAZY film the other night at a screening in Hollywood. The movie was “I Love Huckabees,” directed by David O. Russell and starring Jason Schwartzman (of “Rushmore” fame), Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts and Jude Law. The movie centers around a young man who experiences a strange coincidence and hires two existential detectives (Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin) to figure it out. Instead, it becomes a zany exploration of existence and the meaning of life. In other words, it feels like another wacked out existential comedy in the vein of Charlie Kaufman’s films, like “Eternal Sunshine” and “Being John Malkovich,” etc. For some reason these types of films are in vogue right now and a lot of great actors want to be in them. Which is a good thing because any time Hollywood takes a risk on originality and deeper, daring, thought-provoking stuff is positive, I figure. Even if the film doesn’t always succeed. I don’t know what to make of this film, really, but it does have plenty of hilarity (Jason Schwartzman has sex with Isabelle Huppert in the mud, for instance), even if the existential rants become a little tiresome. (I’m not a movie critic, if you can’t tell already.) I will say Mark Wahlberg is hilarious in this movie in ways never before seen, and Jude Law and Naomi Watts are very good too.

After the film, David O. Russell was there along with Naomi Watts to talk about the film and to take questions. Russell had a very laid back demeanor and seemed to truly love making movies. He was also older than I expected (he didn’t get into making movies until he was thirty, which was comforting). He talked about how he wrote the script with a few friends and then invited people over to the house to read it. People like Naomi. And then when he had the commitments he needed from Dustin Hoffman and Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzman (his “friends”), he took the script over to Fox and told them: “It’s gonna be a comedy about Jason hiring Dustin and Lily, who are existential detectives, and Naomi and Jude are going to be in it too.” That was the pitch! And of course they said, “Go ahead. Make your film.” I can only dream at this point of being at the level where you just put together your dream cast (by having them over to your house, no less) and tell the studio and they say “go ahead.” It’s a whole other league. (It also proves once again that the studios, before approving the project, really only care about who is in the film. Casting is everything).

In other news, I think the blogging did not affect my dating life. I found out from our mutual friend that the blind date moved to San Francisco suddenly, two days after I met her. So though I doubt she read this blog, I learned a valuable lesson: do not treat the blog like a diary and do not write about women in it. I’m sticking with the “screenwriter in LA” thing.

Unless something really funny happens and I can’t help myself.