Register Monday | December 9 | 2019

Spanking The Monkey

When Your Parents Picture YOU as the Lead Character

After hanging out with my dad last week and getting his feedback on my business plan for raising money for the new movie, I felt I should send my parents a copy of the new script. I don't know if other filmmakers show their scripts to their parents but I felt a little obligated considering the fact that they are likely to be investors. And because they are also, probably, my biggest fans.

The idea of them reading the script, however, made me very nervous. Mainly because this is my most personal script, with a lot of material drawn from my own life and family. However, though a lot of the characters and situations are inspired by real life, the script itself is pure fiction, in my mind. It's full of exaggerations and plot devices that hopefully tell a story where there would otherwise be nothing. So I tried to make this clear to my parents, telling them NOT to treat this as anything but fiction and NOT to think of the characters as based upon real people. For instance, the parents in the script are not my parents in real life, however tempting it may be to think of them that way. So I warned them, over and over.

A little while after emailing them the script I realized that this was a lose-lose situation. There was no way they were going to heed my warnings. Worse, they were going to read this story, about a lonely, hard-hearted bachelor, and infer things about my life. I cringed. Also, I had forgotten about the scene of the lonely bachelor masturbating to porn. Too late.

The first thing my mom said when she called me last night was: "So I did some reading this weekend. A script about this guy who sounds a lot like my son."
This is a rough summary of the rest of the conversation.

Me: "It's not your son, mom."
Mom: "Oh, come on. It's all about you. I just keep laughing to myself, that's Amyn."
Me: "It's not me, mom. Sure, there are things that I took from real life, but it's fiction."
Mom: "But I can just see it all so clearly. Your life, your friends..."
Me: "Fiction, mom. None of the people in the script are my friends. Or my family. And my life is nothing like that."
Mom: "I noticed you have porn in all your movies."
Me: "Porn? No, I don't. And what do you mean, in all my movies?"
Mom: "Well, you have porn in this one, and then in the last short you had porn, and then there was that music video you did."
Me: "Okay, this one has some porn. But the short didn't have porn. It had a guy on a phone sex line, but that's not porn. And the music video had no porn. There was a sex scene, but it wasn't porn."
Mom: "Well, you know what I mean. Anyway, the script was cute. There were a few things I didn't think you needed, but it was cute. A little predictable though."
Me: "Uh-huh."
Mom: "It just made me think about your first short film. It was so unpredictable and was such a strong, simple story. And this is so different. Why do you want to make this movie?"

When did my mom get promoted to Vice President of Development?

Trust your parents to ask you the tough questions. Why do I want to make this movie? That's a question any filmmaker should be able to answer. And I have an answer, but it's not the kind of answer that would make sense to anyone but myself. And it isn't a simple, one-line reason.

"There's a lot of reasons, Mom," I said. "But mainly, I think it's a funny, interesting story that can show my strengths as a director." That was the best I could come up with on the spot.

Mom: "Maybe. It's all in the execution, I suppose."
Me: "Exactly. And I'm still working on the script."

She wasn't convinced. I got off the phone. Felt inklings of doubt creeping into my head. It would be easier to dismiss her opinions if I'd felt she didn't get the script. But I think she did. She got it, she just didn't think it was that great. And why did she have to bring up my past work, as if it were a chronicle of how my work had somehow moved in a direction over the years that maybe wasn't worse or better, but was certainly "different" from where I'd started from. It's not like I don't think about that from time to time, but when you have a variety of stories to tell, it's hard to think of what you do as singular, as a group of pieces that are supposed to add up to some singular vision. When a lot of times you just try different stories and projects because for some reason they excite you and tap into some emotions or feelings you have inside.

I still haven't heard from my dad yet, but I'm sure I will. There's nothing like sitting at your desk in LA, picturing your father or mother reading a script in which a character masturbates to porn and sleeps with various women and makes out with his own cousin and knowing that they aren't picturing the fictional character you created.

They're picturing YOU.