About a year or so ago I was looking to buy a painting. In fact, I’m still looking. I wanted something strong, inspiring – something that I could consider an investment. Given my penchant for horror and fantasy, I at least knew that I wanted it to provoke in a manner that would make most people uninitiated in my offbeat artistic tastes shiver a bit. I’m like that, you see.
In my looking around, I came across the works of Michael Hussar, a true dark genius who managed to stir something deep within my bones where my nightmares are stored. What struck me most was his ability to create fresh and frightening characters that felt plucked from fables hidden in some ancient, underworld library. They were begging for stories to be told about them – begging to come alive. I thought, “Wow, what if they could come alive? What would they say? Would they like me? Would they want to eat me…or kiss me?” You know, all the stuff everyone asks when they see a piece of art.
The image above is a painting by Hussar called Daddy’s Girl. I loved it from the moment I laid eyes on it. What could be going on inside this artist to imagine such a being? Is she good or evil or something else? She certainly seems overtly sexual and vain, which suggested to me a haughty pride that might make nut-shelling her a bit difficult. And what on earth was she eating? Instantly I began imagining her coming alive, the sound of her voice, her intentions. She was alluring and repulsive, and I knew that the combination of those sensations bubbling beneath the surface of my soul meant a story was coming. That story, as you’ve probably guessed, is The Collection. And she inspired one of the paintings that my main character, Patrick, brings to life. Her name is “Toxic Trixie, the Poisonous Prostitute”, and while the challenge of creating someone that evoked Daddy’s Girl without copying her (as, of course, I couldn’t show her unless I made the film myself with Hussar’s help and permission) stuttered my progress and muted my initial rapture, I was on my way, driven by the need to bring her to life and show her to the world.
I still feel that same need, however the story is no longer as much about those characters manifest as much as it is about how they add to our understanding of the painter himself. There are other Hussar paintings that have inspired characters in The Collection, and I’ve certainly tried to incorporate the tone of his paintings into my narrative, but screenplays are limiting for a number of reasons. Try being too esoteric with your imagery and you can lose someone easily. You have few words and even less time to implant an image into someone’s head, and as sad as it might sound, I find the need to err to the familiar and broad in order to keep the momentum of the story. As I’ve said before, I’m a filmmaker at heart, and if it were up to me I would abandon this script if Hussar were to call me and ask me to develop a film with him using his images. But since that’s unlikely to occur, I have to take the gift of his vision and use it to create one of my own that will work within the purposes of my medium.
I can do that. I will do that.
Halfway there, and loving it.