Friends in Low Places

I’m going low. Budget that is. Not only do I pretty much have to to get something read, I’ve decided that I prefer films that do it with story, character and casting. It’s what it’s all about, and it makes the idea of making films fun again. It lets you go deeper, allows your flourishes to have more individual style, and you aren’t expected to outdo big studios with lots of money and supergenius CGI animators under contract.

There also seems to be more of a specific talent required. The kind that understands people and relationships and what really nibbles at our nerves. As a writer, I like to have my characters talk to each other more than I like them to fly through the air and do impossible things with their bodies. I like them to say what they don’t mean and mean what they don’t say. I like them to be funny without trying, and scary despite their every effort to be human. I want them to look different than what you might see on the a typical, cookie cutter production, and talk like the people you know. I want them to be beautiful and ugly at the same time. I want them to be difficult, and flawed. And I want all of that to matter in a way that tells the story where to go.

I get the sense with some modern big tent pictures that we’re trying to break through the gradual desensitization of our audience with a bigger hammer. Harder, bigger, stronger, faster…isn’t that what the helmet heads are talking about? I’m as weary of our heroes with six pack abs as I am with those with six packs of beer, southern accents, and big dumb grins. I don’t feel like heralding the stupid or the superhuman, and I’ve lost all inspiration to mine the extremes. Above all, I’m completely through with going to see a film and leaving with the audience in that awkward silence that says “We’ve all been a little had. Again. Oh well, what do you want to do now?”

Recently I saw Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween, and I loved it. Not because it was so much better than the original, because frankly, in some important ways it wasn’t. But you can tell when a filmmaker has really fallen in love with his characters and can’t wait to bring them alive. That they happen to be the kinds of people that I might run from in real life informs the genre and makes all the difference because to be honest, I’d probably get caught up in their shit, seduced by their freedom. In that way I decided to buy the rest of the film, even the parts that were so fucking darkly lit I couldn’t tell what was going on. I wanted it to succeed, I pulled for it. And after it was done, don’t you know I watched it again with Rob’s commentary which only supported my sense that this was a group of folks that were meant to be together and make this movie. Not one of them was doing it just for the cash or as a career vehicle. No one who realizes that they’re going to have to do the convention circuit to pay the bills really does. I love that.

I also was directed to a place called House of Fear (thanks, baby). It’s an estate in Cornwall, England that is setting up an in-house, self-sufficient studio system like the old Hammer Horror days. They’re looking to produce a film a month, all of the horror genre. Fucking hell, what a great idea. There are several recognizable names in horror and independent film lore attached to the place as well, and three of them are the only three people in the film business whose pictures I have hanging from a wall someplace in my home. Two are signed. It makes a difference when you know they love what they do, doesn’t it? Maybe I’ve been living in my own foggy, little castle for too long but it does to me. Anyway, I’m going to wrap up my new screenplay and get it to them. It’s going very well, by the way. The idea that someday some of you will meet my characters keeps me going. And for those who like to be thrilled, how does the idea that you leaving a film feeling energized from ignored places deep in your psyche feel? Think about it: we never even saw Rosemary’s baby!

Ordered a new Jess Franco poster for my place and a few more of his films for my collection. Got Hammer’s Taste the Blood of Dracula on tap for tonight. Thinking of ordering Massimo Dallamano’s excellent giallo What Have You Done to Solange when I’ve got the extra scratch.

Loving it.

About S. Norton

Writer, marketer, musician.
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