Thursday, May 24, 2012

Don't you know that I'm a 2000 Man or My Life as a Film Writer

There are certain things in this life that are predestined for all of us. Some folks grow up loving to cook and become chefs. Others have no souls and grow up thinking Eric Clapton is the best bluesman out there. It happens. For me, art has been my Siamese-twin since birth. Whether it was putting on plays with household objects when I was little or educating myself about cinema, it's my old friend and my continual habit. Film writing, in a lot of ways, is one of my pre-destined paths. Writing is something I have always done, mainly because I have no choice. With anything creative, you do these things out of a sense of need and compulsion. Working in the arts in general can be a long road of rejection, mental blocks and loved ones who don't understand why you are not getting Stephen King sized book deals. Even worse, once you get into specific types of art, you then have to deal occasionally with petty peers and weird agendas. One person brands you as too intellectual while another thinks you're too crude and working class. For a piece of fiction I once submitted, I had an editor get offended by my story having a morally flawed but goodhearted hero. (Namely, a dandified gigolo named Renaldo.)

The thing they can never teach you in school about writing is that you can't please everybody and if you are foolhardy enough to try, you risk compromising your own voice but for the worst kind of results, the dreaded mediocrity. Granted, that doesn't mean disregard constructive criticism, because anything that can help you grow tighter with your craft is a gift that should be fully accepted. In addition to all of that, art is subjective and not everyone has to like what you do, either. This is normal but there is a difference between someone having a different opinion and someone being a dick. If it's the latter, learn to laugh at them, have a shot of something strong and use that vinegar to fuel something even bigger and better than what you originally created. Success is better than slashing their tires or investing yourself in the dark arts just to curse their joyless selves.

With film, what moves me are often the same things that move me about expression in general. A great film is a like a great song, story or painting. It should move you, punch you in the gut, give you a warm hug, leave you bleeding in an alley under the stars, make love to you, make you feel like the world is a little more jewel like or alternately, have you come crashing down to the realization of how jacked up the human condition truly is. Great art is like being in your favorite neon lit bar, the one that reeks of nicotine and stale beer, with the sound of someone crying behind you while a couple dance on obliviously to an old Slade tune, too lost in their good time and lust to notice the fringes of human sadness all around. Or great art can be a cute puppy. The beauty is that it can be all of these things and more, just as long as it doesn't just settle. Settling is the worst. It's almost better to hate something then to feel indifferently about it.

The beauty of cinema is that for being a relatively young form, the options of what you can explore are almost endless. The only limitations are time, money and your own tastes. The best thing about the latter is that, much like your palate, it will change and evolve. I hated westerns as a kid but as I got exposed to films by guys like Sergio Leone and titles like “The Great Silence,” that changed quite a bit. The best surprises can sometimes come from within.

My biggest goal as a writer is to bring you into these worlds, sometime as an act of love, warning, preservation and maybe a bit of all three. The work has to be like a bright neon light, attractive to some, too much for others but always colorful. (And attractive to moths. I love moths.) But not only that, I hope to help, dandelion style, spread the seeds of all the great art out there. For me, that's what a writer who delves into cinema, music and art in general does. If you don't love what you do, then stop doing it because life is too damn short. But if you do love it and need it, then you owe it to yourself to damn the torpedoes, storm the barn and keep creating.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Comic Book Heroes & Movie Dreams

I've always had a weird relationship with comic books. The only one I ever cared about when I was little was this issue of Ren & Stimpy, since I was completely obsessed with the show. (To this day, I still refer to Ren Hoek as one of my totem animals and a have a weakness for shivery little dogs with bad attitudes. Oh, and Billy West.) As I got into my late teens, I discovered Neil Gaiman's “Sandman” comics, thanks to some hip friends, and really enjoyed that. My college years were littered with interests in the old underground comics (including landing a repro of an old issue of “Zapp”), the uber-fantastic Dame Darcy and Daniel Clowes. (Again, the last two all thanks to having some friends with good taste.) At one point, I even worked at a comic book store, were I was more immersed in the world of superheroes and skin-tight suits than, say, the alt-comics of “Love & Rockets” and Jhonen Vasquez.

The job, due to non-comic book reasons, was horrible, but it was interesting to get a close up view of the culture around it. It was a mixture of stereotypes (right down to guys who didn't know how to react to me due to the whole being a girl-thing) to smart, pseudo-punk rock types. (Including one guy that tried to best my knowledge about Glen Matlock. It didn't go well....for him.) Jeweled-toned covers featuring jocular uber-mensch and tiny waisted heroines with breasts that would make Russ Meyer faint soon became a part of my daily periphery. This surreal world was something that would become more of my life later on, as I became friends with people that were huge comics fans, including one of my best friends, an ex-boyfriend and my husband, Chuck, who has been into comics off and on for years and years. (Naturally, he has the best taste of them all!)

With all of that, I'm still not a huge fan of the superhero comic world. It's nothing personal and in fact, I would liken it to the band Tool. I respect them, completely understand the appeal but I am not personally wooed. I don't mind it being in my presence but do not be offended if I am secretly pining for some Hernandez Brothers and Peter Murphy on the stereo. There are, of course, exceptions and I'm a firm believer in not shutting yourself off to one genre or the other. You never know what you will miss. For example, I love “Watchmen” more than Chuck Berry loves traumatizing groupies and in fact, would easily put the film version in my top 10 favorites list. Alan Moore is a genius and not only that, he's my favorite kind of genius--the cranky type.

Now with all of the hype and hoopla surrounding the 2012 film, “The Avengers,” I think it is high time for me to pitch out to the world my own personal superhero film. We are talking a film so cataclysmic in its assemblage, so epic in scale that it will make tires explode and noses bleed. So here it is, my veritable dream-team of superheroes. Plot? It's not important since with a cast like this, all you need to do is simply bask in the brilliance and watch the screen crack and sizzle.

Without further ado...

  1. Commander USA. 

 2. Rorschach & The Comedian


4. Jon Mikl Thor (aka the only TRUE Thor)

5.Captain Invincible

6. Captain Berlin

7. Vlad the Impaler

8. Lemmy

9. Dali

 10. William Howard Taft

Looking at that list, it looks a bit like “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” meets cirrhosis of the brain. Well, to quote that old chestnut....I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than have to have a frontal lobotomy. Sure, the resulting film might be technically horrible, but it would be so captivatingly bad that it becomes brilliant. Let this stew as you go pay for overpriced popcorn and sit through 80 commercials just to get to the trailers. 

Copyright 2012 Heather Drain