staying in touch with reality

I moved out of LA a long time ago.  I got tired of living in place where people only discussed films in relation to box office success.  In LA, everywhere you go, no matter which party you’re at, they discuss the latest releases and how well they’re doing, with a little bitterness mixed with envy and even pride, that they are in the same business.

I’ve always thought that films should represent life, and that if you live in a world of film, your films become increasingly out of touch.  Nobody in Hollywood wants films about Hollywood, but, in a sense, that’s all they get.  They hunger for writers who come in from outside: a New York cop, maybe, or an ex-con artist with a story from Florida.  But they usually fit it into their vision of the world.  I was at a meeting with a manager in LA and I told him about a story about this guy who wins the lottery.  Because of the circumstances, he can’t cash the ticket so he has someone he knows cash it for him.  The manager asked, why doesn’t this guy steal the ticket?  I didn’t have a good answer because it hadn’t occured to me.  The character doesn’t steal the ticket because that’s the way the character is.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was his own jilted Hollywood idea about life.  Most people I know wouldn’t steal the ticket for the simple reason that it’s a scummy thing to do.  In Hollywood, if you don’t steal the ticket, there’s something wrong with you.

This is an easy target, but I used to love Speilberg films, like most people I grew up with, but as he grew away from his suburban childhood, his films started losing their appeal.  Once he entered into that life of super-mogul/star director, he became that stylistic genius of film who could do anything to tell a story, but had run out of stories to tell.  Eventually, he abandoned his style too.  Did the world change, or did he get older, or did he lose touch with ordinary people somewhere on the flight between his Hamptons estate and his location scouting in Germany?

I moved to Seattle and then New York because I wanted to have a life outside of the film business.  It was also nice to live places where films were discussed in terms of the quality of the film, not just their muscle at the box office.   Most of my friends are not in the film business.  It’s interesting, and sometimes disheartening, to hear what they think about the latest releases, but it gives me a perspective of films that I doubt anyone at the studios has.  It’s disheartening because I wish they were a little more film-savvy and a little more skeptical about a film’s marketing.  They don’t look at the menu of films and get pissed off that film is, and could be, so much more than what they are being offered.  They pick from the menu.

It took me a long time to figure out how to write and make the films that I wanted to make.  Unfortunately for my career, as I’ve gotten better at it, the more Hollywood has distanced itself from those kinds of films.   So now, I’m as out of touch with Hollywood as Hollywood is with the rest of the world.  I know I’m not alone, because most of my friends in the film business who make interesting films are struggling.  We hold on to the idea that there are still people out there who want to see our films; large audiences that are being ignored.  These audiences are being marketed to, but the products leave them feeling empty.  It’s tough maintaining a passion for this stuff, when the world really doesn’t give a shit, but it’s also impossible to watch films get more and more mundane and not feel, passionately, that films could be so much more.  After all, the world doesn’t give a shit about anything until there is something to give a shit about.


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