Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Filmmaking: The Work of Art

This is the first screenplay I've ever written in completion.  It's quite an undertaking, and I will confess that I underestimated how much a writer must surely labor over every line and every transition in the story.

So, from time to time, I will look up from my screenplay and day dream to give my mind a moment to explore ideas beyond the story of the Montagnards, Special Forces and Vietnam War.  This can be viewed by some as time that's not productive--but to the artist, it is absolutely necessary because it allows the mind to wander, explore and create the unexpected.

During the past week or two, these moments of exploration continuously bring me to a slowly forming list.  Because of my obsessive reading over the years, I have been told that a person in Hollywood must have a list of favorite movies, because people in the business like to talk about the business of making movies.  While I'm in Raleigh, N.C., making my first documentary with my team of volunteers (a much smaller scale production that a Hollywood blockbuster film), I can completely understand the practice.  It's the same concept of social media: people talk about what interests them and are attracted to people that share what my mom calls common points of reference.  Simply put: it's something to talk about and that gives you a way to feel connected to other people.

Choosing favorites, for me, is really difficult.  I'm an artist.  I don't want to choose one favorite color because I want to use them all at some point.  Regardless, though, I find myself making my own list of favorite movies--for completely different reasons than those books about surviving / thriving in Hollywood told me were important.

Now I find myself reliving the movies I've loved for years, and adding them to my list, because I appreciate them for so much more than just a good movie.  They are true works of art.  Stories that have made me cry or weep uncontrollably, laugh out loud, change my behavior, share a personal joke with the friend that saw it with me, learn about something happening in our world today...the list goes on.

While I've been laboring over the screenplay, I look up from time to time and let my mind wander.  It continues to return to this list of favorite movies, and why I love them so much.  I now understand, from my own smaller scale experience, how much work went into creating them.  Labors of love that created the final work of art.  I only hope our final, finished product will be one that moves our audience as much as my favorites have moved me.

The story of the Montagnards is a beautiful, yet tragic one.  When I tell people what it's about, I usually say it's a story of brotherhood, family, love, sacrifice, war, death, promises, policy, glory and freedom.  It's about a group of people and how they've adapted to the changes around them.  I only hope, with the deepest genuine promise I can offer, that we do the story justice.  And I think that's an honest fear that all artists face, no matter their medium.