Thursday, August 20, 2009

SUMMER REPEAT: The Thing That Made It Real

When things started happening with the screenwriting, none of it seemed entirely real.

I was still living back east. I had never met my agent face to face. I had never met the producer who got interested in the first script we went out with. I had never met the development person who consistently gave me four hair-pullingly awful notes for each one that actually made the script better, though I later realized that was a pretty good ratio. I had never met the director who the producer sent the script to, and whose brother finally convinced him to read it, and who then taught me more in 1 hour on the phone than I ever learned from any 10 screenwriting how-to books combined.

It was easy to believe this was all happening to someone else. I was living in a tiny apartment, after all. And even then, I kept the Christmas tree up for an entire year, just so I could fill the hole in the living room left by my ex-girlfriend taking her share of the furniture when we split. I still had to walk a block in the snow to the laundromat as well, which will pop anyone's ego balloon.

Like Mickey Rourke says, I was a man alone in those days, and all I really had was my dog.

Then I got the tape.

It was the trailer the director and his brother (the effects guy) had put together for the film they were shooting while all the phone calls and discussions about my own script were happening. "World War II meets Lord of the Rings," I remembered them telling me, as I ripped open the FedEx package, popped the VHS cassette in the VCR, and then sat down on the floor with the dog. And I sat down heavily, too, because that was the moment when it finally hit me. That was the moment when I realized all of this really was, honestly and truly, actually happening.

I must have watched it 30 times that first afternoon and evening. And I've lost count of how often I've watched it since. More than enough that the video had begun to fade by the time I finally converted it to a digital file.

My script never got filmed in the end. Maybe in the Evil Mirror Universe, we were all ruthless enough to have gotten away with what we were trying to make. I still get a rush whenever I watch that tape, though, whether the cassette that still sits on my shelf or the file that now sits on my hard drive.

And it's still one of the coolest low-budget sci-fi movie trailers I've ever seen.