Stay Open

screenwriting, storytelling

I like looking through bins of old photos at garage sales and flea markets. I buy pictures that make me feel something.

This morning I was idly flipping through pictures — searching for feeling, meaning — and from somewhere Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” started playing —

— and suddenly I was 16 years old, camping out down by the river behind my parents’ log cabin in the North Georgia mountains (where they still live) with the boy I had a huge crush on beside a crackling campfire, listening to Bob Dylan for the first time and letting him teach me to smoke pot for the first time ever —

— and my eyes filled with tears — not because I’m sad, but because I’m human —

— because this town is constantly trying to push us toward feeling less, toward being less connected, less human, trying to thicken our skins and build our callouses and make us more cynical and more skeptical and more cruel and less trusting — like we’re naked gladiators in the arena ripping each other’s throats out with our teeth and scything each others’ breasts off and tearing arms out of the sockets till the blood gushes rivers in the sand and they’re lounging in their boxes, turning around to complain about why the figs aren’t riper —

And our jobs are not to fucking let them.

Our jobs are to lay down the swords. Stop fighting. Stop wounding each other. Most of all, stop wounding ourselves.

Stay open.

Stay open.

Stay open.

And what’s most ironic is — that’s what they want from us. The best ones know it too. They know they are simultaneously brutalizing us and then begging us to stay open. Stay soft. Stay connected.

That is the job.

I’ve tried to make my new movie as personal as possible. I’ve infused it with my own memories, hopes, desires, fears — and those of the executive I’m working with — which I’ve been extracting and infusing into this movie. Or maybe he’s been infusing his guts into it — as aware as I am of how important it is to make this movie real and vital and personal, about the shit we’re really dwelling on. It’s a big movie about extraordinary people in dramatic circumstances — which we are obviously not — but at its heart it’s about people kinda similar to us, who maybe have big, stressful stuff going on in their lives — who feel like they’re doing battle on a daily basis — and then suddenly something happens and they’re instantly by that campfire behind my parents’ log cabin when I was 16 —

I feel like part of what filmmaking is is an internal process of what I was doing at the flea market this morning — flipping through the old photos of your life — constantly scanning for what makes you feel something — then putting that in.

That’s what this executive and I have been doing for months. The more personal the better, I say. Even for a big budget action thriller. Stay open. Stay connected. Stay soft. That’s the job.