Mr. Unemployed – Weeks 5/6, ‘Shooting Star’

This is a week late. I say that in the knowledge that not a single human other than myself is outraged. Nonetheless, as I started this whole process as a matter of self-reflection, I must therefore explain myself, even if that is only to myself and my laptop screen.

Last week, I was disrupted by a personal tragedy. My dog, Star, passed away which consumed my thoughts and emotions when I was meant to write last week’s blog. He still does rule my mind, truth be told, but I feel like enough time has now passed for me to be able to reflect upon it with measured retrospect, rather than consuming sadness. He was fourteen, a bloody good age for a dog and his time had come. He suffered from what I believe to be canine degenerative myelopathy, which essentially is a defect that stops the brain connecting to the nerves in certain areas of the body, in Star it effected his back legs above all. He dragged his paws, his legs gave way and his ability to walk a few minutes around the field faded away. If anything, seeing him suffering from it was the greatest misery.

I believe one of the main reasons that mankind is so drawn to dogs is their simplicity. An owner’s relationship to their dog isn’t tainted with distrust, subtext or anxiety. A dog becomes a comfort against those very forces. No judgement, no change of heart, emotion is constantly requited. Thus, a dog’s greatest pleasures are the simple ones. A scratch behind the ear, a scrap of your dinner, a sniff of a bush. The fact that Star was deprived of those pleasures was something that I should have considered earlier, however, since he was my first dog, my dog, one I asked for, paid for and occasionally slept on the floor with, I was blind to his frustration and it was only until he stopped eating and didn’t perk his ears up at the sight of his lead that I noticed. And yet, what I believe to be a failure, he would have never viewed as such.

A final note, before I get too emotional and end up in a teary soliloquy, I was curious at the circularity of his life. He came into my life, lying down in the back of my mum’s car, head resting on my thigh, calm and content. His last moments were the exact same. We had to wait for an hour before the vets were ready for us. An hour I am so grateful to have had. Even though it was upsetting and anxious, it was a final hour where it was just me and him. I take comfort in the fact that I know in-between those two moments, his life was a full one. He destroyed enough sofas, chewed enough dry wall, bit enough postmen, ate a wider variety of food than any child at his age, jumped into enough ponds, sniffed enough butts, slept on enough beds, chased enough squirrels, punctured enough footballs, caught enough tennis balls, went into enough unadulterated joyous frenzies and received enough tickles behind his ears, on his belly and on his grey-flecked chops than almost any dog can hope to do in a lifetime. Now, I simply imagine him sprinting in the stars again, along with all the friends that he met along his way.

Now, down to the normal business before I berate myself anymore –

WHERE AM I AT?

So, in the last two weeks I have managed to complete a second draft of my screenplay, ‘The Gateway’. What I believe I’ve done in this draft is take it away from ordinary and cliché and took it into a unashamedly bat-shit-crazy direction. Due to this, it’s probably the first time I have written something that I genuinely think is unlike any film I’ve seen before. Step in the right direction. BUT, it’s in need of a lotta lotta lotta refinement. Character motivations, unfinished subplots, more effective set-up and pay-off. I’ve read through it and I think I know where it is weak and where it is strong. It’ll take longer to rewrite than previous scripts but this one is more complicated and needs to be watertight. Think Dog Day Afternoon x Requirem For A Dream x E.T. I know, right?

I might share my rewriting process on here, however, I think I’m going to make a YouTube video on that instead (more on that in a minute).

However, to take a break from the insanity of ‘The Gateway’, I’m going to take a week or two trying to write the post-apocalyptic short-film that I discussed a week or two ago. The concept is there but I need to flesh it out before writing it.

Secondly, my Berlin videos have been fully edited for a while. Now, I need to get round to creating a YouTube channel, posting them and writing my script for my Shaun of the Dead video essay. Busy busy busy.

Also, I went to London over the weekend which was just good for my mental health as I saw my university housemates which I hadn’t seen in ages. However, I am now an unorganised train wreck.

Oh, I also passed my theory test after being enough of a muppet to let it expire the last time I did it. BUT, I can’t book a practical for before the end of January 2021. Ha, 2020 is a bitch. Looks like the runner jobs are gonna be on hold for quite a while longer.

MOVIE REVIEW OF THE WEEK

I’m Thinking of Ending Things – dir. by Charlie Kaufmann

Oh boy, Charlie Kaufmann just has a mind that operates on a different creative dimension to anyone else. I’m not saying he is more creative than anyone else, I am saying that when you’re watching his work, you know it’s his work. Cerebral, awkward and just a hint of nihilism.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is his latest film, adapted from Iain Reid’s novel of the same name and similar thematically to his 2008 film Synecdoche, New York whilst the tone veers off into a twisted psychological-horror twilight zone. The film follows a young woman, portrayed excellently by Jessie Buckley (big career coming her way), travelling to her boyfriend’s (Jesse Plemmons) childhood home to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) for a nightmarish meal, whilst internally she considers ‘ending things’ with her boyfriend. I won’t spoil anything else.

To define this film would not only be a disservice to Kaufmann but also to you, if you intend on watching it, for it is a film that requires your upmost attention across multiple viewings. It essentially dips its hand into many themeatic pockets, such as how the ego and media shape one’s identity and world view, time, grief, regret and inescapable immortality.

Now, among audiences this has rather polarising reviews. Yes, the film can be considered self-indulgent drivel if you approach it with a narrow mind that expects slasher or jump-scare horror but if you open yourself up to what Kaufmann is saying you could really enjoy it. It’s probably his best looking film to date, with acting that is equally human and unsettling and it is a film that rewards your thought. It’s on Netflix so just give it a go.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Before I move on, there are two more films I want to alert your attention to. If you live in Manchester, HOME is currently showing a restoration of Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine. If you’re doubting my taste after despising I’m Thinking of Ending Things, then let me reassure you with La Haine‘s 100% Rotten Tomatoes Score and 8.1 IMDB rating. Seats are getting booked up fast and it’s not going to be showing for long so do not miss out.

Or, if the sinking leather of your sofa makes it impossible to move your arse, try Park Chan-Wook’s The Handmaiden, which is now available on Netflix.

Allez regarder La Haine maintenant, merde.

MOVIE IDEA OF THE WEEK

When I was in London, my inner kid jumped into my mind and said to me: ‘I wanna see some fucking dinosaurs!’

So, a trip to the Natural History Museum was in order and whilst I was there it got my creative juices going. And no, I’m not about to rip off Jurassic Park. Instead, whilst looking at the pea-head skulls of Neanderthals and the like, I began to think of a concept – devolution. What would happen to our society if we started to become more primitive? As we start to become ruled by instinct once more, when consciousness becomes only a maddening whisper? For dramatic purposes, I think these changes would have to happen quickly, rather than having a script that lasts 100 million years. But imagine a father having dinner with his family, only to forget how he uses the knife and fork in his hand; or, a man tells his lover that he loves them, only for them to not be able to say it back, to not understand conceptually or linguistically. Imagine a reverse of The Dawn of Man sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. An opening image – a river bed, a soft trickle of water, a close up on a tuft of grass that is simultaneously crushed by a military boot. Establishing shot of a guerrilla war wherever you want to imagine it. Then the eyes of soldiers, already dehumanised through training, ready to kill. When crunch time comes to it, we follow one soldier who becomes completely incapable of using his gun. Expectation, reversal, hopefully an interesting hook.

As for the project, I like the idea of this devolution coming in the form of a disease, most likely man-made. Karma disease rings a nice tune for me, as does ‘KARMA’ for a title. Now its just a case of find the human story to be told within the whole and how I would fit a tangible and consistent goal within a sci-fi concept. Research time.

I’m also going to throw in another idea, since I was lacking in my latest post. It also ties into a couple of other things. It revolves around the first script that I ever wrote, called These Charming Men. Earlier this year, when I FINALLY completed it, finally wrote those revenant words ‘THE END’ – I got way too giddy for my own good and entered it straight into Austin Film Festival’s Drama Competition. I may have read over the whole thing… twice? Obviously since that, the wave of excitement crashed on realism’s shore and I have thought of numerous ways to improve upon it. Why am I telling you this? I should, should be finally finding out how it fared in the competition. My expectations are very low, I won’t lie, I think it’s my weakest script. Christ, I sound pessimistic. Point being, I’ll have concrete feedback  from industry professionals and I didn’t want to begin rewrites without them. The draft I entered into the competition is available to view and download below.

And I’ve still not got to the fucking point have I?

Idea Number Two would to turn These Charming Men into a trilogy, TCM being the second of three films. The first would be a tale of T’s (a protagonist in TCM, if you read it) growing involvement in organised crime and the degeneration of his relationship with his family. The third instalment would be focused on his daughter, Janice, where circumstances force her to divulge the darker parts of her nature and she will be forced to realise the similarities between her and T. 

The merit I see in this, from a writing standpoint, is that my re-writes of TCM should be executed as if that prequel exists. As if it is a film, canon, something readers/watchers know. Hopefully doing such an exercise will improve how organic my writing feels. On the point of improvement, I do feel what I have told you, i.e. what I have done wrong in my scripts etc., is prove that I have developed a lot as a screenwriter over the last five months, and that is probably as cheerful a note as I will ever end on.

SCENE OF THE WEEK

Et voila…

Signing off –

G.

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