Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fill 'er Up

originally posted on 365 Attempts (at Life) 

Tuesday, in the middle of the day, my phone rings.  I look at the number and my mouth goes dry.  I know who’s calling, and I don’t want to answer.  Let them reject me by voicemail, I think.  It’s a far more civilized way of doing things. 

“They” are an organization I’ve applied to for a short film project.  I’ve been working on this project for a few years now, first as a pie-in-the-sky idea, then in bursts of Ineedtomakethisnow (most of them lying in a hammock, drinking Tetrapack wine,) and finally for this program, as a script and proposal.  The program is geared towards helping young (ahem) filmmakers launch a short film, with the support of seasoned mentors and industry people.

The script is about my father, who was in a rock band in Beirut while he was growing up there in the sixties.  It’s a story that gets me right to the bone, partly because it reminds me that he, a straight laced, high tech, all-business guy whose idea of being emotionally demonstrative is writing “love, Dad” on a Christmas card, was, once upon a time, a rebel.  He snuck around behind his parents’ back, in exactly the same way I did.  He went after his dream, and then his country fell apart.  Since this happened 50 years ago in the Middle East, I envisioned the film to be animated, to avoid having to worry about things like 50 zillion dollar sets, actors, and potential political uprisings.

But when I sent my proposal to the program, it was with a spirit of downtroddenness.  I think this is the byproduct of rejection.  Any successful artist will tell you that were rejected again and again before they got anywhere.  Of course, they will tell you this while nursing a 35 dollar glass of scotch, on a book tour for their new bestseller, while their film, which opened at Cannes, is touted by the New York Times to be “the greatest thing to happen to humanity, ever.Their success seems so otherwordly I have a hard time imagining myself achieving one tenth of it.  I secretly believe they coasted out of the womb with an agent and a manager already taking their calls, and booking them on Jimmy Fallon.

Also, though I’ve been writing for a long time, aside from a home video in which I (aged 8) put my brother (aged 2) in full makeup, dressed him in one of my undershirts and a red sash, and joined him in an air guitar version rendition of Heartbreak Hotel, I’ve never conceptualized an actual movie before, and feel convinced it is a talent reserved for others.  

The phone is still ringing.  Today is the day the applicants find out if we’ve been accepted to the short film program.  I know this, and yet I didn’t bounce out of bed this morning and leap excitedly into the shower, as I used to on “answer” days.  Hope, I’m starting to feel, is for the naive.  I did not wear my lucky underpants – either pair.  I figured I’d just get home tonight and find a thin envelope in my mailbox, with a letter bearing those familiar words: so many entrieswe regret to inform youwe wish you the best of luck in future projects.  

Still, for whatever reason, I answer the phone.

“I’m calling about your entry into short film competition,” says the woman on the other end, after she introduces herself.

“Yes,” I sigh.  “I know.”

“We really loved your script,” she says, “but there were so many entries.  I regret…”

Except that’s not what she says.

She says,

“And we’re pleased to tell you you’ve been accepted into the program.”

Or something like that.  I’m not sure, because as soon as I hear it, it’s like a bucket of ice water has been tipped over my head.  I start to shake.  I struggle not to burst into tears.  When I open my mouth, the noise I make is similar to the one my miniature schnauzer Ruble emits when we pass a German Shepherd in the park.    
“Really?”  I gasp, when I can speak again.

She says, “We really liked your script.”

I don’t remember the rest of the conversation.  I only remember physically restraining myself from leaping out of my chair, from banging my fist on the window to alert passers-by - and the construction workers across the street - that SOMEBODY LIKES MY MOVIE!  NOT JUST SOMEBODY – BUT PEOPLE!!! PEOPLE WHO KNOW THINGS!!!!!

It’s a 5-minute film script.  In the grand scheme of the world, it’s really not a huge deal.  And getting accepted into the program doesn’t actually guarantee that my script will be made into a film.  It’s just a stepping stone in the right direction, towards guidance, and support, and possible funding.  But it’s validation.   It’s a yes.
And it fills me with just enough hope to keep on going.

(awesome comic by fellow 365er Anthony Imperioli, aka The Zimp, aka an old Italian lady on the internet)

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