If I’ve been lucky in the “creative partner” department, I’ve been downright blessed in the “life partner” department. Leading up to the decision to quit my job, I had several borderline panic attacks (there's even a scar on my right arm to help remind me of one particularly anxious night’s sleep). I was frightened about money, about the abandonment of a good career, about the hopelessness and futility of this new career, and about my abilities as a writer. But more than anything, I was frightened that I would ruin my marriage.
Having made it through the past nine months, I’m not frightened about that last one anymore. Lauren and I are stronger than ever as a couple.
Which doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
Part of the reason I created this website was to provide some insight into what it’s like to pursue a career in film. I wanted something that a high school kid could look at as a reference point both for how to get started and for what it really feels like to sign up for years of failure and rejection. My thinking was that if I’m fortunate enough to start a career, then maybe this website can provide some pointers or relatable experiences, and if I fail completely, then maybe this website can help someone avoid a pitfall or two on their journey.
So far, I haven’t done a great job of documenting what things have been like. I tend to chafe at the inherent narcissism of writing about myself, and I value my privacy a great deal. If I can’t get past that, though, then this site probably won’t be of much value to anybody.
So here’s the warts-and-all rundown of my life over the past nine months, both professionally and personally.
Lynch is a transcendent artist, and I've always felt that Mulholland Dr. was a great entry point for anyone curious to check out his work. It's a film that perfectly captures his aesthetic and sensibilities while also being sorta almost kinda somewhat accessible. It's a frightening, engrossing, hilarious, and mysterious film that will be, at the very least, a memorable experience for anyone who watches it. I hope if you've never seen it, or if it's been a while, that you take the plunge.
I just turned 30 a few days ago, and to be honest, it was a tough birthday for me. Going into a new decade is always a bit strange, sure, but I felt like I couldn’t quite identify the source of the emotional weight I was carrying around. I knew that some of the weight was tied to uncertainty about my future, having quit my job to pursue a career that so few people succeed in. But that didn’t quite seem to capture the entirety of it, and it wasn’t until my birthday that I landed on something that did: my Dad was 30 when I was born.
The Verdict is one of Lumet’s best films, and it may also be Paul Newman’s greatest performance. With an outstanding script by David Mamet, this is a movie that would have likely been good in the hands of many directors. But Lumet’s focus, attention to detail, and, above all, restraint elevates a great script into high art. If you want to deepen your understanding of film, if you want to start being able to discern between the decorators (of which we have way too many) and the true stylists (of which we have way too few), then Lumet is your man, and The Verdict is a great place to start.
Aside from my yearly efforts to achieve a Jabba the Hutt-esque physique, though, I also tend to spend much of Thanksgiving week getting caught up in the touchy-feely side of this season. I'm incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by family and friends who love me and whom I deeply love, and with all of the turmoil that surrounds us these days, it seems especially important to take stock of the people who make our lives better. Because filmmaking is such an integral part of my life (and because this is a film blog), I thought I'd write out a few thoughts on some filmmakers for whom I am thankful.
I'm happy to report that the script is now nearing completion and the arduous nature of the last couple of months has resulted in something that we're both proud of. The struggle made it better. To get us to this point, though, we needed a few different tools to help us tear apart and rebuild certain elements of our story. One of the tools that was particularly helpful to me in recent weeks, and one that I want to tell you more about, is a screenwriting app named Slugline.
When I decided to compile a list of under-the-radar Halloween favorites, it was a foregone conclusion that Peeping Tom would be on the list. First and foremost, Peeping Tom, in my mind, is one of the great touchstones of suspense cinema, a film every bit as chilling, funny, and entertaining as anything Alfred Hitchcock made. Secondly, despite being a film that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as something like Psycho or Rear Window, it’s a film that has been shortchanged by history. To anyone familiar with the history of the film, however, this isn’t too surprising.
Since I assume that many of you might have a lot of the same films in your annual rotation (The Exorcist, Halloween, The Haunting, Nightmare on Elm Street, Rosemary’s Baby, etc.), my hope with this post is to see if I can turn you on to at least one great scary movie that you haven’t yet seen. Some of these are more obscure than others, but ideally there’s at least one in here that you’ve never heard of or perhaps just never quite got around to.
Anyone who has started to toe the waters of screenwriting may have found that process to be intimidating in and of itself. Setting aside the gargantuan challenge of actually writing a good story, there are some immediate challenges that present themselves: the screenwriting format and the cost of good screenwriting software.
These two challenges are connected. The format of a screenplay is fairly specific and standardized (although there is room to break the rules here and there), so if you want to have a shot in hell at having someone read your script, you need to adhere to that format (in film school, we would hear horror stories of script readers at major studios immediately throwing away scripts that weren’t formatted properly before reading them). But the format itself is hard to replicate in a standard word processor. You could probably do it, but after about an hour you’d likely develop a drinking problem, and my understanding is that you’re not supposed to do that until you’re an actual screenwriter.
Therefore, you’ll want to invest in a screenwriting application.
Traffic is a great American epic, a film that talks about big ideas (in this case, the "war on drugs") on a human scale. Comprised of an ensemble cast and interweaving narratives, it's the type of movie that walks a high wire. Lean a bit too much one way, and it becomes too dense (see 2005's Syriana, written and directed by Traffic's screenwriter Stephen Gaghan). Lean a bit too much the other way, and it becomes pandering (see 2004's Crash [but really, don't]).
A movie review can accomplish a great many things, but one of its primary functions is helping you decide whether or not you should see a movie. It answers the question: Is this movie worth my time/money? In my new series of essays, entitled So You're Gonna Watch..., I hope to tackle a slightly different set of questions, namely: What can I learn from this movie? and What should I know going into it?
Today is my last day as an Apple employee.
The prelude to this moment is a story of inspiration, tragedy, heartbreak, detachment, renewal, and all the messy things that we each have deep within our foundation. Everyone's foundation is different, and no one responds to these things in the same way, but if you're at all interested in understanding why someone would walk away from a swank job at the greatest company in the world to pursue some crazy-ass dream, then we'll need to spend some time with my messy bits.