Filmy… April 14, 2012

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I have concluded that naïve is the word we use to describe someone when our more courtly nature  restrains us from referring to them as “stupid.” So let me begin this essay today by being generous to myself and saying that I am often naïve. I make no apologies for it. Those who fear naivety often slide down the slope into the cesspool of “jaded.”

For instance, I was naïve at eighteen years of age when I thought I had the right to compose songs. I was equally as naïve when I moved to Nashville,Tennessee, assuming that the music industry would be enhanced and enriched by my presence. Can I be candid with you and tell you I was naïve to think that a man who wanted to make music could also fund the needs of four sons? I was very naïve when I went on the road with my family in 1984 to tour the country in a beat-up van that was barely suitable for utility trips to the junkyard. In 1996 I was naïve to consider writing symphonic music because I had just partnered with a dear lady who was more better acquainted with the downbeat than I was.

And in 2005, when my oldest son came to me talking about the movie industry and his desire to become more intricately involved in making independent films, I was very naïve to think I could write screenplays. Of course, I had written books; I had written stage plays. I had been involved in many video productions during my stay in Shreveport, Louisiana. I had been on the set of movies in the midst of my experience in Nashville,Tennessee. But there was a certain kind of audacious innocence that prodded me on—to embrace the notion that I was capable of writing a screenplay.

I purchased the Final Draft software, studied the format, read a few examples and then took an idea that I thought was going to become a novel, and instead, approached it as a script for a movie. It was a ferocious story—one that many of my friends of more tender conscience considered to be a bit risqué for a Christian writer.

(Before we go any further, let me make something clear. I am not a Christian writer. I am not even a writer who happens to be a Christian. The two callings are quite separate in my mind and each demands its own level of consecration. To be a Christian is to honor the lifestyle of Jesus of Nazareth, surnamed the Christ, and to hold fast to the principle that “NoOne is better than anyone else.” Being a writer is not merely an ability to put words on paper or even to form amazingly structured sentences. There are copy-editors who can always edit your work if, at the heart of the endeavor lies a great, truthful idea. Writers are not scribblers nor are they adventurers in adjectives and adverbs. They are people with a constant flow of ideas which never turns off, leaving them at the mercy of perpetual inspiration. Forgive my digression.) 

So I decided to take this story, which I entitled Lenders Morgan–named after a small fictional town in Southern Ohio–and transform it into a screen production. It was the fable of a girl corralled in this little burg, named Taylor Feazle. She was plagued by a bit of naivete of her own. When she was lured by an equally inexperienced boy from her town, who had personal demons of his own, into what started out as a playful flirt—the two lost children found themselves entangled in a web of adult mayhem.

It was an agonizing story to write, and there are those who would consider it impossible to receive. But I loved it. It was raw, real and filled with human character “gone awry,” which can potentially drop each and every one of us into the pit of the pathetic.

I finished writing the screenplay and as is often the case, it was much too short. So I jumped back in and wrote a couple more scenes that were delightfully enhancing and ended up with my first screenplay—and my first collaboration with my son and daughter-in-law. It won entrance to many film festivals.

Honestly, many of you reading my jonathots would probably not enjoy this movie. The movie industry that we are familiar with has fallen into two ridiculous syndromes: (a) Let’s write about something so extreme that people will be shocked into purchasing a ticket. Arriving at the theater, we will poach additional money off of them for candy and soft drinks.  (b) Let us write a story and then sterilize it so that it will be suitable for the entire family and won’t offend any group whatsoever. I must tell you that both of those approaches fail to deliver the kind of emotional impact that art is intended to produce.

In sharp contrast, I have four guiding lights I use when I find myself in the blessed position of constructing a story which will end up on the screen:

1. Truth on the inward parts. It’s what the Bible says God demands. It’s also what good writers must produce in order to continue their faithful journey. I can’t write trying to sensationalize my plot, nor can I write with any clarity when I attempt to spic-n-span my characters to please a Mr. Clean community. There’s truth—and truth comes from honoring your characters and letting them tell their own stories, leaving the conclusion to an unfolding provided for the viewer’s discretion.

2. Redeem whoever repents. I think it is  important in a movie to reward human evolution towards intelligence and maturity with the blessedness of redemption. I am sick of calling movies “realistic” because they focus on some obscure occurrence that might happen one time in a million, expanding its importance beyond any reasonableness. If my characters repent, they should be given redemption.

3. For those characters who do not transform, I feel it is my job as a writer to “let it play out” to a natural conclusion instead of involving angels and demons. Often the greatest curse a character can have is being forbidden to enter the “heaven on earth” that he or she desires.

4. And finally, I give all of my characters free will to determine their end and their means—just like real people. I hate it when a movie manipulates the ending to please the numbed senses of the populace. My endings are not a surprise; they’re just not predictable.

So I wish to thank God, my sense of naivety, my son and daughter-in-law, and the hundreds and thousands of people who have viewed my writing and been impacted by the message. It was a season of growth for me, when I allowed the sense of being a writer—and that is possessing an ever-flowing basket of ideas—to spill out on paper through the performances of aspiring actors and onto the silver screen.

I thought you might find it interesting. And if you didn’t, be grateful. It isn’t a continuing series.

**************

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http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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