Friday, August 6, 2010

Where do I begin?

I could start by saying that I might just be the luckiest man on the face of the earth (and that was before "Souvenirs" started to shoot). The rest is gravy. And what a fine, fine gravy it is.

Just over a year ago, I was pulled into a meeting with a Marine and a hunt club owner. I walked in a little annoyed, and the feeling only grew worse. I was juggling client projects, probably with multiple end-of-the-day deadlines breathing down my neck, and now I was told that these two gentlemen thought they wanted to make a movie.

I didn't take it seriously, because they didn't look like movie types. When they said they wanted to recreate some scenes from World War II in Minnesota, I scoffed; when they said they wanted to do the same with Iraq, I nearly laughed out loud. But still, I liked their premise of a grandson finding his grandfather's footlocker, and they weren't asking me to do anything for free. I didn't have any time for the project, and the Marine acted like he wanted a script by 5:00 that day, but something told me to say yes. I knew nothing about the topic, but I also had nothing to lose.

From that moment on, it felt like something was being set into motion that, to use the cliche (because nothing else describes it), has taken on a life of its own. Flash forward one year, and I'm watching a P38 plane ... one of only six left in the world that can still fly ... doing a strafing run over a fake explosion in a German tank. I'm speaking with Army generals who are telling me how much this story will mean to vets. A crew of over 50 people is working 12+ hour days to bring the pages I wrote to life, creating images that are being captured and edited to (hopefully) eventually be seen by many, many people.

Creation still mystifies me. The act of envisioning something in your brain and then making it exist in a form that can be experienced by others has always conjured my most intense spiritual feelings. Because movie-making is the most collaborative art form ever devised, the feeling is taken to still yet another level. P38s are impressive, but for some reason it was a sheep that really brought the feeling home for me. Imagine this: You write about a dead sheep lying in the middle of a road in Iraq, and a year later you are standing in a limestone quarry looking at a bloodied prosthetic sheep. Those words on that computer screen in your basement eventually caused a team of people to spend weeks (maybe months) creating this sheep. Someone designed and molded the fake ribs that are now exposed on its side. Another person has applied karo syrup blood to the wound. Still another has transported the sheep to this exact location, which, by the way, had to be secured via multiple interactions between still other people. And now a crew of 50 is spending the next two hours of their lives trying to capture this image so it can be placed within the context of a larger story--your story--and then, maybe within a year, be seen by others on a TV or in a darkened theater.

The entire experience of making "Souvenirs" has really been beyond belief, and I am the first to recognize the rare privilege involved. For me, the story I wrote on the page is ultimately about the importance of expressing gratitude. I guess by writing about the filming, I am expressing just a bit of that myself ... though I must say, it seems grossly, grossly inadequate.

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