So I barely blog for a month and then I hit you with a doozy. Sorry about that! Anywhozers, fasten your seatbelts and pour yourself a glass of something – this is going to be a long-ass bit of film geekery.
There’s this thing I do when I’m feeling particularly down. I latch on to a specific, book, tv series, whatever, and just stick with it – sometimes for weeks at a time.
I’ve done it with the Harry Potter series a dozen or so times. the Hunger Games Trilogy, the Twilight books (I know! Don’t judge me!), Dr. Who…
I just power through them and ONLY them and just escape into that world. They help me get past the hump of whatever hard time I’m going through. For example – during the first month after losing Nadav I re-watched all six season of Dr. Who. Once I was done gobbling that up, I dove right back into The Hunger Games. These have always been the easiest way for me to escape reality for a little bit. To get out of my own head.
After revisiting The Hunger Games for the third time a few months ago, I was kind of at a loss as to what to escape into next. That’s when I found Hollywood Babble-On.
It’s a podcast that features Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman, basically just shooting the shit about entertainment news. And it caused me to laugh out loud for the first time in who knows how long.
I love Kevin Smith. I have for years and years. I just never imagined that he – of all people – would be the one to help me get through Nadav’s due date, and inspire me to get off my ass and take my not-a-bucket list seriously.
I’ve always seen Kevin Smith as a somewhat kindred spirit. First off, when I was still in undergrad film school, a couple of my friends dubbed me “The Female Kevin Smith”. Second, we’re both self-admittedly fat and lazy, and we both cried at the end of “Toy Story 3”.
I loved his movies when I was in film school. True story: I was living in Philly during the filming of “Jersey Girl” and wasn’t hired after an interview to intern in the art department (I think the woman who interviewed me sensed I was a rabid fan girl). I somehow managed to forgive Mr. Smith and his compatriots for that one slip-up, though.
But I digress, as usual. Let me fill you guys in on some background information that I don’t often share on this blog.
I went to film school for 7 fucking years. Yep, SEVEN YEARS.
In undergrad, I was a superstar. I got all the scholarships, won all of the awards, everybody freaking loved me. I used that as leverage and got accepted to “Grad School X” – AKA “one of the best film schools in the world” (I will not mention the name here because I have very few nice things to say about it).
Then, I crashed and burned.
Here I was, coming from a place where I was “the best”, entering a place where everyone was on my level or better. I felt under pressure to be “the best” again. I was too fucking busy trying to prove to everyone how good I was and I completely forgot to not give a shit about what they thought. As a result, I lost everything that made me a good director. I lost everything that made my films MINE.
Case in point: For my graduate thesis, I made a Holocaust film. It was a year and a half in the making, and I gave everything to that freaking movie.
But the thing is, I didn’t shoot the draft of the script that I really loved.
The draft I really loved had the word “fuck” in it. Like, a lot.
But of course you can’t get name actors or funding for a Holocaust film with the word “fuck” in it. I was competing against a bunch of rich kids with endless resources, and I needed to fundraise everything through strangers’ donations. So I cleaned it up. I watered it down.
Though I’m proud of it sometimes, other times I hate that film. It represents me giving up a huge chunk of my identity. Sure, it won a couple of prizes, but it sure as hell didn’t restore the confidence that was shat on during my two and a half years in grad school.
After that ego-crushing trauma, I packed my bags and moved back to Israel. I had the pedigree of “one of the best film schools in the world” going for me, but my confidence was shot to hell, as was my passion. I was tired. I didn’t know who I was any more. I just wanted to fucking sleep.
I started on a few projects that fizzled. I even got development money for a couple of them.
Then I had my first miscarriage.
Before I married Shmerson I was working as the content director in this very high-stress job. Then the company fizzled, I became unemployed, we got married, and soon after that I was knocked up. I had always had this little fantasy about being pregnant: I could eat anything I wanted without feeling guilty, and I would lay in bed, nurturing my growing belly, while writing the film that would be my first feature.
As most of you know, that growing belly never emerged. That fantasy never came to life. Instead – I went through two years of hell chasing the take-home-baby dragon. I decided that screw it all – I want to be a mother, and mothers can’t be filmmakers.
So somewhere in these last two years I let that dream go for good. Looking back on it now, I think it was that first miscarriage that officially put me off making movies, because apparently, I can’t deal with things not going exactly as I thought they would. I’m working on that.
Which brings me back to Kevin Smith.
After listening to a couple of dozen podcasts, I downloaded his audiobook – “Tough Sh-t”, which is pretty funny and even dispenses some handy advice.
Then, with all of the stories about his films still running through my mind, I decided to re-watch all of them. In chronological order.
In Smith’s first “Jersey Trilogy” (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy), the character he plays – Silent Bob – doesn’t say a word until somewhere in the third act. Then he finally opens his mouth and spouts a monologue of Jedi-Master proportions, leading the main character to some sort of revelation.
As each of Smith’s films unfolded before me, I found myself looking at his journey as a filmmaker, and building a Silent Bob monologue of my very own. One that woke me up for the first time in a long time.
“Clerks” is not a great piece of filmmaking. The acting is pretty terrible, the cinematography is shaky, and the dialogue is sometimes trite. But you know what? That film has some motherfucking balls. And it made me laugh. A lot. The man decided to make a movie, he got a bunch of his friends to help him, maxed out some credit cards, and he freaking made a movie. That takes cagones.
“Mallrats” was deemed a failure when it was released. I honestly love that movie, despite its flaws. It’s the type of film I used to want to make. It takes everything I loved from the “Clerks” universe, and puts it in an Amy Heckerling package (oh! Check out my name-dropping! Amy Heckerling is the amazingly talented woman who wrote and directed one of my favorite movies of all time – “Clueless“).
“Chasing Amy” was always billed as Smith’s “Comeback Film” after “Mallrats” tanked. As I watched it all I could think about was what Smith said in the audiobook. How he gave up a paycheck to cast who he wanted in this film. How he proved everyone wrong and made a fucking great movie on his terms.
“Dogma” is a freaking masterpiece. I could go on for hours about it. I’ve loved it since I first saw it in a theater back in 1999, if for no other reason than the fact that Alanis Morissette was cast as God. Here was another example of the man not caring about what other people thought, and look at the cinematic and satiric gold that emerged.
Then things get murky. Smith himself says that as his film career progressed, he found himself making movies for others more than for himself.
“Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back“, as Smith says, is a love letter to his fans. But you can tell that Smith was losing some of his nerve.
“Jersey Girl” has been pretty much panned as a disaster. I honestly love it. If “Strike Back” was a love letter to the fans, this was a love letter to John Hughes. As a huge Hughes fan myself, I couldn’t help but smile, and yes – cry a little bit – as the final scene unfolded to the tune of “Let My Love Open the Door“.
As Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jersey Girl, Clerks 2, Zack and Miri Make a Por.no and Cop Out unfolded, I thought about how I had fallen into that trap. How every screenplay I had written, every movie idea I came up with, everything I had done with regards to filmmaking – and in my life in general – in the last seven years had been dictated by what I thought OTHERS expected of me. Every path I had set out for myself was not one I had wanted to travel on. Even the path that was deemed “successful” by “them” (whoever “they” are), was not one I particularly wanted for myself.
Is it any wonder that I lost all passion and motivation for something that I had worked so hard for?
Then came “Red State“. A film that Smith made for himself. Completely free of any studio intervention. A complete 180 from anything he had made before.
“Red State” is mother effing amazing. And you know what else? Smith says that after “Red State”, he’s got one more movie in him and he’s done. He’s moving on to other things. He didn’t take the path of being a film studio slave and forever making movies he didn’t want to make. He’s blazing (literally sometimes) his own trail, finding ways of doing what he loves and getting paid for it.
As the credits rolled, it all came together. Silent Bob had made his point.
“Fuck it all,’ he told me. “If you want to make a movie, make one. You know what? How about starting with just writing one? Just because things didn’t work out the way you fantasized about doesn’t mean that they can’t be good. You dreamt about lying in bed, pregnant, writing a screenplay. The next time you’re pregnant, you have no choice but to lie in bed, so fucking write a screenplay. You’re going to have all the time in the world and no excuses, so just fucking do it. Don’t worry about how much it will cost to produce. Don’t worry about whether it will get made, or win awards, or be a complete failure.
You went to film school because you loved movies. You still do. You still have that feature film in you. Just make it happen, on your terms. Fuck it all and do something that will make you happy. And while you’re at it – how about growing a pair right now and doing something you love?”
Or to quote directly from Mr. Smith’s book:
“Embrace a reasonable amount of un-reasonability.”
For the first time in a long time, I truly want to make a movie. I know I have a story to tell. I don’t quite know how I’m going to tell it. But I know it’s time I start figuring it out.
And before I do that, I have a freaking podcast to produce. Because I wanted to do it. And so I grew a set and did it. Thanks to Silent Bob.
Thank you, Mr. Smith, for reminding me that I have passion.
Thank you, sir.