Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Free Movie Idea"

Would you like a free movie idea? I thought of it recently, and I don’t want to write it. This idea may not be that special – a lot of people may have thought of it at the same time I did – it may not be any good – though it sounded good when it came to me – more likely, it’s as good as the script is that’s based on it – I’ve gone “hyphen crazy” – anyway, I had this movie idea, I don’t want to write it, so I’m giving it away.

You don’t need to thank me. I’m not giving away anything that’s meaningful to me. It’s like the flowered shirt you buy in Hawaii ‘cause is looks “killer” in the store and you’re in a Polynesian mood. But when you get it to the mainland, you realize the shirt is not for you or, possibly, anyone.

Giving the shirt away is less a reflection of generosity than a de-cluttering of your closet. Consider this movie idea a de-cluttering of the closet of my mind. You’d be doing me a favor. Take it, and enjoy.

Here’s what I thought of. Try not to deride me mercilessly if it turns out that it’s stupid, or old-fashioned, or that I’m blithely prejudiced or embarrassingly out-of-touch. It’s just an idea.

And remember, it’s free.

Okay. So the California Supreme Court rules that it’s not their job to define “marriage”, opening the door for gay people to legally tie the knot. Being a writer – and a natural contrarian – my immediate response is, “What if they don’t want to?”

That’s what writers do. They look for the interesting in the blah. The blah is, “Okay, it’s legal.” I mean, this is historic, of course, I’m not an idiot. Gay marriage was “No” forever, and suddenly, in California, it’s “Yes.” That’s huge if you’re involved, or if you’re simply a fan of fairness, which I am. But, to a writer at least, the consequences are blah.

So they’re married. Blah.

Sure, there’s a story in, “We lived together for ages, but when the law allowed us to marry, things started to change.” That story, though totally legitimate, is inevitably dull. It’s like Canada being a British colony and then, in 1867, it becomes its own country. Congratulations. It’s still cold. Nothing fundamentally has changed.

But what if there’s this gay couple who’ve been together for years, always talking about that magical “someday” when their union can be legally sanctioned, and then, suddenly, “someday” happens. With impediment to their marrying has miraculously gone, one of the couple, who was gung ho for marriage when there was no chance of it actually happening, realizes he doesn’t want to go through with it.

That’s a story, isn’t it? I mean, it could happen? I’m not saying “across the board”, but there is a possibility. The heterosexual parallel would be, a guy finally leaves his wife to marry his mistress and the mistress goes, “Oh, my God!”

That’s a story. So maybe this is too. It feels like a story.

A guy (who happens to be gay) doesn’t want to get married, for not so unusual reasons. The spouse is not perfect. The guy fears a lifetime commitment. If he decides he wants to leave, it will be messier. “Mr. Right” may still be out there.

Maybe his objections are ideological – a protest against government intruding where it doesn’t belong. Maybe, for him, believing you need a state-approved sanction for your relationship is the marital equivalent of “acting white.” He could really believe this, or it could be a theoretical smokescreen for a monumental onslaught of “cold feet”?

All believable reasons.

The guy doesn’t feel lovable enough. There are a million of them.

I wrote about this before (“Beware of…Stories” – June 26). Stories themselves have no conscience. They’re just stories – schematic constructions, if you will. Stories have no responsibility to be fair, or sensitive, or compassionate or just.

It’s a story. It either works or it doesn’t. That’s it. That’s the only way to judge it.

And if you’re not comfortable with a certain story? You don’t have to write it. Ipso facto: I’m giving it away. Why aren’t I comfortable? Because I don’t know if it’s true or a merely creative fabrication. Does it matter? It does to me.

I’m not sure if the parallel to the situation I mentioned – the guy finally leaves his wife, and blah – is compatible with the gay…whatever happens there. Why am I not sure if it’s compatible? Because I’m ignorant. And a little confused.

With people who aren’t in the majority in some department, sometimes, respecting them requires you to think they’re no different from the majority. And sometimes respecting them requires you to see them as distinctively unique. This messes me up. I don’t know when to do what.

I’m not confident enough to know whether a gay person who didn’t want to get married would go to the extreme of secretly supporting the “anti gay marriage” initiative, so if it passes, things between him and his partner would remain exactly the way they are. No marriage.

Theoretically, the consequences of the initiative’s passage is exactly what he wants. It’s like, we don’t have a cat in the house, not because I don’t want one – which I don’t – but because Dr. M is allergic. It’s a “win-win” for me.

No cat. Her fault.

No marriage. The initiative’s fault.

Is that the same? I have no idea.

It might be ridiculous, for example, for the gay guy who’s surreptitiously working to pass the “anti gay marriage” initiative to contribute money, organizational skills and his prodigious creativity, so that the initiative will have a better chance of passing. It’s not ridiculous in a story sense – that’s exactly what the story would require him to do.

The question is, is it believable? In reality – the reality of the group in question – a story turn of this nature could be considered tasteless and exaggerated and homophobic and dumb. Is it? Again, I have no idea.

Does the guy attend “pro-initiative” planning meetings, trying to fit in? Or does he participate via some surrogate stooge, feeding this conservative dufus masterful suggestions for advancing “the cause”?

Does he quietly e-mail them plans for a brilliantly persuasive promotional campaign? Does he produce game-changing commercials for them? Does he organize spectacular “anti gay marriage” fundraising events?

Does he eventually lose his way? Does he cross the line? When fellow initiative supporters make blatantly anti-gay remarks, does he call them out, saying, “We’re not against them; we’re just against them getting married”? Or does he keep his mouth shut, protecting his identity in the service of his objective?

Is this behavior at all possible? Would a gay guy do any of this?

And what happens when he’s finally exposed? Does he experience an eye-opening, “What was I thinking?” moment, like Alec Guinness in Bridge on the River Kwai”? Is it “I never wanted this, but you didn’t give me a choice”? Does the gay guy only realize he wants to get married after his betrayal gets him thrown out of the house? And is there a tearful reconciliation?

Or does the movie end bittersweet (not if it’s a studio movie), with the gay guy walking sadly into the sunset? Or does he come to see that he’s pro marriage, just not with this partner?

Lucky writer. So many possibilities.

And so many ways of embarrassing yourself.

Assuming it holds water, could a gay guy write this story better? It’s reasonable to think so. They know it from the inside. And yet, I hate believing that kind of stuff. I remember reading that Spike Lee told Norman Jewison he couldn’t justice to a Malcolm X movie, because he wasn’t black, demanding that Jewison surrender the project to him.

I don’t remember Spike Lee’s Malcolm X movie being that wonderful. Who knows? Maybe Jewison’s version would have been worse. I just recall thinking, when I read about Spike Lee demanding that Jewison step away from the project, “This is really sad.”

You don’t have to be Dane to write Hamlet. Could a Dane have written Hamlet better? I don’t know. It’s pretty good as it is. Do Danes harrumph when they see Hamlet?

“That Shakespeare. He’s a good writer, I’ll give him that. But the way he portrays Danes, it’s just a joke.”

Maybe I could do research. Hang out in the community, steeping myself in the experience. I could read books. Ask questions. Walk a mile in their shoes.

But even if I did, would the end product still come out hollow, embarrassing, shallow and false? Like an American actor, faking a British accent?

“Hellew, owld chep…”

“Thank you.”

And then, there’s the audience, the people you’re doing it for. Do they care one way or another about any of this? Should they have to? When my stepdaughter, Rachel, was young, I pointed out the problem of a sitcom she was enjoying, to which she replied,

“It doesn’t have to be true. It’s funny.”

What if an audience enjoys the show, believable or not, leaving the carping and caviling to single-interest periodicals?

You’re misrepresenting a subculture, but you’re selling a truckload of tickets. Is that ultimately okay?

All these reservations. And I haven’t even mentioned that writing a screenplay takes effort, determination, a sustained commitment to the concept, and a thick skin when you expose it to the marketplace, attributes I used to have, to some degree, but I’m not sure I have anymore.

I just checked. I don’t.

You write it. And let me know how it turns out.

4 comments:

JeffH said...

Always been curious. What would be the prospects of successfully pitching that idea at a story meeting for, say, a TV sitcom? Do you have to be Perry Mason-like to argue your case? Does an exec producer or network exec make the ultimate yes or no call? Do you let it go if fellow writers shoot it down or ridicule it? Can't you take just about any idea (ex.: sitcom character's daughter adopts a pet, which totally disrupts the family and neighborhood, but family falls in love with it) and make it work on paper? Maybe too inside. But I've always wondered...

growingupartists said...

Well, I'm not taking it. Don't mean to hurt your feelings Earl, but it's a piece of crap. And you say you wrote for Cosby?

Must be the failing eyesight, among many other disabilities I won't mention here. Keep your script, Earl.

But I still believe in you, if that means anything at all. Good luck.

Any other dissenters? Shall we form a band?

RMS said...

We've had gay marriage up here in Canada for a while now. I say good! They should be subjected to the same pressure and annoyances that us straight people have had to put up with for years. "Have you found the right girl/guy? When are you going to get married?" "Now that you're getting married, you have to do it MY way and invite all of the people I want."

Ha ha, no more excuses, no more 'but we can't get married.' Now you find out the truth, how annoying friends and family can be, the pressure, the expectations. The grass is not always greener!

Just wait until you can start having kids, um, somehow.

Gnasche said...

As a movie, I think the premise would get sweaty after the first act, since we all know the formula.

However, it'd make a pretty good 'Kids in the Hall' sketch.