Yelling “fire” in the theater of the mind

About a year ago, I decided that I was going to make a film. Not some knawing, cinematic tapeworm that consumes three, non-refundable hours of your life, like Meet Joe Black, but a short, eleven-minute ride. “It should be easy,” I told myself.

As soon as I decided this, I became stressed out. How was I supposed to craft something with a story arc anyone cares about?

Let’s be specific. I already had my overall subject: fly fishing. The plan was to enter the film into the F3T Fly Fishing Film Tour, which plays theaters all around the country as well as Canada. I’m figuring, if I narrate the thing—that alone will set my film apart from the rest, because I am aware that my style is, in some ways, a bit unique.

But before I started that project, I figured the cool thing to do was do a sixty second project first, to see if I could even close the loop on THAT.

So my buddy Tim calls me, knowing that I am simultaneously messing with editing film AND special effects, and asks me to take some footage of him and his five-year-old son. Tim, being a Marine, thought the military theme would be great. And so did I.

So I show up with my GoPro camera (no one said I have ever had the utilitarian equivalent to my vision. But I once watched as the guitarist for Jimbo Mathis opened for Buddy Guy on a $120.00 Fender, Squire Stratocaster, so la di dah) and shot footage. That consisted of:

  • Running across a field with guns.
  • Pointing guns.
  • Walking and presumably dodging a grenade with guns.
  • Kneeling and posing with guns.

And that was a wrap, as they say. I drove off, having not a SINGLE clue how I was going to make this cool, or have any cohesive plot. I figured, since I didn’t have one, the shoot was a waste of time.

But I wasn’t going to let this father/son outing fall into that category if I had anything to do with it.

Then it hit me: Why not imply a story—like a movie preview? I was immediately relieved of the burden of a complete story, while allowing the footage to seemingly traverse the entire chasm of some epic saga. Thus became this 49-second burst:

From a Special Effects standpoint, I’m especially proud of the castle scene, as that castle actually exists about 3 ½ hours away from where this was shot. I was able to lay it behind the tree line, using motion tracking technology to anchor it to my spastic filming output. It goes without saying that the UH-1 helicopter was an after-market insertion on my part.

Did I wind up with a plot? Meh. I do have these two rogues against an existential something-or-other. And that’s good enough here.

My eleven-minute film actually required a script—and some elementary storyboarding to prevent me from making repeated, hour-long trips to the river on which I filmed. And that required writing. So, in reality, I had a structural skeleton over which I needed to stretch a visual canvas.

So here I am. Now wanting to pursue a written work; longer, more elaborate than my self-deprecating pseudo-martyrdom. And in a way, I will be appealing to both disciplines.

Time to shoot the film in my head. And get that script on paper. This time, however, the theater is entirely different.

It ultimately needs to play in the theater of the mind.


Note: See my fishing film, Tenkara and the Man Card

This entry was posted in Film Making, Uncategorized, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


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