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MCN Blogs
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com

Random Thoughts from a Haze of Busy-ness

I’ve been a bit AWOL this week, not because I don’t like you, but because I’ve just been way too busy for my own good.

I’ve hit one of those life crossroads where there are suddenly a great many different paths to take, and you can see with greater clarity than usual what the possible consequences and outcomes of each choice might be, but that doesn’t necessarily help you make decisions. It’s all laid out for you like a fieldstone stepping path through an enormous garden, where this path might take you to beautiful roses that will cut you with their thorns, or that path might reveal something rich to harvest if you’re just persistent enough to hack though the weeds to get there. Or maybe you’ll just choke in the weeds and not get anywhere at all. I’ve been in this place in my life several times before and it’s just never my favorite state of introspection to be in. But on the plus side, I’d have to say most of the major life choices I’ve made when faced with such a crossroads have worked out pretty well, at least for a while.

I’ve been in a very productive writing cycle the past couple months. I just wrapped a detailed scene outline on “Script A,” which I’m co-writing with a partner (first time I’ve attempted that!), for what may end up being my first feature film. Right now it’s neck-and-neck with another, script, which we’ll call “Script B,” which I’ve been working on for a little over a year now; I had to go back and do some rework on that when I realized I’d gotten attached to some scenes that weren’t actually furthering the theme. That one is back on track now and churning right along as well.

When I write, I need to see imagery and hear music that evokes the tone I’m looking for in the film, so I’ve also been listening to particular music while working on Script A (mostly minor-key baroque, lots of harpsichord and violin) and working on my Pinterest board for this project. The way that works is, I find a ton of images that help me articulate visually what I’m seeing in my head as I write, or things I see that strike me as evoking something. I just uploaded a slew of pics from a recent location scout trip out to San Juan Island and Orcas Island, but there’s also a lot of Carravagio paintings on there because of the way that artist worked with light and shadow, and other images that are there for other reasons. It’s basically what I used to use a sketchbook for, and flipping through that board helps me get into the frame of mind for writing on that script.

In addition to that, I don’t know if I mentioned this, but back in January three of my four kids gave up on our “let’s try out regular public school” experiment and went back to the alternative learning school/homeschool resource center. My daughter Neve, 15, was able to keep her internship with SIFF’s programming department, so that’s been swell. What’s not swell is that thanks to some legislation last year and the way in which our school district is interpreting parts of it, and thanks to more legislation on the subject of alternative education in Washington coming down the pike at us, the alternative school my kids attend will either shut down next year, or if it does stay open, there won’t be much left to it. It’s being gutted.

If you know me, you know I’m not one to sit around on my laurels crying into my wineglass about a situation like this. I’m more of an action girl. For me, even the hoops we’ve had to jump through this year are trying my patience; I’m not jumping through more hoops for less. So I’ve started working on forming an independent homeschool co-op, which is cool and a lot of fun and very energizing, but is also a lot of work. I know this from years of working with various not-for-profits and I don’t know why I can’t just stop myself and say, “Ugh, TOO MUCH WORK! Don’t do it!” But I’m doing it for the same reason that my husband and I choose to co-lead the middle school youth group at the Unitarian Church, and why I volunteer my time doing fantasy makeup and hair for my kids’ youth theater: Because if I want that stuff to be available for my kids, I need to do my part to make sure it’s there. But it sure sucked away my week, what with talking to the other parents and researching options and writing surveys and proposals and having meetings.

Let’s see, what else? Well, as aforesaid, we popped over to the San Juans to take a bunch of shots and took several hundred pictures. It’s always nice to go across on the ferry, and I’m always grateful when I do so that we live in this amazing place that has islands like the San Juans so close by. I bought a Megamillions ticket on the island, too, so if that pays off I won’t have to worry about whether I actually make money doing the things I want to do. That would be nice. I might even buy one of the several small islands in the San Juans that are for sale, and move there with all the people I like to be around, if I won the lottery. Then I would let any indie filmmaker who needs an island in their film shoot on MY ISLAND for free, or perhaps for a good bottle of wine. I got nailed by a tax levy from some tax NYS says I owe from 15 years ago, which was a big freaking surprise when I routinely popped on to check my bank balance. I was invited to pitch for SIFF’s fly filmmaking competition, but my pitch wasn’t chosen (my DP, Sam Graydon, DID have his chosen, though, which is great because Sam deserves all the good things in the world).

I was rejected by two film festivals, either of which I would have been thrilled to premiere at, and that threatened to trigger a major depressive episode and brought my ability to write anything to a screeching halt for a couple days, but I spent some time chilling with my kids, took some hot baths, and watched a bunch of Dr. Who and got over it instead. I recommended a friend for a job I would have loved to have had myself, under different circumstances. I applied for a grant for parents who are working artists. I saw my stepson’s performance as a Wickersham Brother in Seussical, and we’re gearing up for a busy play season with the kids doing three separate plays — GREASE, GREASE JR (actually an edited cut of GREASE) and Beauty and the Beast. That schedule will keep us juggling through April, and then it’s time for 25 days of SIFF, woo-hoo! Plus three weeks of press screenings! Or is it four?

Look, in all seriousness, I really try not to stress out too much about any of this stuff, no matter how crazy my life gets. The important things in life are all right here around me, my family and my friends, and the rest is gravy. It all comes into balance in the end. I just need to find a better way to monetize the various things I’m doing for free right now, because if I was getting paid for all the hours I actually spend working? I could totally afford to get started shooting that next film.

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“The core fear is what can happen to you, personally. Your body. That’s what horror films deal with, precisely. We are a very thin skin wrapped around a pumping heart and guts. At any given moment it can come down to that, be it diseases, or somebody’s assault, or war, or a car wreck. You could be reduced to the simple laws of physics and your body’s vulnerability. The edged weapon is the penultimate weapon to disclose that reality to you.”
~ Wes Craven, 1996, promoting Scream

MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

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