After working in television, radio, and video since high school, I eventually pushed myself into the indie film biz, which suited my creative and entrepreneurial nature. That involved me acquiring scripts and novels of other writers and trying to make them into movies. [UPDATED, see end of blog posting.]
For instance, I acquired a New York Times best-seller book, the true story of this country’s only husband-and-wife serial killers, written by the cop who brought them down. Sounds like a slam dunk, doesn’t it? No matter how hard I pitched it to studios, though, nobody wanted it because they’d suffered pushback from audiences about the then-recent NATURAL BORN KILLERS. I pursued the project, but my option ran out and I could not find the author; I had been told he’d gone into hiding because of something to do with the case. I lost the project.
The expiration of options was becoming a problem for me. Since I’ve been a writer all my life, I moved in a new direction, deciding to write my own scripts. As any writer does, I was keen to find a story that would inspire me.
I got much more than I hoped for, though.
One evening in Hollywood, I was in my car, sitting at a red light at La Brea Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. This was the early ‘90s, long before the Internet changed everything. I was as naive as could be. There’s a Target store on that corner now, and it’s a lot nicer. Back then, however, the stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard was seedy and full of prostitutes. Boy prostitutes. There was no Internet, so people found sex the old-fashioned way: on street corners.
A gunshot rang out.
All those boys started running, fleeing the scene of the shooting. They ran through the traffic, down the sidewalks, they ran everywhere, running around my car. It was an amazing sight; they were dressed in tight skimpy clothes, in preppy clothes, and in dresses. I was stunned by everything that was happening.
Then, I wondered why all these boys were living on the streets, trying to sell themselves to survive.
That’s a thought I’ve grown to regret.
I dug into the idea of writing a script about this unusual slice of life and discovered this thing going right under our noses but that we would not see. One thing I learned: Most of those boys were on the streets because fathers threw their sons away because they were gay.
I created a story about a father who throws away his son when he finds out the boy is gay, then discovers what a stupid and wrong thing that was, but it might be too late to fix it.
This script, called A FATHER AND SON, took over my life. It became a very good script and had a strong emotional impact on people who read it. It was the best thing I ever wrote. And it destroyed my life.
No matter how much producers and other industry people liked it, nobody would make it. Nobody would invest in it. It’s been considered at Paramount and Warner Bros. and several independent producers who thought the script was good but ‘too different.’
I wrote the script in 1998. I’ve spent my life since then trying to make this movie, and often got “this close” to getting A FATHER AND SON made. The efforts were like “a fish-hook in the eye” … the likelihood to make the movie was that impossible to ignore. Instead, I’ve kept tumbling into poverty, assuring a sense of hopelessness. I have worked on many other projects–TV shows, feature films, short films, and projects outside the film/TV world–but have not succeeded with them, mostly because I’ve been emotionally consumed with this project, to my complete detriment.
Movies can change lives. They can change attitudes. And over and over again, even this month, there is proof that this story needs to be told.
A few days ago, a 14-year-old boy who promoted “it gets better,” killed himself. In homophobic Michelle Bachmann’s district, the Feds stepped in to investigate a school district that is home to more than a half-dozen student suicides attributed to gay-bashing. A year ago, a promising college student leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge because of anti-gay behavior. Many more suicides have happened. More gay bashing has happened. After I started writing the story in 1998, Matthew Shepard was tortured and beaten to death and left to die alone on a fence in Wyoming because he was gay.
A few months ago, when people finally started paying attention to this growing problem of gay-bashing, bullying, murder, and suicide, Arkansas District School Board member Clint McCance posted this disgusting comment on Facebook:
“Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE. Being a fag doesn’t give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If you get easily offended by being called a fag then dont tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself. It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die.”
And then the thing that really rips at my soul:
“I would disown my kids they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off.”
A FATHER AND SON is a movie for the Clint McCances of this world.
It’s an eye-opener for somebody. And, it’s for those who are gay and beaten down. It’s for the community that is concerned, and the community that is ignorant, about this serious problem in our society.
How could I not be compelled to make this powerful movie? People are touched by the script and consider it an excellent script, but the movie has not yet been made. It’s not a blockbuster. It’s a low-budget independent feature film, a thriller, for a broad audience. I need to try again to raise the million dollars to get it made.
Every day, it becomes more obvious how important this message is to our society. It’s only a movie, but sometimes the right movie at the right time can help one person change from a destructive position.
This is a very personal observation about my experience. If I were pursuing a career, and if I had PR counsel, this blog would never appear. This is so important to me that candor and honesty seem appropriate. Also, I’ll refer to my own BARNARD’S LAWS, No. 5, to wit: “The job of children is to play. The job of teens is to deceive their parents. The job of adults is to slay their demons.” I’m an adult. I’m trying to slay my demons. FOR THIS REASON, I have removed comments and will not post any new comments to this specific blog, since they don’t work toward my slaying of my demons.
In answer to several points that come up frequently:
1) I fully understand how to budget indie feature films, and when I say it’s a million bucks, I know what I’m talking about (although that is not a precise budget figure).
2) As a PMD, of course I budget all the way through to delivery to the audience.
3) I have no interest in making the cheapest movie possible. I intend to make the most powerful story possible as efficiently as possible. In fact, the budget assumes that I, myself, will earn no money from the movie’s production.
4) This powerful indie thriller feature film will appeal to many types of people, and I especially want it to have an impact on fathers. Whoever brings them to the movie, one thing is for sure: the Clint McCances of this world will not tolerate a cheap-ass art house film.