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Posted on August 10, 2008 - by writerman
Why I write movies
Just put together my application for the Disney Fellowship.
In addition to a resume, bio, and 2 copies of a screenplay, they ask applicants to supply a “statement of interest.” I don’t want to sound like a dumbass, but I had to google that one to figure out what they were asking for. Honestly, I have no idea if what I ended up writing was the kind of thing they’re looking for, but it reminded me that I come from a long line of compulsive storytellers, and it was pretty fun putting it together. So here you go:
The old train rattled down the tracks through the morning mist. I was barely awake, but in just a few minutes, I was going to get a glimpse of the very thing that had first opened my eyes to the magic of stories – the Limpopo River. The Limpopo is a 1,000-mile long river that cuts through southern Africa, stretching from the Kalahari desert to the Indian Ocean. But to me, it was a mystical place, immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in his story The Elephant’s Child. A story that I had forced my dad, who grew up only a few hundred miles from the river, to read to me again and again and again, even long after I was old enough to read it to myself.
That day, on that train, it was years since I’d been that bossy little boy. More specifically, it was now sometime after my period as a bright-eyed, hopeful film school grad, and before my current life as a hungry, just-moved-to-Los-Angeles, aspiring screenwriter. I was long-haired and unemployed and riding a train through Zimbabwe to get a close look at a river.
And suddenly, there it was. To be honest, I don’t really remember much of what it looked like. I didn’t even take a picture. I just stared out of the window, and when the train finished passing over the bridge, I looked up and saw someone standing next to me. I smiled and said, “Did you see that? It was…” He finished my sentence for me, quoting Kipling word for word:
“The great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees.”
His name was Marcelo; a Brazilian who grew up in the slums of Sao Paulo, and he was leaning out the window of that African train at five in the morning for the same reason that had brought me. We went to the dining car for breakfast and talked about stories and writing and Canada and Brazil and our dads. No, we didn’t fall in love. We haven’t kept in touch either, and no, I wouldn’t call what happened that morning an epiphany. But that moment does underline the personal philosophy that is behind all of my work: the best stories can cross borders and cultures and generations and unite people in ways they probably can’t imagine. And in this era of post-ironic irony and media saturation, it’s a belief I hang on to tightly as I sit down to write my next script and pitch my next idea. Which brings me around to why I’m applying for a Disney Fellowship.
I’m looking for mentors and collaborators and co-conspirators who share the same passion for stories that I do, who can push me to improve my craft and work with me to make movies that will someday inspire some small-town kid on the other side of the world to get on a train and step outside of themselves to see the larger world.
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[…] a little jealous. Partly because they are going to Africa, a place I have an almost-unhealthy obsession with. But mostly because in a previous life, I used to go places and shoot little movies and spend […]nn1