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2008-02-19 8:37 AM
ILY: One last thought
I'm not sure anyone cares, but I'm too anal-retentive not to say:
This blog entry contains spoilers for both I LOVE YOU, I'M SORRY, AND I'LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN and CUPID AND PSYCHE.
In June of 2005, I blogged about a short film I hadn't made yet:
When we're done, we'll have a new film to send to festivals--and we'll also have an addition to our investors' presentation for CUPID & PSYCHE.Now that I LOVE YOU, I'M SORRY, AND I'LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN has accomplished all three of these things--it had an excellent festival run, it got me into my current relationship with John Craddock, who's now producing CUPID & PSYCHE, and we didn't wait to get paid and did something we love--I want to explain the one thing about it that bugs me.
Not the kind of bugging that falls into the "things I could have done better" category. Catch me when I'm feeling good about a project and name any of my previous ones--books, stories, films, music, children, spouse, basic human decency and compassion--and I can tell you what I should have done better on those. The thing that bugs me about ILY (and since I'm drawing this introduction out, give me a moment to reassure Larry: It's not you, Larry) is at its core. It can't be altered.
I LOVE YOU, I'M SORRY, AND I'LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN is a musical number from CUPID & PSYCHE. In that longer story, there are these two thugs, and they need to find an object--let's just say it's a Maguffin--that a husband has managed to let slip out of his grasp. He hid it in one of his wife's possessions--let's just say her purse--and although she doesn't know she's got a Maguffin in her purse, she's very angry with him and won't tell him where the purse is.
If he doesn't get the Maguffin back for the thugs, he's dead.
But she keeps hanging up on him. So the thugs, realizing this guy's a moron, coach him through how to be a manipulative SOB and tell his wife what she wants to hear, and eventually he gets her to reveal the location of the purse. The thugs go after the Maguffin, and the husband continues along his trajectory in the overall story.
The coaching is the subject of the musical number, "I love you," "I'm sorry," and "I'll never do it again" being the three things the husband is taught to repeat over and over until she softens, forgives him, and tells him where the purse is.
In order to get the short film made as quickly as possible (which turned out to be two years), I had to take into account what my existing assets were. One existing asset was that I'd already written several musical numbers for the feature. If I could lift one out of context and make it a standalone little film, that would get us there faster.
There were three numbers I felt were ready for that--but I had concerns about each. YOU'RE GONNA DIE would require too many CGI effects, and we wouldn't have the budget. LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER wouldn't make sense out of context, and marked a shift in a character's mental and emotional state rather than pivoting the mechanics of plot.
And I LOVE YOU, I'M SORRY, AND I'LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN was a cynical little bit, in which no one behaved well.
CUPID & PSYCHE is warm, funny, and idealistic. A woman leaves her SOB husband and pursues her dream of becoming an opera diva. It's about art, love, risk... stuff like that. The thugs and the Maguffin are a subplot.
Unless you lift them out of context and make them the whole story. Which I did. The Maguffin became a packet of money. The purse disappeared entirely. The wife knows what she's taken. And at the end, when the husband can't come up with the money, they shoot him.
I just didn't see any other way it could go. The thugs can't just pocket their guns and say "Well, okay. You don't have to pay us back." (And I still don't see any other way it could have gone. That ending is true to that story. It has dramatic integrity.)
So here's the tradeoff I accepted:
Positive: We'll have a new short film, expanding on the screen-musical techniques I came up with for CREDO. It'll star the people I want to continue working with, show investors and producers what I'm capable of, and do what Kim Adelman suggests in THE ULTIMATE FILMMAKER'S GUIDE TO SHORT FILMS, which I came back to several times during this whole process: Make a short that's like the features you want to make. And we don't have to delay another month, two months, three months, while I figure out a new story and write a new musical number. (Yes, that's a lot of time for writing a new story and musical number. Remember, I had six-month-old twins at the time. It could conceivably have gone one year, two years, three years, never.)
Negative: It's unlike the feature I'm trying to make in one key way: It doesn't have the same tone. And it's a little long to be optimally strategic for festival success.
On the first count: Close enough.
On the second count: Festival success is not the primary goal. Getting CUPID & PSYCHE made is.
Tradeoffs accepted. We moved forward.
It got made, it got into festivals, it (in combination with CREDO) got Craddock interested--and he made a point of saying it was smart to structure the project like a feature so I could have more hands-on experience with that, despite it costing more. I hired more than 50 people on ILY, and don't regret it in the slightest. I could have had the same festival success with fewer--CREDO, for example, cost a tenth as much and used a tenth the personnel, and it got into the same number of festivals and won more awards--but I wouldn't have been able to show success in heading up an organizational hierarchy that looks like a feature writ small, not just like a short shot on a shoestring.
And I love the end result. Everybody was amazing--and after what has to be 500 viewings, I still crack up when Larry, dressed as a thug dressed as Lizzie Borden, takes a bucket of blood from offscreen. (And here's some trivia: That was our only white blouse. It was one take or nothing. Props to David Henderson and Havi Elkaim for extreme talent in blood tossing, and props to everyone else who was on set for managing to stifle their laughter at Larry's performance. Many eyes went wide and hands got clapped over mouths, mine included.)
It's all wonderful. (And a second or so of the Lizzie Borden shot is at the end of the trailer.)
But that cynicism...
I figure enough people have seen it now that this doesn't ruin it for anyone. If you've seen it and this bugged you... yeah, it bugs me too. But it was so fully outweighed by everything else that it was a worthwhile compromise to make. And there might not be any film to talk about at all if I hadn't moved when I did.
But I at least wanted to tell you about it.
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