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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

FUR Opens Around U.S.

Nicole Kidman makes the movie FUR. Although the film carries the title an "An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus" you cannot help but feel that any fan of Arbus will be disappointed at an attempted portrayal of the paradigm breaking life in history of photography.

However, if a viewer can suspend expectations or better, pretend this story has nothing to do with the legendary photographer Diane Arbus, you might find the film satisfying. And unless you grew up in New York city just after WWII, you might not know anything factual about the history anyway.

Not to put to big a point on it, simply stated, Arbus's life and character as an artist was considerably more complex than the unassuming and demur housewife depicted in Erin Cressida Wilson's script for FUR.

But watching FUR is a very satisfying experience. At it heart the film is about the mystery and inspiration that sparks an artists imagination to delve into worlds unknown. The imaginative release is palpable and treated in this film as a mystery, almost a thriller, in its dramatic build up. The key is Kidman's performance.

At one critical moment, the film itself crosses the line into an absurd and very questionable realm and the only person who can hold it from becoming laughable is Kidman. Certainly, you cannot count on Robert Downey, Jr.

Factually, the script takes great leaps and bounds from the first scene where Arbus allegedly disrobes for her photo shoot in a nudist colony (she never did) but Kidman cares less. Kidman must craft and entirely new character whole cloth.

And so she does. Many in the audience are likely to leave the film hoping they might one day see an actual bio-pic of Arbus and maybe FUR will spark that project to happen.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

MAKE ME A CELEBRITY OR ELSE...

We are often asked by local screenwriters' if there is a way we, at the Screenwriters' Workshop can get them an agent, land a deal with a producer or studio and make them famous. Can't this be a "program" of the Workshop?

Realistically, no way. Ask anyone who is in the business of screenwriting and from their experience they will say. "You've got to be kidding"

The reason I know this is because Screenwriters' Workshop tried to develop a program some ten years ago called "Industry Connections" whose purpose was to find local Minnesota screenwriters agents and production deals. A number of writers desperately wanted this program to succeed. Desperately is the key word. I think they maybe invisioned themselves as a registry for industry development executives to tap for future projects. The Industry Connection group sat down did some research, wrote a lot of letters, sent a bunch of scripts and simply ended up with a lot more rejection letters. Industry connections failed to connect.

Let me just say, I was not invovled with theis program because my efforts went more toward producing local scripts using local talent by bring screenwriters, filmmakers, directors, producers and acting talent together. Even though the process of submission and rejection is antithetical to my philosophy of "just do it" and "empower yourself" rather than forfeit your power and creativity to the judgement of others, I did wish these people all the best and if they wanted to put the trust in a program like "Industry Connections" I hope they succeed. Truly. Why not. I love to see people, through their own effort succeed in achieving their life dream.

But the reason it didn't work is because that's not how the system works. More than almost any other professional area of endeavour, screenwriting and filmmaking are industries filled with ambition and high expecations for success. All too often, writers come to the workshop and immediately want success and they put those ambitions for achievement on the backs of the other volunteer writers who are putting together workshop programs. That is worng and unfair as well as a recipe for disaster in interpersonal relations.

Getting an agent, finding producers and executives who will believe in your work and invest not only coutless hours of personal effort but, perhaps, millions of dollars of their hard earned money is a very individual and personal enterprise and cannot be programmed. It can never be made simple. There is too much at stake.

I was reminded of all this after reading this article in the New York Times about the processes of achieving success or find a voice in film and entertainment:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/12/magazine/12youtube.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

As the writer Matthew Klam points out, these avenues to gaining a voice or achieving success in the industry are radically shifting and changing in todays digital media world.

I hope my friends in the Screenwriters' Workshop take notice. Nodoby can make you a celebrity.