STEVE COLLINS, IFP EMERGING PROJECT FORUM FILMMAKER, PART ONE
I just got off the phone following an interview with Indiewire. I was mealy-mouthed and unfocused, a good reminder that it’s never easy to talk about a script, even if you’re the one that wrote it. So that would be a bit of a stumble out of the gate for my push to get my new script The Garden made. It’s my first entry. My blog-voice is unformed. This may be a bit like a comedian’s first stab at stand-up: awkward for everyone. Long….blank….stares…..
This first entry is supposed to be about my prep for the IFP Project Forum, which for the most part involves getting my laundry done so I’ll have socks. I live in Middletown, CT and so do all my socks, so I have to make sure they’re clean before I get to NY — I’ll be crashing with friends who don’t have laundry facilities, so I can’t bungle this. The future of independent film is in the balance. Or at least the future of one independent film.
I teach film production at Wesleyan University, an oasis for cinema lovers. I love it here, no one’s jaded, they’re all hopped up on movies and we get to talk about them all year long. Much better than my job at the movie theater, though I did learn through a short tenure at Regal Cinemas that since hot-dog buns and nacho cheese were free for employees, but not hot dogs or chips, you could, when hungry, make yourself what they call in the biz, a “cheezy-bun.” One of the drawbacks of living out here in CT is that aside from my students and my faculty cohorts, I think I might be the only filmmaker in Middletown. Hard to get gaffers tape up here, nothing but tumbleweeds. It makes me all the more thankful to get selected for the Project Forum. It’s my only option to meet people. It’s a little sad really.
I’m going to the IFP to sell my new project to America and all foreign territories.
The script is called The Garden. It’s is a comedy about passive-aggressive relationships in a yoga center. It’s based on stories I heard over the years from my wife who used to work on the management team of a yoga chain. Judy, the main character, has an epiphany and decides yoga can’t be mass-produced and marketed like McDonalds; she decides to give yoga away for free, turning their strip-mall studio into a commune that runs on that old chestnut, the barter system. They rip up the floor, start planting gardens, even dig a well — they try to make a “perfect world.” This turns out to be a terrible idea.
The film is about people following their ideals, getting their hearts broken, and working out a compromise so they don’t have to give up doing something positive in this mean world. It’s a very applicable subject for artists and other assorted tender-hearts. Demographic: human. Marketing money toward cyborgs = money down the dunny (Austrailian for “toilet” – see Crocodile Dundee I and II. See Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles as well).
While finishing up my second feature, a love story about terrified people called You Hurt My Feelings, we asked a test audience if people liked the title. Someone wrote in big emphatic letters “C’MON! WE’RE ADULTS!” My unabashed vulnerability truly disgusted him. Well, I dare say you could describe The Garden as “heartwarming”, so I’m learning nothing. If anything, I feel I am even more resolute in my mission to cure cynicism with cinema. Down with misanthrope porn, long live the new optimism!
If I have any fear as I begin this process, it’s that I get it wrong, I don’t explain properly what its about, that I tell it too sincere and it sounds maudlin or too goofy and it sounds coarse. It’s important for me to entertain, (who doesn’t want to laugh?) but also to stay true to the beautiful, open, searching quality of these characters. The fact that the film has a genuine spiritual transformation in it, and it doesn’t sacrifice the funny of the film to do this, is what I’m most proud of about the script. There’s a lot of truth in this silliness, and truth is what we’re supposed to be looking for, right?
If this all sounds interesting to you, watch my first film Gretchen; it’s on Netflix instant. Did I mention I’m coming to the project forum to look for a producer? Come to New York City and talk to me, it’s so awkward at those cocktail parties when you don’t know anyone.