The New Thing.
Greetings, my dear Viscerati!
In the ten long months since my last entry, work has continued apace on building our little film micro-studio that could! However, some meetings and odd jobs aside, a good 90% of that work has been writing. Our slasher epic MENTOR has been ran over with the red pen and is heading into its second draft, as is our real-world, real-creepy adaptation of HYDE -- which will kick off our web-series project, MONSTROUS; adaptations of classic horror novels given a 21st century, all-too-real flavour -- not to mention the other stories and outlines we have in the pipeline. But, as these projects all inch toward production… something felt missing.
It is now three years since I made my last "proper" film, the short flick TALKBACK (aka T IS FOR TALK RADIO). By "proper", I mean a real creative project of my own, with a point of view, that I had written and directed for public consumption. As those three years have passed, I felt my track record receding further into the rear view mirror with them. I've shot nothing but a few online promos and showreels since and, while I am proud of this work, none of it suggests I'm about to step up and helm a feature film, which is what we're all here to make. So I needed a new idea. Not another short film, because (and you may disagree, as this is just one jerk's opinion) I feel the Australian filmmaking landscape is somewhat overburdened with those. I've always found my real inspiration as a filmmaker in the American independent scene: Privately financed, few if any grants, a lot of grit and grassroots appeal. But I needed that idea. Something I could shoot completely with tools -- cameras, lights, actors and locations -- that I had immediately to hand. Something that, if I had the script ready, I could shoot, like, next week. But something super-frugal that wouldn't feel cheap and nasty, or like a big film squashed into a small one. Something whose budget complemented its ambitions. A kick-starter. A flood-buster. A micro-budget feature film debut.
As my MENTOR screenplay took shape, it became increasingly clear that it would not be this first feature, as I'd hoped. It's still a low-budget idea, but would take a little bit of financing outside of my threadbare accounts or the crowdfunding sphere. And to get that kind of cash, I need to show that I can tell a story. To hold an audience captive for more than, say, half an hour. So I grabbed my pith helmet and pickaxe and resumed searching for that idea. I won't kid you: it was tough. I think I tend to have 1-4 million dollar ideas: cheap enough to qualify as low-budget, but waaaaaayyyy out of the reach of the valley of the micro-budgets. Until I found it.
At least, I thought I did. A series of short sketches, filmed in black and white, on location around Melbourne, all involving just two people, having a conversation over a table or side by side, which would eventually be combined into a kind of COFFEE AND CIGARETTES-style feature -- albeit something considerably more ramshackle. But it was only when devising one of those, that I became obsessed with one character: an odd woman in her late thirties who was still tentatively making her way through the world, largely agoraphobic and quaintly yet seriously odd. She had very loosely sprung forth from a neighbour I briefly had a few years back, a nice enough but strange woman who lived alone, left her house only to ride her bike to the shops and left lengthy handwritten notes telling me to turn down the noise in my flat, despite her loosely adjoining wall being four full rooms away from where the not-particularly loud noise was coming from (my TV. I think). I started combining this character with other traits I found interesting -- I made her a shut-in, looking for a date online -- when, without warning, I was now sketching a completely different movie.
This character's overly structured attempts at manufacturing and manicuring her online profile went from dating sites like RSVP and Tinder to her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles… and suddenly, I had my first inkling of a subject: Social Media. How it has changed the way adults behave, relate and filter. Why people in their thirties and forties were so willing to adopt the abbreviated, often narcissistic customs of those much younger. And how the more things change, the more they stay the same. But it was in creating her back story, that I created her foil -- a man in his late thirties who didn't leave his creative or emotional inertia behind with his twenties -- and in creating said foil, I had my inspiration. He felt like he'd stepped straight from those 1990s indie films I had so identified with during that time of my life, but this was a good 15 years later, and he -- like our female lead -- had spent that time burying himself inside a social media cocoon. By this point, I was overjoyed, because I finally stumbled upon my theme: Where are Generation X at now, in the post-social media age?
So, here is what I can tell you right now:
- This new script will be Cinema Viscera's feature film debut.
- It will be made for the smallest budget humanly possible, but still look pretty and bring delight to all.
- We're hoping to shoot this summer (between Dec-Feb), all things going well.
- It will be a comedy/drama, with more than a little awkwardness and only-slightly-surreal satire.
- The lead characters' names are Becky Holt and Jon Wade.
- Perri Cummings will play Becky.
- I'm still getting a handle on Jon, but when I do, we'll scour the city (ie. my contacts list) for the right actor.
- It will be shot on digital, and in black and white.
- It doesn't have a title yet…
- …but it does have a synopsis, which is:
"A lonely shut-in, living behind a vivacious alter ego, and an immature slacker, shunned via social media after an outburst, connect on a dating website and decide to meet, where they discover more about each other – and the shifting online social minefield that has redefined them – than they bargained for. "
When it gets a title, I'll let you know. You may have also noticed by now that I'm being much more forthcoming about this project than any I've had before. Because it's our first feature, because it's small and needs all the support it can, and because it's about the way we make connections online which flourish in the great wide open, we've decided to opt for full transparency. We'll be posting semi-regular updates on the progress of this project, as a diary of the journey into madness of making our first born. As a proud expectant parent, I hope you'll join us every step of the way.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need Becky and Jon to start doing stuff.
With love and widescreen dreams,
Paul Anthony Nelson
What fresh hell is this?
A semi-regular blog exploring films, popular culture, current or future projects and (more often) year-end wrap-up and opinions from CINEMA VISCERA's co-chief, Paul Anthony Nelson.