It was sometime in the 1970s when I first saw Gone with the Wind. It must have been on TV as we didn’t have a VCR. The moment I saw this film it quickly became my favorite movie. The story, the actors, the sets, the music, it all worked on so many levels. Since that first viewing, I’ve watched it on laserdisc, DVD and streamed it. This afternoon I’ll see Gone with the Wind as it was intended – in a theatre.
What I always liked about the Gone with the Wind story was the sheer ambition of how it was made. From the “Search for Scarlett” to endless script rewrites to changes in directors, the production was fraught with issues. But in the end a masterpiece was created winning 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture. If you want to learn more about this epic film, I highly recommend the book Scarlett, Rhett, and a cast of thousands: The filming of Gone with the Wind.
There’s no question in my mind that Gone with the Wind inspired my interest in this industry. What I’ve always been particularly drawn to are the “movers and shakers” behind the camera. In the case of Gone with the Wind, it was producer David O. Selznick. For every film made there’s one person you can point to that is responsible for its existence. Oh sure, the actors and crew are vital, but they wouldn’t have anything if it wasn’t for the producer—that one person who sees the vision and takes the risk.
Selznick International Pictures produced another one of my favorite films, Rebecca. It was Selznick who brought director Alfred Hitchcock over from England. That one decision that Selznick made led to films such as North by Northwest and Psycho.
While the opening sequence references “A Civilization gone with the wind,” another civilization that is long gone is the studio system that made it. Yes, Selznick International Pictures was somewhat independent, but it was the studio system that made Gone with the Wind possible (MGM provided half the budget).
As we celebrate the 80th anniversary of this iconic picture, I look at the modern world of filmmaking. Although Selznick’s company disbanded decades ago, MGM is still around along with a literal handful of the legacy studios (sadly 20th Century Fox has been acquired by Disney). But the one thing that now prevails is the independent filmmaker. We chart our own course against a sea of seemingly endless possibilities and to destinations sometimes unknown.
When I attended the American Film Market this past November presenting First Signal and my other projects, I couldn’t help but think of the ambitions of so many under one roof striving to present their “motion picture” to new civilizations.
Tomorrow, is today.
It was 1985 and my first trip out of the country was to England. I don’t remember what my first tourist stop was on that trip, but one destination was the British Museum. For me, I’ve always been drawn to the “old masters” – the works of Leonardo da Vinci and the like. There’s something about the imagery and stories those paintings tell. Whenever I travel I always endeavor to find a museum. But sometimes one does not need to board a plane to discover works of art. Here in Worcester, MA we have quite a jewel of our own – the Worcester Art Museum.
My mother enrolled me in a variety of art classes at the museum when I was growing up. I cannot stress the importance of being introduced to art, music or any other creative endeavor at a young age. Since those early days of mine, my mother has enrolled her great granddaughter in some classes at the museum. While I may be a bit biased towards a family member, I’ll just say that Julie is beyond gifted when it comes to creating original art. She’s also quite the storyteller with some videos she has made.
My mother and I both celebrated our birthdays this past week. The last few years I have started a trend of visiting a museum on mine. I hadn’t been to the Worcester Art Museum in years. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I even visited. But no sooner did I walk in and I saw some familiar exhibits from days long past. That’s what I love about museums, they understand the past while presenting the moment.
I’ve never been a fan of contemporary art. I personally find it pointless and without meaning and effort. Taking a white canvas and literally throwing paint at it, isn’t art in my book it’s just a waste of good paint. Or, to quote Nigel Bruce as Major Giles Lacy in Rebecca, “Not this modern stuff I hope. You know, turn a lampshade upside down to represent the soul in torment.” But that doesn’t mean one isn’t open to discovering new artists.
I discovered the work of James Dye this week. The moment I laid eyes on his works I found myself just staring at them. From the detail to the construction of his story to the messaging within, I’ve never seen an artist represent so much in a print. It is the type of work that will speak differently to every person that looks at it. Certainly Dye has his own message to accomplish, but it’s clear that the artist wants us to form our own representation of the work.
To quote from the Worcester Art Museum, “Through ink, James explores the ritual nature of art and the symbiosis of image and story. He draws inspiration from mythology both personal and established to create works that speak to the imagination”. There’s no doubt in my mind that a film could be created off one of Dye’s works. From what I learned he was partially inspired by the artist William Blake. In the movie Red Dragon, the character of Francis Dolarhyde is taken with the Blake painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun.
But the world of film is where I will be concentrating this week as pre-production continues for First Signal.
This week I completed a first draft of First Signal. I have to say there is something immensely satisfying about completing a script. From the moment I get the idea for a story it’s weeks and months of research, notes and random thoughts.
For me writing doesn’t start and stop at my computer. While I don’t believe in writer’s block, there are those times when after I do a bit of writing I just see the story stop for a moment. Sometimes it just takes a change of air to get the characters and storyline talking to me again. In my case, it’s generally a trip to the gym or watching a movie that brings me back to the computer. In fact, after I saw Darkest Hour last weekend I was inspired to write a critical speech in First Signal. If you can’t get inspired after watching Winston Churchill there’s a problem!
Like Justice Is Mind I wrote First Signal to independently produce, not to submit to production companies or agents. While my other projects are in various stages of review or consideration by the latter, First Signal is not part of that mix.
It is ironic how this whole project came to being. Here I am at the Naval Justice School talking to one of the actresses. Suddenly, the idea for a limited location drama that largely takes place in an underground bunker came to mind. After talking with her about the idea, I just started to write it with her as one of the new characters in the “First World” universe.
While I love acting and performing, I think my greatest joy comes from creating projects and original stories. Although it has been some years, I remember the days of Justice Is Mind and the dedicated cast and crew that made it possible. Unlike a play, when you create a motion picture it’s out in the world forever. As I often watch films from the 1930s and 40s, I wonder who may be watching my films in say the year 2088. From that era I count Gone with the Wind, Rebecca, Laura and Now, Voyager as some of my favorites.
Although I plan to reach out to a variety of actors and crew I’ve worked with in the past, the next step in this process will be a casting notice for a table read (one part is already cast).
First Signal—When Air Force Space Command receives a signal from an alien satellite in Earth orbit an emergency meeting with the President reveals a government conspiracy.