Thursday, May 22, 2008

Waiting: Not For The Faint-Hearted

I remember saying to Marybeth as we would pull away from the house on shoot days, "I just want to make a good movie." Although her constant reassurance did little to assuage my self doubt, I love it that she kept trying. "Just wait," she'd say. I've been waiting. I'm tired of waiting. Many times a day, I wonder if I should go on. I wonder if I can. Then...

Something worth waiting for came from the New Strand Film Festival in West Liberty Iowa where Treasure Blind won "Best Screenplay". West Liberty, Iowa is a "hip" small town about 20 minutes from Iowa City where the University of Iowa Hawkeyes live. To say these folks might be civic minded is like saying the pope might be catholic. Watching the townsfolk interact is a lot like watching a family reunion. The West Liberty family reunion. There ought to be T-shirts. The town reflects their closeness too. The old Victorian style homes are well maintained and tidy. The town center is being restored little by little. The two biggest sources of civic pride are the newly remodeled library and the New Strand Theater. Both buildings were modernized while preserving the architecture and character of 19th Century Americana. The asphalt put down on city streets in the 60's is being taken back up and cobble stones are going back down. And naturally, the Film Festival was the big event in the community, so everyone was there. Treasure Blind was scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Some parents complained that the puppet show was scheduled for the same time and their kids wanted to see the treasure movie. The puppets were cancelled. The old theater was full when the high tech super strong projector began spewing our little movie all over that big screen. The room grew instantly quiet. But then... chuckles. Giggles. All in appropriate places. This audience was more engaged than any in my experience. Youngsters and adults alike. When Henry felt his way down the hallway and turned into the treasure room, someone gasped, "Oh! The gun!" When Jack slid into the back seat of the taxi and spat, "Hello, Dad", I heard someone in the middle of the room say, "Uh oh." It was wonderful. The gasps, the giggles, the sniffles were all soothing music to my critique-battered ears, and it didn't stop until the final flicker of light faded into darkness. Then the applause and whoops and cheers. I was actually feeling self-conscious. The emcee stood. His first words were, "So, tell me again why a movie like this can't get a national release and we have to watch the pap that Hollywood puts out there." A bit over the top perhaps, but I drank it down desperately. It was like anti venom to a snake bite victim. The Q & A went on and on with honest questions couched in praise until it had to be stopped to make time for the next movie. Several asked to buy their own copy of Treasure Blind. It was a welcome gift of healing for my tattered self confidence. I was renewed.

Even more good news upon arriving back home. A distribution offer. An approval from The Dove Foundation. Another award from another festival. And probably the biggest boost of all, a simple sentence from my executive producer: "We need to start thinking about the next one."

I still struggle with letting the story spill out onto the page without phantom critics leering over my shoulder tut tutting their disapproval, but maybe that will improve by act two. I'll have to wait and see.

It was Isaiah the Lord prompted to say, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." By His strength I didn't quit. I won't quit. I'll just wait.

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