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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

L.A. Dreams Goodbyes

When I came to Los Angeles in Sept. 1985, I had hopes and dreams.

I was beginning my college days, attending a university with the most respected cinema program in the world. I had a couple scholarships to help defer the hefty tuition, including a National Merit Scholarship. I wanted to be a famous film director - or a poet, if the film director thing didn't pay off. Self-esteem had never been a strong suit of mine, and despite people telling me the contrary, I always felt dumb as post. Still, since I was in 6th grade, I had a firm conviction that not only did film directors actually exist somewhere in the world, but that I could very easily be one of them. The more I studied, the more I learned, the more I began to see that undertaking such an occupation was a very real option. When film school professors whispered praises in my ears, my certain success was confirmed.

It is years later. I have been a paid screenwriter. I have made heaps of cash in the Spec Sale 1990's. I have had a house in the Hollywood Hills. I have been arrested on Sunset Boulevard for drunk driving.

Somewhere along the way, the one thing that I came here for, the directing part, has escaped me.

Or, to be more honest, I have escaped it.

Yes, try as the gods might to hand me opportunities, I have evaded them at every turn.

One of my favorites was when a notable production company began talks with me about directing The Common Vampire - my low-budge, Scorsese-esque vampire script (I know, you also have your own low-budge, Scorsese-esque vampire script - tough luck, I got in first). I did everything I could, short of shitting on the producer's desk, to avoid following through with that offer.

As John Cassavetes said to Martin Scorsese: "In order to catch the ball, you have to want to catch the ball."

I have had so much blind faith - or stupidity, one might call it (and a healthy dose of stupidity is an asset for long-term success in any artistic enterprise) - during my time here in L.A. It is galling to see how much utter dread and fear have been lurking beneath it, taking a secret step back for every step I appear to take forward. When I have visited friends from my Ohio high school years, they always remark: "Wow. You always said you were going to go to L.A. and get into movies. And then you really did it! Wow." And I stare back at them, a little baffled, and think: "Of course, I did it. Did you think I was kidding?" and I feel my heart sag a little when I realize that when they were articulating their big dreams back in the 1980's, they were only kidding.

I have made films with the Alpha 60 collective, done the video podcasts here on the blog, experimented with moving images on my own. But this is still sketching, training, exercising. It is not what I came here to do. Asked a couple decades ago what the status of my motion picture career would be in 2006, the projected future would not have been a question of whether or not I had directed a film, but whether I had received Academy Awards for Directing AND Writing yet (having become quite familiar with our beloved Academy over the past few years, and having attended a number of the shows, the prospect of winning an Oscar has become increasingly less interesting to me however)(I don't think that's sour grapes)(or is it?).

So, I'd better get on it, huh? Better roll up my sleeves and get on that sucker?

The irritating thing I've noticed - and to my chagrin, continue to notice - is that my life here in Los Angeles seems to have had some kind of subtle guiding principle behind it - that is, I seem to have been led and guided in spite of my ambitions. And I believe more and more - and this too is irritating - that my ambitions are sometimes a road to misery and chaos and death - a roadmap for taking me directly to the places I'd rather not go. So I've learned then to soften my grip on the reins, to trust that the horse has traveled this path more often than I and that he may not need second by second guidance to get me to the destination. In fact, my constant commands will probably end with him bucking me into the ditch and spoiling what might have been an enjoyable ride.

On Saturday, my wife and I will be moving to London, which is in England.

For years and years I have said that I would like to live in London, England - home of my foremothers and grandsires - but couldn't tell you exactly how that would come about. Now, here we are, about to leave this L.A. that I've become very cozy-comfy with over the past 20 years, and I couldn't really tell you exactly how it happened. It just...happened. Step by step, revelation by revelation. This thing that seems to always be taking care of the big picture - cagey bastard that it is - is subtle and quiet, and not to be denied.

I am very, very, very blessed. And I am very, very, very ordinary.

So the future? My future? Our future? On Saturday, we will get on the plane at LAX. When we land at Heathrow, we will get off the plane. That's about as far as I'm willing to plan ahead these days.

Still, as I leave Los Angeles, in Sept. 2006, I have hopes and dreams.


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