What would our world of cinema look like if Quentin Tarantino stopped pitching Reservoir Dogs because nobody in the industry believed in his vision? What if Kevin Smith decided he probably shouldn’t max out his credit cards to make Clerks? What if Stephen Soderbergh or Robert Rodriguez second guessed their scripts for El Mariachi and Sex, Lies and Videotape and shelved them?
There is great beauty in determination. There is great admiration in perseverance. Some of the most amazing accomplishments come after great sacrifice. To have a dream and fight for its reality is inspirational. These are all sentiments that not only apply to the greatest directors in the history of film but also to our Emerging Filmmaker bloggers including today’s guest, filmmaker Scott Storm. Without their drive, dedication and vision to tell these original stories, the cinematic landscape would deeply suffer. Scott joins us today to talk about his work, influences and the sacrifices he’s made to make movies because he believes in the powerful tool of filmmaking.
Such was my image of Los Angeles in the spring of 1992, four years before I found the courage to take a leap of faith and just months before I found out I would be a father for the very first time. That city was indeed on fire and it was horrifying to watch unfold in the safety of a small town living room. Nevertheless, fatherhood is what gave me the kick I needed to go after what I wanted before it was too late.
In the summer of 1996 I arrived in Los Angeles in a beaten up car with only a little money in the bank and a dream as big as the city itself. I would direct movies here, and failure was not an option. I’d left my family in the relative safety of the east coast as I went about exploring the city, finding a place to live and preparing for my first industry job, a PA on a major motion picture. I had recently hit the ripe old age of 30.
The film would star the legendary Sir Ian McKellen. This was well before the X-Men and Lord of the Rings films that would make the man a household name, so I knew very little about him. Research was in order. I had brought with me my soon-to-be-obsolete Laserdisc player and went about renting as many films starring McKellen as I could find. The first of these was Restoration. It may as well have been the one and only, because the film hit me full on. It was the complete package of everything I adored about cinema. It boasted brilliant direction by Michael Hoffman, a crisp and clever screenplay, sumptuous production design and above all, unforgettable performances. McKellen’s part was a minor one, but it didn’t make it any less memorable.
London, 1663. Robert Merivel was a young physician with a pension for wine, women and song but an even greater devotion to the art of medicine. To watch Robert Downey, Jr. inhabit this role was mesmerizing for the simple fact that I’d grown up watching his 80’s turns as troubled young men in Weird Science, The Pickup Artist and Less Than Zero. I had never seen him like this, and I was hooked. His medical bravery catches the eye of King Charles II (Sam Neill), and he is summoned to the palace to care for the monarch’s ailing spaniel. He is then vaulted into a world of opulence he’d scarcely dreamed of without even a warning of how the women placed in his path would forever change him.
I have always been drawn to stories of characters thrust into worlds or situations they are ill-prepared for. The joy in watching those scenarios unfold and how the characters navigate their way through the maze is largely what drives my own work. Such a theme will be explored in my next project, Straight Razor Jazz, soon to go into pre- production. But I digress.
The true beauty of Restoration was that it spoke to me on many levels, not the least of which was having to say goodbye to my six-month-old baby daughter to accomplish the first stage of my Hollywood dream. As the picture unfolded, I was struck through with Merivel’s rise to wealth and position, his fall from grace and his quite accidental fathering of a beautiful little girl. He was a flawed man, whose faults led directly to him being thrust back from whence he came. There he had to reach within himself to rediscover what lit the fire within him from the start. As he was now back to having nothing but his own belief and will to push on, there was little choice but to “do what he’d done before…” as his King so wisely reminded him. He chose to keep dreaming.
Having come to Hollywood with very little, I often felt overwhelmed and insecure. But there in a spare downtown apartment overlooking MacArthur Park (where my mother had once taken me a child) I found this movie I’d never heard of and let it take me to a place I’d never been. Is that not what we love about the movies? Flickering there on the TV screen, the great plague hit London, Robert Merivel was separated from his infant daughter and my heart simply exploded. My little girl felt even more far away than the opposite coast and I was struck through with just how powerful matters of the heart really were both in life and in cinema.
I am currently in production on an animated short called The Apple Tree. Larger projects abound on the sidelines, but as many of us know, the road to independent financing can be a long and treacherous one. This little film has been a passion project of mine for the last few years. It requires only time and effort to realize, and I chip away at it a little every day. Even now, the influences of Restoration still show themselves in my workflow. It’s a story of children. It’s about their resilience, their anger, their beliefs and their infinite capacity for love.
Meg Ryan also left an indelible mark on my psyche as Katherine, the mad, Irish lass who tried very hard to make Robert Merivel her own. Watching this scene, my heart broke quietly in the dark.
Merivel: “I must cut into the womb…but if I do I shall lose you. And I don’t want to lose you.”
Katherine: “You must save the child.”
In all that I do, I remember this exchange above all. Now and always, the children are everything.
BURN – 1997 Slamdance Film Festival official selection and Jury Honor Award winner
TEN ‘TIL NOON – Best picture winner at VIFFI, and Asheville Film Festival
OFFICIAL REJECTION – co-producer/star/animator
WE RUN SH*T – co-director/editor/animator – Best Documentary at Phoenix Film Festival
STRAIGHT RAZOR JAZZ – next film…financing pending
THE APPLE TREE – independent animated short, currently in production
Follow Scott on Twitter, Facebook and learn more about him here.
Back THE APPLE TREE on Kickstarter!