I really enjoy the revision process when writing. I don’t think that I’m that great of a writer, so I like to take my time and tame the hasty jumble of words I’ve strung together. I get a kick out of printing a manuscript and marking it up with a red pen, writing in the margins. After having my screenplay, “Last Will and Laundromat,” critiqued in the first round of the Steeltown Film Factory, I found myself with more than a recommended serving size of revisions.
I had a week to turn in a new draft. It’d then be re-judged by a new panel, along with the other 11 scripts, and six would be selected for the semi-finals. I felt like I was behind the eight-ball. The critiques of my script were so major, and varied, that I was faced with a number of ways to proceed. I spent almost the entire week mapping out every story path I could think of–like a choose-your-own-adventure novel.
“Last Will and Laundromat” was, originally, about a grandfather getting a second chance to get to know his granddaughter, Andi. He is able to come back and haunt her for a limited time. His time runs out just as the two become close and Andi is left wanting more. She goes to the Elks Lodge, where her grandfather was an active member, and meets folks that knew him better than anyone. The problems the judges had were fairly straight forward: the tone wavered too much between slapstick ghost-comedy and sentimental drama about loss; the grandfather, as a ghost, felt too much like a schtick; and the conversations, generally, lacked the minimum level of heart to make them worthwhile. There was a slight debate, amongst the judges, as to whether or not the ghost should even be in the movie.
I didn’t get rid of the ghost. Not out of some kind of stubborn, artistic integrity thing, but because losing him would, in effect, turn this into a story I wasn’t trying to tell. I was hell-bent on figuring out how to make him a meaningful specter, with purpose and heart. I also needed to figure out how to make him more real. Continue reading
When I was in grade school, my idea of film making manifest itself in strange ways. I loved taking my parents’ VHS-C camcorder and running around my neighborhood, wearing a female trench coat and dragging along my school chum Richard, filming fan-fiction episodes of Columbo. My favorite episode involved me decoding a secret message, typed in WingDings, by feeding a piece of paper through a printer and “changing the font.” I worked quickly, filming cinema verite style with single takes. All handheld. Never editing. I had to get done before dinner time. I’m pretty sure I was St. John the Baptist School’s answer to the auteur theory.
I’m not a filmmaker. Or a film student, for that matter. But I love movies, and photography, and writing; I’d love to make a movie some day. Now, after months of planning, re-writing, and pitching, I’m simultaneously on my way and right back where I started. I was a semi-finalist in this year’s Steeltown Film Factory, a Project Greenlight-esque competition that gives one screenwriter $30,000 to make a movie. I was one of six screenwriters, selected from 180 submissions, to get to the next-to-last round. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the cut to the finals, leaving me with just about everything I need to make my movie… except for money.
That’s a good place to be. It’s a lucky place to be, and one I’m very grateful for. My experience with Steeltown may have been cut short for now, but it’s been both rewarding and unforgettable.
I first heard about this contest through my sketch comedy friends in Hustlebot, a comedy troupe consisting of at least two members of the Dwellers. These guys fought their way through the untested waters of Steeltown’s debut competition, and they recruited me to help them with storyboards and pre-production design. They won (not really because of my boards, but I’d like to think it helped), and they made their movie. It was a cool experience–one I wanted to try on my own. Continue reading
There are certain types of movies that fall within the “Mike Rubino Wheelhouse.” They aren’t necessarily all works of art, or even considered by a broad audience to be good–sometimes, but not always. A movie involving, say, a group of men assembled to go on a mission: wheelhouse. Or maybe a film about a father who has the willpower, strength, and secret fighting skills necessary to save his family: wheelhouse. What about a film involving survival, make-shift weaponry, and enough machismo to turn chipped ham into beef jerky? Wheel. House.
The Grey, starring Liam Neeson, most certainly matches much of the aforementioned criteria. I saw it last Saturday, and I enjoyed it greatly. It’s rough, dark, depressing, and like the saltiest Jack London story you can imagine. Neeson, who plays a wolf-sniper for an Alaskan oil conglomerate (I assume that’s a real job), and a group of six men survive a freak plane crash in the great north. Now, with just their wits, some random debris, and the wallets of the dead, these men must march across the barren, snowy landscape to safety. The thing is, there’s a pack of blood-thirsty wolves standing in their way… it’s almost like they knew Liam Neeson shoots them for a living!
Sounds like a solid movie, right? Well, if you can stomach the gore and cope with the grief, it is. I’ve been comparing it to Alive or The Edge. Stuff like that.
It’s the film’s trailer, however, that could lead audiences astray. I, for one, was expecting a wholly different movie from the one I saw–lucky for me I still enjoyed it so much. Others probably didn’t, and who can blame them?