This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Hunt For Human Experience

“I won’t cry,” I tell myself. I hear a male voice address the crowd, but I can’t focus on what he’s saying. He sounds so far away. I look over and see a tear flowing down a classmate’s face. She’s eleven years old-- so am I.

I look away, but it’s too late. My face wrinkles up. I can feel my skin flush. Emotions start flowing. I can’t stifle the tears; they’re unstoppable. I remember Kleenex, a woman’s hand reaching toward me. I remember silence and stuffed animals. I peer into the casket and see my friend’s face. She looks peaceful, her hands folded in prayer across her chest. Maybe I don't believe in God, after all. Her face looks familiar, but seeing her like this is so foreign. I say goodbye.


People may say they go to the movies to be entertained, to escape the mundane realities of their own lives. While that’s often true, I’d say there’s more to it. People go to the movies to feel alive, to live vicariously through the lives of others. We seek human experiences and connections that may be lacking in our own lives. We seek to understand ourselves and our relationships just a little bit better. Looking at life through the prism of a movie, we allow ourselves to express human emotions that we may be afraid to acknowledge in real life.

Gross-out comedies. Sequels. Franchises. Merchandising. There’s a lot of schlock in Hollywood. Where have all the dramas gone? The tearjerkers? They may be harder to find, but they haven’t entirely disappeared. A handful of darker movies have been released recently. [More on the way this awards season.]

These movies reflect the emotional pulse of what people are feeling right now, given world events and economic times. These films fill a void that so many of us have tried to fill in other, less satisfying, ways. Audiences are hungry for good stories. They want films that fulfill them in ways that so many other things can’t. They want to laugh; they want to cry. They want to cringe with embarrassment on behalf of a character; they want to ponder situations they may face in their own lives. They want to leave knowing just a little bit more about themselves and the world at large. Dramas don’t have to be dark and downtrodden. Many are hopeful and inspiring. Many are funny and witty. Many are bittersweet.

I finally got around to seeing Rabbit Hole (2010). That film, based on a play of the same name, explores a marriage, a family, and previously disconnected characters that become linked by tragedy. Each of the characters handles the grief in his or her own way. Grief doesn't give you a schedule. There are no steps to follow. There is no "getting over it." You come out on the other end, forever changed. In Rabbit Hole, each character learns that to continue living in any meaningful way, he or she must move forward. Embrace one another, support each other. Acknowledge the past, but look to the future.

50/50 is another satisfying, human film. It’s rather amazing that the so-called “cancer film” was able to make it to the starting blocks, let alone get a full theatrical release. Those who haven’t seen the film may call that depressing; I call it progress. So many people are affected by cancer—directly or indirectly. And those of us who haven’t been affected by cancer worry about whether or not we might be…sometime in the future, when we’re least prepared for such news. 50/50 manages to capture both the dramatic and tragic elements of cancer diagnosis and treatment, while acknowledging that comedy can (and does) exist in those experiences, too. I’ve known (and lost) several people to cancer. There are moments when you cry and think about the possibility of living life without them. Then, there are times when you’re together and you both laugh heartily, inappropriately at the absurdity of it all:

"Your hair's growing back red and curly? How bizarre. You look like Bozo the clown!"

"But I have CANCER!" [Ahem, but you can still do your own dishes.]

These are the true moments of life. And these days, I think don’t think people want escapism as much as they want to live their lives in a real and meaningful way.


Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) - Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult. UPCOMING CHARACTER-DRIVEN FILMS

Like Crazy (2011) - A British college student falls for an American student, only to be separated from him when she's banned from the U.S. after overstaying her visa.

Another Happy Day (2011) - A wedding at her parents' Annapolis estate hurls high-strung Lynn into the center of touchy family dynamics.

The Descendants (2011) - A land baron tries to re-connect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a boating accident.

The Artist (2011) - Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.

© 2011 by KLiedle

Above film loglines from

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Beautiful Challenge Of Short, Short Stories

Tell a story in exactly 78 words read the contest rules.

As a writer, I loved the challenge. I spend the majority of time hacking through a forest of words—the aftermath of an overwritten first draft. Everything takes multiple drafts. My brain battles with itself, the characters, the story, the whole idea I wanted to convey. I'm constantly asking myself questions:

Is this necessary? Is there another way to show this? Does killing this line make the scene more powerful?

I have to be brutal. My writing is not as concise as say, Sofia Coppola, but I’m getting better. Sometimes having constraints [whether it’s word count, budget, locations, shooting days, etc] forces you to be more creative. I loved the variety of Paris Je T’aime (2006), with its ensemble cast and eclectic group of international directors. Each of the eighteen directors had the assignment to shoot a film in a particular neighborhood of Paris. The catch was: They only got five minutes of screen-time. None of the participating directors said it was easy either, but all of them embraced the challenge.

I didn't win the contest, but no matter. As far as 78-word stories? Here are two I wrote:


Dad’s weekend. She couldn’t keep this ruse for long.

“Why so silent?” he asked.

She shrugged.

“School okay?”

The girl rolled her eyes.

“Your mom says you’ve been sneaking out. Better not be.”

“I’m not sleaking out.”

“Why are you lisping?” he demanded to know.

She stuck out her tongue. They both opened their mouths. Yelling, loud and clear.

That piercing would go! She stormed off. The door slammed. Dad had won the fight, but lost the girl.


She smelled like Chanel. He tasted like salt. Intertwined under a comforter with daisies on it. Rays of morning light through the window. The rise and fall. One kiss had led them here. To happiness and daisies and morning light. Making love in a cheap motel.

“We can’t do this anymore,” she says.

“Sure we can. If we’re careful.”

She looks into his eyes and speaks two words:

“He knows.”

Someone pounds on the door. Room #203. Caught.

© 2011 by KLiedle

Monday, October 3, 2011

Directing In The Minority

When Jonah Hill mentioned his interest in directing, at least one person was completely baffled: Darren Aronovsky. As Hill says in this month's Esquire feature, Darren wondered why anyone would want to be a director; it's so hard.

And if you're female or minority, it's even harder. The Directors Guild Of America recently circulated their 2010-2011 TV Episodic Directors By Gender and Ethnicity.

The current statistics were less than stellar. As the report shows, 77% of TV episodes this past season were directed by Caucasian males. Caucasian females were given a chance 11% of the time, as were minority males. If you're a minority female that directed a TV episode this season? You were probably the only one-- only 1% of episodes were directed by a female of any ethnic minority. Some shows, notably Bored To Death and Curb Your Enthusiasm did not have any minority directors this season. Also at 0% hiring: Weeds and Hot In Cleveland. Ironic, since both shows have strong female leads and/or casts. On the flip side, Hung, about a basketball coach turned male gigolo, employed 60% of female or minority directors last season. I presume that having Colette Burson, a female, as co-creator of the series probably helped. Treme (45%), Mad Men (31%), and 30 Rock (30%) also fared well in their hiring practices for episodic directors.

Production companies who haven't hired minority directors have their reasons and excuses. Many are ambivalent about taking a chance on a new director. Like the rest of Hollywood, they're afraid of risk.
"But the truth is that the industry hires new directors all the time; it's just that most of them are white males," says Lesli Linka Glatter, Co-Chair of the Diversity Task Force of the DGA National Board.
Aspiring directors, filmmakers, and writers need role models to inspire them along the difficult path ahead. It's so easy to lose faith in the film and television industry, in particular, because the obstacles can seem insurmountable. Seeing a filmmaker of your own gender, ethnicity, or background get a foothold in the industry can help you stay focused on your own goals as a filmmaker.

It's also important to note that it's not just about fair hiring practices either. Filmmakers have a worldview that is influenced by their own background and circumstances, as well as their identity as individuals. Many audiences are often searching for themselves and seeking answers about life when they choose to see a particular film. They want to identify with the characters and the protagonist's plight. They want to see the world from a different viewpoint.

There seems to be a misconception that minority filmmakers can only be trusted with "minority" stories. For example, the consensus seems to be: Female filmmakers direct female stories and so-called chick flicks. Latino filmmakers direct Latino stories. This doesn't mean that a female director couldn't direct an action film or that a Latino or Latina filmmaker couldn't direct a big blockbuster. It means, they generally aren't being offered these jobs. That's a shame because, as much as we get tired of seeing the same A-list actors in every big movie, we get tired of seeing the cinematic world through the eyes of the same filmmakers in every big movie. Stories are as varied as the Earth's landscape. And so are filmmakers. It's important to remember that.

There has been recent progress, however. Movies featuring minority and strong female casts, such as Bridesmaids and The Help have surpassed expectations at the box office. The Kids Are All Right, directed by Lisa Cholodenko, made a domestic gross of $20.8 million. It was reportedly made for a paltry $4 million, and even at that level, financing nearly fell through. [ boxofficemojo ] Interestingly, Cholodenko turned around and directed an episode of Hung in 2010.

We Need To Talk About Kevin, directed by Lynne Ramsay, was getting early buzz at Toronto this month. (It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May and is scheduled for limited release in the U.S. on December 2, 2011.)

Patty Jenkins, who wrote and directed the 2003 film Monster is currently in talks to direct Thor 2. According to Variety, Marvel has an "unconventional approach to offering its superhero tentpoles to filmmakers not necessarily top of mind when thinking of someone who might land an effects-laden summer actioner."

In other words, they're not afraid to take risks. And in so doing, they are offering chances to other types of filmmakers who would otherwise never be offered such material.

Blog content © 2011 by KLiedle

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