Day 54 - True Confessions and the Austin Film Festival
I love Austin. I got so drunk there two years ago I went online in the morning and looked up the recovery steps for AA. I didn’t have a car and I wanted espresso and I had plans to run to the closest coffee shop and it was already a million sweaty degrees outside. Being hungover is one thing. Being hungover and caffeine-deprived and sweaty is another.
I did the first three steps quickly: I admitted I was powerless. I came to believe a higher power than myself (caffeine) could restore me to sanity. I made a searching and moral inventory of myself (which added up to you got really drunk last night and now you feel bad and don’t drink Red Bull again) and then I pulled on my sneakers and headed out into the world. I ran the mile to salvation and the barista told me that Red Bull is serious stuff. He said a friend of his woke up one morning naked on someone’s lawn after a night of throwing back shots of that sweet stuff.
Welcome to Austin, Anne. So glad that at 51 you still know how to behave like an idiot. At least when I woke up naked I was in a hotel room, alone.
Now that I write that, I’m not sure that’s really bragging.
When our film Phantom Haloshowed two years ago at the Austin Film Festival hours before the Red Bull madness started, I started laughing at a serious part because the audience was audibly responding to the bad guy hurting one of the good guys, I mean, they were into it.
These characters, those actions, that scene, were all just, at first, thoughts in Antonia’s and my heads. We sat and we sat and we sat for hours and hours and hours in coffee shops and at our houses and in restaurants and we wrote and wrote and wrote. We laughed and cried and fought. One time we went out to the parking lot of a Starbucks so we could yell at each other. So I was laughing that people cared about these things we had made up. The guy next to me gave me a dirty look in the dark. “I wrote this,” I whispered. “Co-wrote. Sorry I’m laughing. I’m really happy.”
He smiled. Oh, good, he said. I was afraid you were being a jerk.
I could not believe that some stranger, some teenager, cared so much about a film we had written.
It was an amazing feeling.
I wish that for all of you who wish to write, for you to complete a project and for you to see that what you wrote affected another person in a meaningful way. Phantom Halo was our first film. It has way more bad ratings than good on Rotten Tomatoes, but I’m so glad we didn’t not make it because we were afraid of failing. I’m so glad we just went for it. I’m so glad we did it.
I have to remember this as I embark on a new writing project: it’s not about being perfect. It’s about trying. I am so proud of the two of us for finishing a script. I am so proud of Antonia for willing that movie into creation. She got the money; she got the production team, the cast, the crew. She directed it. She fed the cast. She made it happen because she’d made a decision that she wanted to make a movie, this movie.
I’ve lost count of how many screenplays Antonia and I have written in the past ten years. Phantom Halo wasn’t the first. It’s like we were sharpening knives as we wrote sentence after sentence, page after page. I’ve long admired Joan Didion for her sentences because they feel like scalpels to me that cut across the page. My sentences are like toddlers compared to hers, so I try not to compare. I try to keep moving, to keep writing, to keep trying to get it right.
What does right mean? It means does what I write mirror what I think and feel? It means did I create something that is beautiful to me? Did I create something that shows how grateful I am to be on this planet, in this body, in this life?
I’m headed to Austin to talk about finding the courage to tell your story. I feel like the luckiest person in the world. I get to tell people the thing I most like to say: Just do it. Write it. Your whole life will change for the better.
See you tomorrow.