Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 14: Fear Robbed Me Of.....

Fill in the blanks at the end of the heading above. Fear robbed me of the novel I could have written, the relationships I could have had, the life I could have lived and the list is, well, endless. Not that those examples are pertinent to me, but I have my own that I could colour in.

Friends of mine, those who know me well, some who will be reading this, know that I had a debilitating phobia of flying for a great period of my life, which saw me stranded at airports, stop planes on runways and put travelling companions through untold hours of stress and anxiety, just from helping me book a ticket.

My favourite way to nullify the fear of a dreaded flight was through a combination of drink and drugs, mainly drink. Back in 1990 I was travelling through the USA with close friends and we ended up in San Francisco, where we stayed for a week and I, for a bit longer. Such a fantastic city for so many different reasons. I was to take an evening flight from San Francisco down to LA, where I would connect with a flight to London. I had calculated the exact number of pre-flight beers needed to absent me enough from reality to get me on said plane and promptly went about my business in a bar somewhere near Russian Hill. What I failed to notice was that I was being served Lite Beer instead of the much-needed full strength, and whilst there was some sort of placebo effect, by the time I sat down on the TWA Tristar, I was ready to get up and get off. And so I did. When an announcement told us that there was a temporary problem getting one of the three engines going, that was my cue to lie to one of the cabin crew and make my exit.

The above story was not an isolated incident. I've since overcome my phobia of flying, mainly due to the fact that at one point in my previous business life, I found myself flying more than anyone else in the world that I knew and eventually tired of the medicating I was having to do on a daily basis to get me up in the air.

Fear is with me today: I've got a tooth playing up and know that visiting the dentist is not a freelance screenwriter's favourite way to eke out a meagre budget, I've projects with the Producers that are banked up like planes that can't land because of volcanic ash clouds and the countdown is on to next month's rent.

My favourite quote about fear is this one: "Ships are safest when in harbour, but ships weren't built to sit in harbours."

I might be repeating myself with that quote, I may have shared it with you already, but I need to remind myself of it today, to hoist my sail and keep on my chartered course, just like 16 year-old Jessica Watson, who is fast-approaching home on her round-the-world sail back to Sydney. I bet Jessica knows a thing or two about fear.....and it's antidote: faith.

Day #14: A Film Can Be More Than One Genre
Thursday night is Genre Study night for me and tonight I am delighted to be re-visiting Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. Jimmy Stewart's protagonist has, as the title suggest, a fear of heights in this wonderful movie. Well, actually that's not quite true as the dictionary doesn't suggest that vertigo is a "fear" per se, but a collection of sensations often caused by looking down.

Vertigo is in my Top 10 crime/detective movies. Set in San Franciso with iconic imagery of some of that city's famous landmarks, it's paid homage to in the Richard Gere/Kim Basinger film Final Analysis and, I believe, also in Basic Instinct. But beyond, the location, these three films have something else in common: a femme fatale.

The archetypal femme fatale character is a hallmark, nay prerequisite, of the Film Noir sub-genre. What makes a crime film fall into the sub-genre of Film Noir, or it's latterday companion Neo-Noir? The protagonist is a tough guy with a fatal flaw and that fatal flaw is a women who will draw him into the web of the crime at the heart of the story. That was Kim Bassinger in Final Analysis, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct and, famously, Kim Novak in Vertigo. I would stop short of referring to Jimmy Stewart as a "tough guy" though.

But, Noir'ish it is. However, it also falls into the sub-genre of "detective story" as James Stewart is a private investigator of sorts and it's definitely a "psycho-thriller". It's a psycho-thriller, not just because it's directed by Hitch, but because the protagonist becomes a victim over the arc of the story.

The subplot of the romantic relationship between Stewart and Novak also means that it's a Love Story too. So, there you have it, Vertigo is at least four genres. However, I must work out what the primary genre is in my script though...that's essential for prioritising story lines.

If you come across any movie house showing a re-run of Vertigo, do yourself a huge favour:buy a ticket, grab the biggest choc-top going and lose yourself for a couple of hours in someone else's fears.

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