I love writing. There’s something amazing about staring at a blank page knowing that in just a few moments what’s inside my head will be out there in front of me in a way that other people can actually decipher it. The idea that something I write having an influence on someone when I’m not even there with them still feels like a magic teleportation act to me. I’ve been wanting to have an excuse for daily or at least weekly writing for a long time. I’ve experimented with different ideas but one thing has remained constant in my life since I was a teenager – my love of movies.
Lessons I’ve Learned
I may not have “made it” in the film business according to the bar I’ve set. I’m still fighting tooth and nail every to get financing every time I want to turn one of my scripts into a movie but over the last eighteen years or so I’ve picked up a few lessons and definitely formed some opinions about the art and business of making films.
I try to include lessons I’ve learned from watching films, making films, and dealing with all types of people in the film business in hopes that things that I’ve learned may help someone reading this along their filmmaking journey. I once heard someone say that without properly doing your research or seeking out a mentor you’re bound to spend what’s called a “stupid tax.”
Helping Others Avoid the Stupid Tax
Stupid tax is the time and/or money you spend making the same mistakes that other people before you have made. All you have to do to avoid paying stupid tax is find someone who’s been down the road you’ve been down before and ask for their advice. Part of this blog is my goal in helping people avoid paying stupid tax (and in a weird way try to absolve myself from paying so much of it over the years since paying the tax carries quite a burden).
Opening a Dialogue
The other interesting thing to me about writing a blog is being a visible figure to the public. One of the most exciting things to me as an artist is the spirit of collaboration that exists in the artistic community. Yes film is competitive, yes there is a lot of cut-throat behavior that goes on in the film world, but if you view that competition as a motivator for growth it can be quite healthy.
I’ve had several talks with actors and writers who have told me that their venture into making films all started when I asked them why they didn’t go out and just make a movie themself. There’s really no better way to understand your writing more than actually seeing it realized as a living breathing film. The pacing, the way actors read your work, the way cinematography and camera movement informs tone, all of it is lost when you’re just consuming your story in script format.
While on the subject of opening a dialogue with other artists, I should let you know that I am the only one managing this blog. If you want to get a hold of me, you can click on that contact link up above and know that whatever you send through my contact form comes directly to me. I read all the emails that come in (an occasionally skim some if they’re clearly written by someone unstable) and I personally respond to the emails myself. There’s no Jon Dabach team.
If you’re looking to collaborate on something, need some advice, have a question, or have something to teach me I would LOVE to hear from you. I take just as much joy in teaching as I do learning so if there’s something I can help you with and I can make the time to reach back out to you I will surely do so.
An Archive of Thoughts and Emotions
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to know exactly what was going through my head two years ago or five or even ten. I haven’t ever kept a journal in my life. I’ve had moments where I knew that if I could just tap into what I was thinking I would be able to make better moves in my life. Relationships would have been better, my career could have taken off in different directions, and millions of lives could have been saved (okay, maybe not that last part). But I’ve never kept an archive so I’m not exactly sure what I missed out on, but I do know that it would have been useful more than once in my life.
Also, I think it’s important to write down your thoughts on films you see before those opinions get adulterated by talking to other people or reading reviews of the film. For example, I saw The Florida Project this year and hated it. I mean loathed it. It made me hate cinema and the entire trend of independent filmmaking. I was bitter that people mistook it for art when it was clearly lazy, uninspired filmmaking. Then, as usually happens, someone showed me a different way to look at the film and I started to see the nuances and goals of the film in an entirely different light. Nerdwriter actually has a pretty great video on it – which you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXbKeHAoA84
I still don’t love the film, but my anger for it has totally subsided. I see it’s purpose and I see what the filmmaker was trying to do now. But wouldn’t it have been great if I actually took the time to write about everything I hated in the film in a blog post? How the music cut out after the opening credits at precisely the wrong moment without any grace? How portraying the relationships in the movie as anything other than child abuse is completely irresponsible? There was much more I wanted to say but didn’t have an outlet to do so.
Even if my opinion changed later on I would have gladly written a follow up about why I don’t hate the Florida Project anymore, but I would at least be able to look at the first post and see what bothered me about it.
Selfishly Exercising My Craft
This blog is also a way for me to exercise my writing in an effortless, conversational tone. It is my workout if you will. Writing is a muscle and the more you do it the finer tuned it gets. In an ideal world a writer should be exercising their muscle on a daily basis, but even a few times a week is better than long periods of stasis interspersed with writing binges motivated by fleeting moments of inspiration. This blog is a way for me to constantly think and write about film in a way that is meaningful to me.
I remember dreading research papers in high school. The idea of writing a seven page argumentative essay on a topic would make me quiver. The research, the editing, the work that had to go into it just made me and most of my friends queasy. Then something amazing happened my senior year – I decided to start writing short stories.
Those short stories were so much fun to write that I quickly decided that I wanted to try my hand at writing a novel. It was a short novel, around 180 pages (more of a novella really), but I remember writing seven or eight pages some nights without even breaking a sweat. The habit of writing became so fun and effortless that research papers became something I actually looked forward to writing. Where my schoolmates would toil over their papers for months I would be able to knock out a first draft in a day or two.
Writing breeds better writing. I have been able to effortlessly sit at a keyboard since that senior year of high school and look at an empty page on my monitor and know that it would only be a matter of minutes before I can fill it with words. Writer’s block, thank G-d, has never been an issue and I attribute it completely to making a habit of sitting down and writing on a regular basis.
My friend Noam Kroll (of NoamKroll.com) was the one who suggested I start a blog. One of the fascinating things he told me was that he was surprised at some of the connections and opportunities that came out of running his blog. The idea that putting myself out there will also introduce me to people and opportunities that I can’t even think of myself is pretty cool. In a way the internet is still the wild west of networking and you never know what or who may stumble your way with a couple clicks of the mouse.
One thing is certain, NOT sharing my ideas and thoughts on film has helped exactly zero people (including myself). It’s time that I started putting my thoughts on film somewhere where it can actually be put to use instead of vanishing into the cosmic neural network in my brain only to be forgotten as one of my kids screams at me because another one of my children just stole their stupid toy.
Thanks for the push, Noam – the best friends are the ones who don’t let you settle for less than what you could be.